Why the Virtual Office Doesn't Work for CPAs

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Let’s face it: As accountants, we are in a very conservative business. There are clients who actually want to see us, even when a phone call would suffice. We have Skype, cell phones and other mechanisms that would allow us to work remotely, but our clients expect us to be in the office.

I wake up pretty early and begin working basically right away. It is a pain in the butt to stop what I am doing, take a shower and get dressed to go to the office. It takes away from my train of thought and wastes an hour and a half. This doesn’t include fighting traffic on the drive in and setting everything up once I arrive at my office. 

There are days when I work from home, but those are the ones when I don’t have any appointments scheduled. Still, inevitably, I will get a call from a client who just stopped into the office to see me for “five minutes,” or a package comes.

Simply put, as accountants, it is always a mistake to not go to the office.

I am speaking from experience. I used to work from home, with a virtual office. I had staff all over the country. Let’s face it, in today’s world, we don’t really need a physical workspace. Automation has transformed the accounting profession.

However, I still argue it has not removed the need to physically be present in an office. Our clients just don’t allow this, not to mention the security issues.  

Clients want to think of you at the office every day in a suit, working on their taxes and other documents. They don’t want to deal with the thought that their confidential information is sitting in your home, where anyone can see it.

Personally, I always kept security in mind, even in the privacy of my house. I closed my laptop when I was away from the keyboard and put all confidential information in a place where no one could see it. 

However, I realized something real quick: I can control what I do, but I can’t control what one of my employees does in their home. Ultimately, I am on the hook if someone sees confidential information, even if it’s on a staff member’s computer at their residence rather than my own.

Then there were the never-ending face-to-face appointments, none of which were ever back to back. They caused me to have a lot of downtime at my virtual office, which resulted in wasted time and money waiting for a client. Things would have been easier if I was already in a physical workspace.

And let’s not forget the staff. When they need help we use Skype for Business, where I can see their screen and identify where they have the problem. This was pretty easy. The complications came where I had to train someone. Although Skype for Business is a great program, the training process took too much time and became cumbersome.

Sure, when you work remotely, you don’t have to spend money renting or purchasing office space and maintaining it. Instead, with a virtual office, you are given a receptionist and blocks of time where you can use the meeting rooms. However, as I mentioned, it was getting to a point where I was spending time in the lobby, waiting for my next appointment. Sometimes, there would be two to three hours between client meetings. And although the virtual office had Wi-Fi, it was open, and with all of the confidential info on my computer, I was forced to use a hotspot on my phone. I also had to do everything on one screen.

In short, being truly productive was nearly impossible.

I know there will be people who will disagree with me, but as I stated, working remotely just isn’t especially realistic for accountants. If you’ve found a way to make the virtual office work, I’m all ears.

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About Craig W. Smalley, EA

Craig Smalley

Craig W. Smalley, MST, EA, has been in practice since 1994. He has been admitted to practice before the IRS as an enrolled agent and has a master's in taxation. He is well-versed in US tax law and US Tax Court cases. He specializes in taxation, entity structuring and restructuring, corporations, partnerships, and individual taxation, as well as representation before the IRS regarding negotiations, audits, and appeals. In his many years of practice, he has been exposed to a variety of businesses and has an excellent knowledge of most industries. He is the CEO and co-founder of CWSEAPA PLLC and Tax Crisis Center LLC; both business have locations in Florida, Delaware, and Nevada. Craig is the current Google small business accounting advisor for the Google Small Business Community. He is a contributor to AccountingWEB and Accounting Today, and has had 12 books published on various topics in taxation. His articles have also been featured in the Chicago Tribune, New York Times, Yahoo Finance, Nasdaq, and several other newspapers, periodicals, and magazines. He has been interviewed and been a featured guest on many radio shows and podcasts. Finally, he is the co-host of Tax Avoidance is Legal, which is a nationally broadcast weekly Internet radio show.

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Jan 11th 2019 16:06

Nice article, Craig. I think, even today, all professionals are still expected to have a permanent office, even if it is just a small one-room setting. An added bonus is that I have picked up many "walk-in" clients over the years, which isn't happening if you are working from home or some other temporary office setting. Not every client is a referral who sets up an appointment in advance.

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