It's Amazing What CPAs Can Do: How Technology Drives Entrepreneurship

Long-time readers may be aware that the Tech Talk column began as an occasional feature called Website of the Month in 2001. My involvement officially began in January 2002 after my enchantment with the topic led to making suggestions to the editors, which led to my authoring the column every month. As my 15 years in public practice became a distant memory, I have found the column to be a great way to keep up with technology that affects accountants, and incorporate that information into my courses.

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CPA firms are a good reflection of changes in business configurations resulting from mergers, combinations, and terminations. Technology- and tax-related websites have tended to come and go over the years, and I am sometimes disappointed to find that a particular site is no longer available. Looking back over several CPA firm sites that I have covered over the years, I found that some have merged into or been acquired by other firms, and others have undergone major restructuring.

The evolution in websites has naturally impacted CPA firm sites. My early columns focused on showing professional firm websites as examples that could be replicated. CPA firm sites in the early 2000s generally emphasized promoting firm services and recruiting employees. There was less attention given to making firm or other resources publicly available, and the materials that were presented tended to be limited to publications.

I have selected four of the firms whose websites I reviewed in the early years of this column that represent good examples of “modern” firm websites—they have an increased emphasis on providing public resources in a large variety of formats, such as articles, blog posts, infographics, videos, webcasts, and podcasts. Given the large number of materials that many websites are presenting, the use of main and subsidiary web pages for topical areas has become increasingly important to aid users in locating resources. Grant Thornton and BDO’s websites have made amazing transformations. Freed Maxick and Citrin Cooperman’s websites reflect smaller evolutions, but present good examples to follow.

Grant Thornton

Grant Thornton’s website (https://www.grantthornton.com/), as originally reviewed June 2002, presented a typical CPA firm focusing on promoting its services to potential clients and its career opportunities for potential employees. Publications, such as the firm’s regular survey reports and general topical information, could be ordered through the website.

There was also a particular emphasis on press releases and contact information for lead personnel (http://archives.cpajournal.com/2002/0602/nv/nv6.htm).

After 18 years, Grant Thornton’s site has been transformed into a state-of-theart web presence with a substantially larger number of publicly available resources in electronic format, including articles, videos, webcasts, and podcasts, as well as GT’s popular surveys. At first glance, the top menu bar appears to be similar to the 2002 version; however, a subtle change is the conversion of “Publications” to “Insights,” which supports the greatly expanded format and content of materials available. A good place to find some of the firm’s current topical materials is the “Status Know” web-page, which is one of the new Insights resources (https://gt-us.co/2HFgxJ3).

The COVID-19 Resource Center (https://www.grantthornton.com/COVID-19-resource-center.aspx) presents Insights articles and pod-casts targeted to COVID-19–related issues, along with a link to an “Understanding the CARES Act” webpage (https://gt-us.co/2HCLNst).

A wide variety of materials are available, including a “COVID-19: Congress Response” video that provides a quick six-minute overview of the major federal legislation designed to provide economic relief.

The Year End Tax Guides webpage presents tax planning related articles, podcasts, and whitepapers from the Insights collection, along with tax guides for private companies and public companies that can be ordered for electronic delivery. The tax planning booklets run approximately 25 pages and include brief explanations of current tax incentives plus planning tips. The public company guide also offers international and mergers and acquisitions considerations.

The tax guide webpage includes a nice state taxation feature that presents business, individual, and sales tax rates by state (https://gt-us.co/3dZhZCd).

BDO

BDO’s website (https://www.bdo.com/) was originally covered in July 2002. At that time, it served as a fairly standard service and employment promotion tool, but did not provide any direct access to publications or other materials (http://archives.cpajournal.com/2002/0702/nv/nv5.htm). As of November 2020, the firm’s website now offers two well-developed sections, Insights and Issues & Resources, with publicly available materials.

The Insights “Library” (https://www.bdo.com/insights) presents the most recent articles, videos, and other materials. Issues & Resources is a collection of six “Resource Centers” (https://www.bdo.com/resource-centers), including the BDO Center for Corporate Governance and Financial Reporting and the Tax Resource Center. The centers offer an extensive variety of materials, such as articles, blog posts, guidebooks, podcasts, and webinars.

The Crisis Response Resource Center (https://bit.ly/3dWApnk) presents a variety of articles and webinars dedicated to addressing the impacts of COVID-19. An interesting tool is the “Understanding the Business Impacts of COVID-19” section, with individual tabs for main pages dedicated to supporting the workforce, managing the business, mitigating risk, understanding economic impacts, and evolving legislation. An example resource is “The Resilience Playbook: From Recession to Recovery & Beyond” (https://bit.ly/34t6n7y), which is an overview discussion of economic and financial concepts, along with practical actions that organizations can take to “be poised to thrive in crisis and beyond.”

The BDO Institute for Nonprofit Excellence (https://bit.ly/3jyaVxw) presents resources that range from organization management to financial reporting to compliance requirements. The Guidance and Best Practices section offers links to an audit committee guide and FASB financial reporting guidance. The FASB page, in particular, is a must-see with links to FASB resources, articles and blog posts, and videos and podcasts (https://bit.ly/2HHfmZC).

Freed Maxick

Freed Maxick (https://www.freedmaxick.com/) was first covered in June 2005, and even in those days the website provided some nice tax law resources for the public. The site offers an excellent COVID-19 Response Center (https://www.freedmaxick.com/covid-19-2/) with two important features that distinguish it from other websites’ COVID-19 information. First, several resources address New York State issues; second, all of the articles reviewed for this column were written by firm personnel, making them unique.

Citrin Cooperman

Citrin Cooperman’s website (https://www.citrincooperman.com/) was featured in the July 2006 column, which highlighted a four-phase disaster response checklist and many well-designed calculators. The old publications section of the site has grown into “Evolution Pyramid” and “In Focus.” The Business Evolution Pyramid (https://www.citrincooperman.com/business-evolution-pyramid) is a thought leadership series of articles, videos, and podcasts for growing a business. In Focus is a neat collection of “programs” (https://www.citrincooperman.com/infocus), such as the COVID-19 Response Unit (https://www.citrincooperman.com/CRU), with a large collection of articles on tax, financial, and industry topics, as well as archived webcasts. The interesting and well-developed reviewed materials were all prepared by firm representatives.

Susan B. Anders, PhD, CPA/CGMA, is the Louis J. and Ramona Rodriguez Distinguished Professor of Accounting at Midwestern State University, Wichita Falls, Tex. She is a member of The CPA Journal Editorial Advisory Board.