Leadership / Management | Tax | Taxation

Most profitable businesses? CPAs rule at No. 1

Profits We've heard time and time again about the recession-proof nature of the CPA profession. Certainly some CPAs have suffered during the downturn, but in broad strokes, the profession is as solid as they come. People are always going to need CPAs, right?

Here's more proof.

Forbes has released its list of the most profitable small businesses, and sitting pretty at No. 1 are CPAs, with a pre-tax profit margin of 17.1 percent. Accounting services sport an overall pre-tax margin of 25 percent.

Why the big margins?

"Three reasons," writes Forbes. "Pricing power (everybody needs accountants, no matter how the economy is doing), low overhead and marketing scale, thanks to plenty of repeat clients."

Rounding out the top 10 are legal services, dental services, specialized design services, health practitioners (other than general physicians), outpatient care centers, insurance brokers, physicians' offices, medical and diagnostic labs, and depository credit intermediation (a.k.a. "small banks, credit unions ... and other institutions that take deposits," writes Forbes).

Of course, you have to temper the profession's success and popularity with the reality of long hours and hard work, especially during a tax return preparer's "busy season." MACPA member Karen Syrylo passed along the following story from a fellow member. The story made the rounds on the MACPA's popular federal taxation listserve during busy season:

"I met a CPA at a CFP function who had a call from her daughter's teacher. The teacher was concerned that the daughter insisted there were five seasons and could not be dissuaded. When she asked the little girl what the five seasons were, the little girl, quite annoyed at the teacher's ignorance, said, 'Summer, fall, winter, spring and tax season.'"

Mother Nature has nothing on the IRS, does she?


Bill Sheridan