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A Resource Dream Come True for Tax Practitioners

In January 2011, I sold my tax practice to join the AICPA but sometimes, I still find myself thinking and acting as if I am still in practice.  What I loved most about my practice were the people, especially the daily interaction with clients.  I was curious about what made them successful.  I picked up tips from successful clients and implemented them in running my business. And I learned what not to do from the not-so-successful clients. 

I also wanted to learn from great thinkers.  So I read business books like “The E-Myth” by Michael Gerber, “Good to Great” by Jim Collins and “Who Moved My Cheese” by Spencer Johnson.  I was involved in my local chamber and other business or networking groups and often did presentations for them. 

But I always felt that I could only get so far watching or reading about other businesses.  So I joined one of the small-firm networking groups sponsored by the AICPA Private Companies Practice Section so I could learn from my peers.  The members of this group cross-mentor one another and share best practices, management tips and technical challenges. However, our learning was limited to what members already knew.  I wished for a way to combine everything – successful business tips, firm best practices and insight into what bigger firms were doing – as I wanted to be bigger one day.

AICPA 2012 tax return preparerThen an amazing thing happened – my dream became a reality with the release of the Tax Practitioner’s Toolkit.  Sounds cheesy, but it is true!  Have you seen it?  It combines everything I was looking for in one place.  I’ll give you a few examples.

  • CPA firm-centric approach – finally, resources specifically for CPA firms, tailored to firms of all sizes, which answered my question about how big firms do it differently.
  • Business landscape – with the changing marketplace, the PowerPoint on the difference between CPAs and other preparers helps train staff so they understand what tax practitioners face today.
  • Team building tools – the webinar is a great way to engage staff on why we need to work together to articulate our firm’s value, which is so much better than my version of just telling them what I think.
  • Marketing ideas – the how-to guide is great because I was always looking for new ideas, even though I was 99 percent referral.  Having a ready-made product is great if I want to advertise, but it also helped me come up with new talking points for prospects or referral sources – and that is definitely better than winging it.

I know the landscape is changing for CPAs that provide tax services.  There will be increased competition (and confusion) in the marketplace because of the new IRS “Registered Tax Return Preparer” designation.  But I’m not worried because I know CPAs provide more value, have higher qualifications and offer a range of services far beyond tax, and because we connect with the people behind the returns.  This toolkit recognizes and builds on that value and provides resources to help CPAs face this new landscape head-on.  Oh, the great things I could do with these resources if I were in practice today… 

Jina Etienne, CPA, Director of Taxation, American Institute of CPAs. Jina started her career in 1989 in the tax department of Touche Ross and, in 1993, started her own practice to focus on the needs of small businesses and their owners.  She recently joined the AICPA after 17 years in private practice.


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