Professional Issues: Changes on the Horizon

by William A. Simer, CPA | Feb 03, 2016
The most significant growth is in non-traditional services

During the past several months, members of the WSCPA Board of Directors and professional staff have visited the Society’s chapters throughout the state to present professional issues updates. It has been great to renew old friendships, and make new ones, with colleagues that we’ve met and to see the chapters’ work in action. If you haven’t been able to attend an update in your chapter area, here are some highlights.


Work is underway to spread the word about $200,000 in scholarships available for the coming school year, thanks to the ground breaking development of a scholarship fund that will be administered by the Washington CPA Foundation. The funds were provided from the Washington State Legislature from the reserves of the Washington State Board of Accountancy. Washington State is the only state society which has been successful in putting together this partnership between state government and our profession. You can be proud of this accomplishment that will provide scholarship support to qualified accounting students for up to two decades.

Audit Quality

Investors and decision makers continue to hold our profession in high regard, but we’re going to have to address audit quality issues in order to retain our right to self-regulate our profession. The AICPA continues to focus on strategies to enhance audit quality, and to develop tools to make the peer review process more effective and even to provide real time practice monitoring. These changes aren’t always going to be popular, but we have a responsibility to address these issues or we’ll see an erosion of the public trust and even control of our profession.

Growth in Non-traditional Services

Change continues to be a common theme in our professional issues updates as the profession continues to see strong performance from traditional tax and attest services, although the most substantial growth is coming from non-traditional services. A speaker at my firm’s recent annual partner meeting noted that many believe that we’re in a period of change not unlike the Industrial Revolution. Even if that’s not the case, it’s impossible to deny that we are in a significant transitional period and that transition will have an impact on the way we practice and the types of services we offer to our clients. While we continue to see growth in our traditional service areas, the most significant growth is in non-traditional services. IT consulting quickly comes to mind but the growth in non-traditional services extends far beyond into specialized areas such as valuing complex financial instruments and business intangibles, cost segregation studies, and financial planning, to name a few. The professionals who deliver these services won’t necessarily be CPAs. The profession has continued to address this by creating specialized credentials to bring these areas under the AICPA’s Code of Professional Conduct through extending associate membership in the AICPA to individuals providing these services.     

Percentage of Members in Industry or Government

One of the other significant transitions we’re seeing is the growth in the number of our members who are working in industry or government. Over 25% of WSCPA members work in industry and government and at the AICPA level the percentage is even greater. Given the large numbers of our colleagues who work in these areas, the profession needs to address the skills and training that will be meaningful to this group and help them advance in their careers. The CGMA designation is clearly directed at this need and the recently approved expansion to offer the CGMA designation to non-CPAs in the US is also an effort by the profession to address this need.

It’s beyond the scope of this column to cover all of the professional issues, including generational transition, succession planning, and growth in global business, but these issues will continue to have significant impact on how we practice. We’re beginning to hear the term “CPA-led firm” in the place of CPA firm--another indication of how the profession is changing. If we focus our intellect and creativity on these challenges, we’ll be successful in managing this transition.

Bill SimerWilliam Simer, CPA, is the WSCPA Chair for 2015-2016 and Partner with Eide Bailly LLP in Spokane. 

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