The future of compliance services for accountants

Many commentators seem almost contemptuous when talking about accountants who focus on the provision of compliance services.

We’re told that fees are being forced down and that firms that focus only on compliance services face an uncertain future. I’m not sure I agree. If you have an established practice and know your clients well, you are not suddenly going to lose a swathe of clients who all decide to rush off at once.

About the only thing that could cause a speedy dissipation of your client base would be widespread publicity of your incompetence or negligence. Any other changes to your client base will be sufficiently gradual for you to take steps to stem the flow as and when it becomes necessary to do so.

Of course the better prepared and ready you are for such changes, the faster you will be able to adapt and evolve. I do think it will be evolution rather than revolution in this regard.

What will change first and fastest in my view is your ability to win and retain new clients if you and they are focused on compliance services. That means tax returns, bookkeeping and accounts preparation.

The issue will be the alternative ways in which these needs can be satisfied and the time and cost considerations of each option. Are you even aware of the alternatives to a traditional accountant? Again, many accountancy strategists have been predicting this development for years.

I do understand those views and I respect most of the commentators who encourage accountants to plan for the future. Indeed, I agree that’s a wise move, especially for larger firms where there is an inbuilt resistance to dramatic change. However, for most firms of accountants there needs to be something equivalent to a burning platform before there will be a consensus for fundamental changes. At the moment, few partners accept and believe that forthcoming developments will have such a big impact.

What do you think? Please add your comments to this blog post.

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Mark Lee

Mark is a speaker, mentor, facilitator, author, blogger and debunker. Mark Lee helps professionals who want to STAND OUT and be remembered, referred and recommended using his 7 fundamental principles to create a more powerful professional impact, online and face to face.
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2 replies
  1. John Perry
    John Perry says:

    “Fees are being forced down.” Having looked in incredulity at some of the fees charged for compliance work by some firms, I think it is about time that fees are forced down.

    In these days of improved software reducing the time required, I cannot believe the charges which some accountancy firms make for very little work.

    Reply
  2. Emily Coltman
    Emily Coltman says:

    I agree with John, up to a point.

    But I would say that using software isn’t the be-all and end-all – and that includes both clients using software to do their books (e.g. Sage, QuickBooks), and us accountants using year-end compliance software.

    It’s taken me longer in the past to unjumble a muddly set of client records on QuickBooks or Sage than it would have taken me to do the bookkeeping from scratch. Remember – garbage in, garbage out!

    M

    P.S. Like the site’s new look Mark.

    Reply

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