Three things are at the forefront of people’s minds these days: the Super Bowl, elections and taxes. Yes, tax season is officially upon us. As Benjamin Franklin famously said, taxes are one of life’s two certainties, which is perhaps the main reason accounting firms are able to remain secure during economic instability.
Unsurprisingly, growth among local accounting firms ceased, for the most part, three years ago. But while business isn’t increasing, it isn’t decreasing either.
“It’s a steady business,” said Joseph Rakoski of Vancouver’s Vierck & Rakoski. “People need those accounting services whether it’s a recession or not.”
Be that as it may, Rakoski said firms primarily serving smaller businesses did lose clients when the economy turned.
“If a client’s no longer in existence, obviously we can’t do their work anymore,” he said.
However, new businesses are always cropping up, new referrals are being made, and local firms said they have done their best to accommodate clients’ needs in difficult times.
“We didn’t increase our billing rates the past two years,” said Tim Schiller, partner at Vancouver-based Schiller & Co. “And we were aggressive in investing in technology and training.”
Patricia Eby, president at Peterson & Associates in Hazel Dell, said her firm has relied heavily on word of mouth.
“We are trying to be active in the community, and that helps, but it’s mostly referrals from our clients and from other professionals,” she said, adding, “I don’t think many people just find you from a phonebook.”
Especially during this time of year, many firms offer full-service support and cater to both large and small businesses as well as individuals. Things can be tougher for niche firms, though. Take Battle Ground’s Northwest Accounting Professionals LLC, which focuses on working with construction companies.
“Until we start to see some recovery, it’s going to be pretty tight around here for quite a while,” said Mei Winter, partner/CPA.
Still, as the client base shifts and resources are drawn upon, Winter said business remains steady for the company.
“We’re as busy as we’ve ever been,” said Winter. “I think people need you more when the economy’s down because they have to try to find every nickel and dime.”
Peterson & Associates, one of the area’s largest firms, said they have seen similar results. In fact, across the board, local firms said things are looking up.
While the light at the end of the tunnel is easier to see right now, during the busiest time of year for accounting firms, no one is taking it for granted.
“We’ve been really lucky,” Eby pointed out.
Rakoski has high hopes for the future, although he noted that until there is a significant change in the economic climate, clients are reluctant to start counting their chickens before they hatch.
“I’m looking down the road and I’m hoping for positive uptake this year,” he said.