CPA firms working together on the same client? Can it really happen?

By Jim Keeslar, Director BCG & Company

The answer to both of these questions is yes. I know since our firm has already done or is currently doing work together with several other CPA firms. We have helped out a sole practitioner whose client needed to go from a compilation to a review and they didn’t perform reviews. We performed the review only and the sole practitioner kept the overall engagement relationship and performed the other services. We have performed ERISA plan audits for clients’ of several firms who perform investment or third party administration services for the plans and, therefore, are not independent regarding the audit. We have performed a pre-issuance review of financial statements for a local firm with a client in a specialized industry that we have experience in.

So it can happen. There just needs to be a high degree of trust between the firms. CPAs in firms are realizing that they just can’t keep up with all of the changes in today’s fast-paced accounting profession. Whether it be tax law or the accounting standards, there is something new that comes out daily. Driven by the global marketplace we now live in, topics like foreign taxes and international accounting standards seem to be very hot right now. Successful firms (or individuals within the firm) specialize in areas such as tax or audit. Most also specialize in industries such as manufacturing or construction. Some even specialize in more specific areas like ERISA audits or IFRS (International Financial Reporting Standards). So decisions must be made. Where do I spend my time? What training do I focus on? What resources do we invest in?

There are only so many hours in a day and only so many resources available to service our clients—so we must choose wisely. Sometimes a firm will lose the entire client relationship because they can’t handle one specific aspect of the relationship. Or perhaps a client begins to feel like they have outgrown their current firm. Maybe the firm doesn’t have enough resources to totally serve the client. This doesn’t have to be the case. If you are a sole practitioner or a smaller local firm, team up with someone at a larger local or regional firm that you trust. If you don’t know someone, ask around and begin developing a relationship. It sounds a bit counterintuitive, but it might just save a client relationship someday.


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