When the Going Gets Tough: 4 Demands of Accountant Jobs


Although working in the accounting industry can be extremely rewarding, accountant jobs aren’t always a walk in the park. From keeping up with ever-changing regulations to working long hours during busy seasons, accounting professionals encounter plenty of challenges along the way.

On the bright side, these demands happen to be the same factors that ensure job security for accounting professionals. Accountants who meet these obstacles head-on are likely to be praised and rewarded in their careers.

Whether you work for a public or private firm, here are four demands you might face in various accountant jobs:

1. Lengthy hours during tax season

Tax season is the busiest time of year for most professionals in accountant jobs. From January until mid-April, CPAs and their staff members can expect to work 12 hours a day or more to prepare income tax returns for their clients. On the plus side, many accounting firms offer plenty of time off during the rest of the year to compensate.

2. Complying with ever-changing laws

The burden on accounting professionals to ensure compliance with new laws and regulations is not likely to become lighter any time soon. In Benchmarking the Accounting and Finance Function, a study from Robert Half and the Financial Executives Research Foundation, 99 percent of U.S. executives said they think their compliance burden will increase or remain steady over time.

Although compliance demands vary depending on your job description, most accounting professionals are expected to keep up with regulations from legislation like the Dodd-Frank and Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) Acts. Some of the most challenging compliance demands accounting professionals face today are associated with the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Because many of the reporting requirements of the ACA impact both corporate and individual tax returns, accounting professionals are expected to have an in-depth understanding of the ACA’s provisions.

For example, the total cost of applicable employer-sponsored group health plan coverage must be noted on employee W-2s. Professionals working in a corporate accounting department may need to take additional steps to prepare tax documents for employees. And because taxpayers are required to verify their healthcare coverage on their tax returns, CPAs must know where to note ACA-related details.

3. Staying on top of regulatory changes

It’s challenging to stay up to date with the requirements of generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). Now, however, the industry’s continuing shift from GAAP to International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) is creating even greater challenges for accounting professionals.

Ever since the FASB rolled out new revenue recognition standards in 2014, the industry has been buzzing about the changes. According to a Protiviti report, “The new guidance will replace most of the industry-specific generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) requirements that have become complex and cumbersome to apply."

4. Keeping pace with the ever-changing internal audit

A poll of 800 chief audit executives (CAEs) and internal audit professionals, published in Protiviti’s 2015 Internal Audit Capabilities and Needs Survey, makes it clear that the internal audit world is a fast-changing climate in which proactivity is key. Internal auditors must be nimble and adaptive to respond to a deluge of challenges.

For one thing, auditors are feeling the pressure to stay on top of regulatory changes, including the National Institute of Standards and Technology's (NIST) Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity and the updated COSO Internal Control-Integrated Framework. In addition, auditors are facing serious security concerns regarding social media, mobile apps and cloud computing technologies; mitigating these risks has become a top priority.

While these demands can certainly be daunting, they also offer opportunities for accounting professionals to play an increasingly valuable role in an ever-changing economy. Like many other challenges in life, these demands respond well to preparation, education and good old-fashioned hard work.

What are some of the other demands professionals face in accountant jobs? Please share your comments below.