An increasing shortage of CPA staff and costly
regulatory changes are two of the most pressing issues facing well
developed accounting services in rural Australia, according to a
CPA Australia research project.

A report into the issue, Public Accounting
Firm Services in Rural and Regional Australia,
was carried out
by the University of Melbourne, Deakin University, RMIT University,
in partnership with CPA Australia.

The research found there are many accounting
practice structures in rural regions varying from sole practitioner
firms to firms with multiple offices and partners.

According to the research, the major
challenges are:

  • Shortage of professional staff. With
    increasing ‘red tape’, accounting staff are spending too much time
    on compliance requirements and not enough time on proactive and
    value-adding services;
  •  Due to legislative changes and
    registration requirements, the provision of financial planning and
    advice can be problematic. Firms have had to refer their clients to
    other firms due to this problem, which is inconvenient to clients;
  •  Audit legislative changes in 2004
    requiring the rotation of audit partners have resulted in some
    auditors withdrawing from rural areas.

The research found clients are generally
satisfied with the accounting service provision, firms are
compliant with professional development requirements and firms are
good at using sophisticated technology to overcome disadvantages
posed by distance.

The study is based on in-depth interviews and
large-scale surveys of rural and regional accounting firm
practitioners and SMEs.