Becoming a Virtual CPA

In the age of COVID-19, the notion of working virtually has become so commonplace it is almost clichéd to even discuss it as somehow novel or noteworthy, but in the world of the CPA, the move to working beyond the office is neither new nor easy. CPAs face significant issues when taking their efforts outside their corporate walls. Rise of the Virtual CPA The idea of the virtual CPA is hardly new. Many CPA firms had remote capabilities dating as far back as the 1970s, with modems dialing directly into office networks. Those relied on centralized systems housed in LAN rooms at CPA firm offices with work backed up to storage tapes. As time progressed, the technologies allowing remote work matured; in the early 2000s, we saw the introduction of cloud storage and remote hosting, the proliferation of virtual desktops, and the beginning of the end for local hosting. Today, nearly every professional software vendor in the space, like Thomson Reuters, Intuit, CCH, and others all sell fully cloud-based solutions for CPAs and their firms eliminating almost any need for centralized servers or storage. Individual practitioners have been able to use these technologies to provide outsourced virtual accounting services as a primary service to businesses that cannot afford or do not want to have local in-office accounting staffs.  This has allowed the CPA to go fully remote…if they or, more importantly, their firm or clients are willing to. A CPA can now technically work and operate at 100% capacity nearly anywhere on the planet (or, at least, anywhere there’s Internet access, which, by virtue of mobile hotspots is effectively anywhere). Despite that capability, CPAs and CPA firms have tended to gain a reputation as risk-averse late adopters. Despite decades of technological progress, according to the CPA Firm Management Association’s 2020 Information Technology Survey, only about half utilize an external cloud provider to host their applications. Two-thirds do use virtual server products. Surprisingly, according to the Journal of Accountancy’s 2020 Tax Software Survey, a full 81% of tax firms locally host their tax software. Given where the industry is, virtual CPAs Read More »

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