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Predictions and Plans for the New Year
In order to see what CPAs and accountants believe 2017 has in store for them -- and what they have in store for it -- we conducted our annual survey of over 800 firms of all sizes in early November, on everything from their growth expectations to their plans for tech spending, their use of social media, and the new services they're offering.


You can also read what a panel of industry experts and thought leaders expect 2017 to bring the accounting profession here.
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1. Growth Expectations, Pt. 1
Breakdown for all firms: Over 10 percent – 24.8 percent; 8-9 percent -- 5 percent; 6-7 percent – 8.9 percent; 4-5 percent -- 22 percent; 2-3 percent – 19.6 percent; 1 percent – 4.8 percent; flat or decline – 14.8 percent.

Breakdown for small firms: Over 10 percent – 27.6 percent (more than four percentage points lower than expected for 2016); 8-9 percent – 4.6 percent; 6-7 percent – 4.6 percent; 4-5 percent – 17.9 percent; 2-3 percent –16.8 percent; 1 percent – 7.1 percent; flat or decline – 21.5 percent.

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2. Growth Expectations, Pt. 2
Breakdown for midsized firms: Over 10 percent – 23.3 percent; 8-9 percent – 4.3 percent; 6-7 percent – 11.6 percent (more than four percentage points higher than last year); 4-5 percent -- 22 percent; 2-3 percent – 24.1 percent; 1 percent – 3.9 percent; flat or decline – 10.8 percent.

Breakdown for large firms: Over 10 percent -- 21.2 percent; 8-9 percent – 9.4 percent; 6-7 percent – 14.3 percent; 4-5 percent – 30 percent (up more than seven percentage points from last year); 2-3 percent -- 19.7 percent; 1 percent – 1.5 percent; flat or decline – 6.9 percent.

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3. Biggest Issues: Small Firms
The next three most commonly cited issues for small firms were acquiring and retaining new clients (43.6 percent, up from 40.2 percent last year); keeping up with regulatory change (30.1 percent, down from 34.1 percent) and data and IT security (27 percent), which edged out keeping up with technology (at 25.5 percent, down from 26.8 percent).

Respondents rated the Affordable Care Act as a significantly less important issue, with only 17 percent citing it, against more than 30 percent last year.
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4. Biggest Issues: Midsized Firms
The next three most commonly cited issues for midsized firms were keeping up with regulatory change (35.8 percent, edging up to the top spot from last year), data and IT security (29.7 percent; it didn’t even make the top five last year), and recruiting and retaining good employees (28.4 percent, up slightly from last year’s 28.1 percent).
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5. Biggest Issues: Large Firms
The next three most commonly cited issues for large firms were the same as last year: recruiting and retaining good employees (57 percent, down from 62.4 percent but still by far most commonly cited), acquiring and retaining new clients (32.5 percent, down somewhat from 37.6 percent) and keeping up with regulatory change (26.6 percent, up slightly from 24.2 percent last year). New to the top five concerns this year was competition from other firms, which was cited by over a fifth of large firms (22.2 percent).
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6. Tax Season Expectations
Overall, firms have pretty much the same expectations for the upcoming tax season as they did for the one that ended last April. They also split roughly the same way as last year in terms of requiring work on tax-season Saturdays, with one minor exception: The percentage of firms that plan to give staff Saturdays off provided they get their work done was down 2.1 percentage points, to 17.9 percent, while those who plan to give them Saturdays off no matter was up 3.7 percentage points, to 13.7 percent.
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7. Making Plans
Far more firms of all sizes reported having strategic plans (75 percent overall, versus less than 60 percent last year) – and many more had succession plans (56 percent, versus 48 percent).
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8. New Services
It’s worth noting that client accounting services once again ranked by far the highest among “Plans to Add” overall, with 42 percent of firms who don’t already offer it reporting that they plan to start offering it in 2017; wealth management comes in second at 21 percent.

Payroll was the service with the most penetration -- 77 percent of firms already offer it, and 16 percent plan to add it in 2017; nonprofit services came in second, with 63 percent of firms currently offering it, and 18 percent planning on adding it.

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9. Technology Spending
Small firms spend much more of their budget on technology -- among other things, they get fewer economies of scale on large purchases like servers, scanners, etc. – and both they and midsized firms expect to increase that budget in 2017; interestingly, large firms reported that technology would take up a slightly smaller percentage of their budget.
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10. New Technologies, Pt. 1
In most cases, large firms are further ahead with adopting new technologies, particularly organizational tools like workflow and practice management systems. The difference is much less when it comes to tools that can be useful no matter the size of your firm, like tax prep software and document management systems.
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11. New Technologies, Pt. 2
The only technology area where small firms are more likely to change than midsized and large firms is in tax prep.
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12. Social Media
Don’t let the large results for “Other” fool you – in many cases, respondents selected that option just so they could explain that they are not involved in social media at all – though a few did mention using Google Plus as a social media outlet.