New York and New Jersey CPAs are finding growing opportunities at specialized tax and business consulting practices. To succeed, accountants must learn to play up their marketing, communications, and negotiation skills.
Branching out into consulting is often a way for accountants to open up new possibilities for their careers. Today, tax and business consulting practices continue to grow in leaps and bounds throughout the New York region.
"It's a commodity type of business, and it's something that everyone needs," says Jason Gilbert, president of RGA Advisors, an accounting and consulting firm based in New York City. "When businesses look for these services, they are becoming more price-sensitive, especially here in New York and in New Jersey. Smaller and midsized tax advisory businesses can more easily sell into a market that demands a better price."
Gilbert, a CPA, says his experience working in private equity and investments helped him to "understand the internal business perspective." However, he adds, not everyone can "make the leap." Hopping into these specialties requires accountants to be more than mere number crunchers. The field employs a variety of professionals, Gilbert notes, from CPAs to lawyers and a variety of other finance experts. Those who've only worked on the audit side of a CPA firm might find it difficult to make the transition into tax and consulting, especially if they're involved in complicated corporate transactions.
Dave Klausman is heading up a new branch of Global Tax Management in Bridgewater, N.J. He describes GTM as an independent tax services firm providing co-sourced, outsourced or project-based services to corporate tax departments. "We're not a CPA firm, but many of us here are CPAs," he says. "We're the closest thing to a corporate tax department. Firms don't want to add too many people to their in-house departments. But it's hard to deal with the ebb and flow. They prefer to be lean and mean today. That's where we come in."
While GTM does some recruiting of accounting grads, Klausman says the majority of CPAs segueing into tax and business specialty practices have experience in corporate tax departments. "I had 20-plus years at a large Fortune 500 firm and so I am used to dealing with tax managers, because I was one of them," he notes.
For those looking to make the change, Klausman says it's important to have managerial, legal, and finance experience. A large portion of corporate tax consulting work involves compliance issues, and understanding how compliance and technology work together is important, as well. In addition, those at tax consulting firms work 80 percent of the time at their client's office. So, they must have strong presentation and communication skills. "At that point, you tend to get treated like an employee," he says.
Finally, Klausman believes that for CPAs concerned with quality of life issues, tax and business consultancies are better environments than Big Four firms.