Accounting firms play a pivotal role in the financial health of businesses and the economy at large. They provide a range of critical services, from auditing to tax consulting, financial advisory, and more. The top accounting firms contribute significantly to the U.S. economy, shaping financial landscapes and setting industry standards. This article explores the top accounting firms in the United States, their achievements, services, and their role in the digital transformation of the industry.
Methodology: How to choose the top accounting firm
Ranking these top firms involves considering multiple factors. Primarily, the criteria include revenue and number of employees, indicative of their size and capacity. The diversity and breadth of their client portfolio, range of services provided, reputation, awards, and the degree of innovation and digital technology adoption were also factored in.
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The “Big Four” accounting firms in the USA
Often referred to as the ‘Big Four’, Deloitte LLP, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Ernst & Young (EY), and KPMG LLP dominate the accounting industry not only in the U.S., but globally.
Deloitte LLP is the US member firm of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (DTTL), a UK private company is by far the most popular and largest accounting firm worldwide. Deloitte provides industry-leading audit, consulting, tax, and advisory services to many of the world’s most admired brands, including nearly 90% of the Fortune 500 and more than 7,000 private companies.
Deloitte LLP is among the largest professional services firms in the U.S., included in big 4 accounting firms, serving clients across a multitude of industries including government, higher education, health care, technology, media, energy and resources, and financial services.
The firm prides itself on its ability to deliver measurable and lasting results that help reinforce public trust in capital markets, inspire clients to make their most challenging business decisions with confidence, and lead the way toward a more sustainable and equitable world.
PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) is a multinational professional services network that provides industry-focused assurance, tax, and advisory services to build public trust and enhance value for its clients and stakeholders. PwC is among the largest professional services firms in the world, and in the U.S., it serves an impressive list of businesses, including a significant proportion of the Fortune 500.
PwC operates a global network of firms in 155 countries, with more than 284,000 people delivering quality in assurance, advisory, and tax services. The firm serves clients across a wide variety of sectors, including technology, consumer and industrial products and services, health industries, financial services, and more.
PwC’s approach is centered around helping businesses achieve their goals by building the right relationships, exploring the most promising options, and providing the insights that shape strategies and drive revenues.
Ernst & Young (EY)
Ernst & Young, commonly known as EY, is a multinational professional services firm. The firm is headquartered in London, England, but it maintains offices in various parts of the world, including the United States. EY provides assurance (including financial audit), tax, consulting, and advisory services to companies across various industries.
In the U.S., EY serves a broad range of clients, including start-ups, governmental agencies, nonprofits, and large corporations. The firm has expertise in fields such as financial services, technology, real estate, health, entertainment, and more.
EY is known for its commitment to building a better working world, fostering a high-performance culture, and driving innovation in the industry. The firm is known for working with technologies like AI and blockchain and is recognized for its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusiveness.
KPMG LLP is the U.S. member firm of KPMG International Cooperative (“KPMG International”), a Swiss entity and one of the biggest accounting organizations globally. KPMG provides audit, tax, and advisory services, serving a wide array of industries, including banking, healthcare, retail, manufacturing, and government, among others.
KPMG is well-recognized for its high-quality service, comprehensive approach, and deep industry expertise. The firm is committed to delivering innovative solutions to its clients, helping them to navigate complexity and to achieve growth and performance objectives.
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Other top US accounting firms and the services they provide
Beyond the ‘Big Four’, several other accounting firms are making their mark on the U.S. economy.
Grant Thornton LLP
Grant Thornton LLP is the U.S. member firm of Grant Thornton International Ltd, one of the world’s leading networks of independent audit, tax, and advisory firms. The U.S. firm operates out of many locations across the country, providing a wide range of services including audit, tax, and advisory services to public and private clients. It serves clients in various sectors such as financial services, healthcare, government, consumer and industrial products, and technology, among others.
The firm is recognized for its commitment to quality and distinctive client service. They believe in providing personalized attention and building strong relationships with their clients, which include major corporations, growth-focused middle-market companies, as well as government entities.
BDO USA, LLP
BDO USA, LLP is the United States member firm of BDO International, a global network of public accounting, tax, consulting, and business advisory firms. Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, BDO USA has more than 60 offices and hundreds of alliance locations throughout the U.S. The firm serves a diverse range of clients, from closely-held private companies to multinational corporations, and across a wide variety of industries including real estate, manufacturing, healthcare, retail, and more.
BDO USA offers a broad range of services such as audit and assurance, tax, consulting, and advisory services. The firm is recognized for its robust technical expertise and deep industry knowledge, allowing it to provide clients with tailored, forward-thinking solutions.
RSM US, LLP
RSM US LLP, often referred to as RSM, is the U.S. member of RSM International, a global network of independent audit, tax, and consulting firms. With roots dating back to 1926, RSM has grown to become one of the leading professional services firms in the U.S., providing a wide array of services including audit, tax, and consulting. The firm has more than 80 offices in the U.S. and serves clients in various sectors, from closely-held businesses to large public companies.
RSM specializes in serving mid-sized businesses in industries such as financial services, government, healthcare, consumer products, manufacturing, real estate, and technology, among others. The firm’s approach emphasizes understanding the industries and markets in which their clients operate.
Crowe LLP is a public accounting, consulting, and technology firm with offices around the world. As a member of Crowe Global, it is part of one of the largest global accounting networks. The firm is headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, and has many offices across the United States.
Crowe LLP provides a wide range of services, including audit, tax, advisory, risk, and performance services. It serves clients across a variety of industries, including healthcare, financial services, government, education, construction, and more.
The firm has a reputation for delivering innovative solutions tailored to each client’s specific needs and for its strong commitment to its core values of care, share, invest, and grow.
Baker Tilly US, LLP
Baker Tilly US, LLP is a leading advisory, tax, and assurance firm, providing clients a genuine coast-to-coast and global advantage with critical mass and top-notch talent in major regions of the U.S. and in many of the world’s leading financial centers. The firm is known for its deep industry expertise and is committed to delivering exceptional client service.
Baker Tilly US, LLP offers a wide range of services including audit and assurance, tax, risk, and performance advisory, among others. It serves a diverse client base across various industries, such as construction, financial services, healthcare, manufacturing, and public sector.
Rising stars in the accounting industry
Emerging firms, such as Plante Moran, CLA (CliftonLarsonAllen), and CohnReznick, are experiencing significant growth and pushing the boundaries of innovation. These firms have been successful by carving out niche markets, focusing on specialized industries, and fully integrating digital technology into their service offerings.
Plante Moran is a leading U.S. accounting, tax, consulting, and wealth management firm. Founded in 1924 and headquartered in Southfield, Michigan, the firm has a broad client base that includes individuals, mid-sized companies, and large corporations across diverse industries. As of September 2021, Plante Moran had over 3,000 employees and 350 partners, with offices across the U.S. and in international locations. The firm offers a wide array of services, including audit, tax, consulting, and wealth management. Known for its exceptional workplace culture, Plante Moran regularly features on Fortune Magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” list.
CliftonLarsonAllen LLP (CLA) is a top U.S. professional services firm, offering audit, assurance, consulting, tax, and wealth advisory services. Established in 1953, CLA is recognized for its personalized approach to client service. As of September 2021, it ranks among the top 10 largest accounting firms in the U.S., with over 7,000 professionals across 120 locations. CLA serves a broad client base, including privately held businesses, public sector entities, and affluent individuals, across various industries such as agribusiness, construction, health care, and real estate.
CohnReznick LLP is a leading U.S. accounting, tax, and advisory firm. Founded in 1919, it ranks among the top 15 largest accounting firms based on revenue as of September 2021. With offices across major U.S. cities, CohnReznick serves a diverse client base, providing services such as assurance, tax, advisory, and specialized industry consulting. The firm is recognized for its innovative approach, leveraging advanced technologies and strategies to offer insightful services to clients in areas like commercial real estate, renewable energy, technology, and more.
Check out the list of New York accounting firms.
Employee development and firm culture
The strength of accounting firms also rests on their employees. Hence, leading firms invest heavily in their employee development programs and foster inclusive cultures.
Deloitte offers various programs for leadership development, technical training, and industry-focused learning. Their inclusive culture is fostered through employee resource groups and various diversity initiatives.
PwC offers a unique ‘Be well, work well’ program aimed at supporting employees’ physical and mental health. They also emphasize personal and professional development through their ‘Your Tomorrow’ program.
EY encourages continuous learning with their ‘EY Badges’ program, where employees earn digital credentials in future-focused skills. Their diversity and inclusiveness networks further foster an inclusive culture.
KPMG is committed to lifelong learning with KPMG’s Learning, Development & Innovation center. They also promote diversity and inclusion through various initiatives and employee resource groups.
Among other leading firms, Grant Thornton, BDO USA, RSM, Crowe, and Baker Tilly have also created cultures that prioritize employee well-being, continuous learning, diversity, and inclusion.
The role of accounting firms in pandemic recovery
Accounting firms have always played a significant role in the health and stability of the business landscape. However, their importance became even more pronounced during the unprecedented challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. Here is an overview of the key roles top accounting firms in the U.S. played during the pandemic recovery:
Assisting with government stimulus packages
The U.S. government introduced several stimulus packages to aid businesses and individuals during the pandemic. These included the CARES Act and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), among others. Top accounting firms played a vital role in helping businesses understand these complex measures, advising them on eligibility criteria, application procedures, and ensuring maximum benefits.
Guidance on tax relief measures
To help ease the economic impacts of the pandemic, various tax relief measures were implemented, such as extended deadlines, tax credits, and deductions. Accounting firms provided crucial guidance to their clients, helping them navigate these changes and take full advantage of the relief measures.
Business continuity and contingency planning
The pandemic disrupted normal business operations on an unprecedented scale. Accounting firms helped businesses develop continuity plans to manage operational challenges. They also assisted with contingency planning, helping businesses prepare for potential future disruptions.
Cash flow management and cost optimization
Many businesses faced significant financial strain during the pandemic. Accounting firms advised their clients on managing cash flows more effectively, ensuring financial stability during uncertain times. They also provided strategies for cost optimization to help businesses mitigate the financial impact of the pandemic.
Industry challenges and future trends
Despite the tremendous successes of these firms, challenges remain. Increasing regulatory requirements, cybersecurity threats, talent acquisition and retention, and the ever-present need for technological advancement are constant hurdles. However, these challenges also present opportunities for firms to innovate and adapt, further cementing their positions at the top of the industry.
Looking to the future, several trends seem set to influence the landscape of the accounting industry:
- Digital disruption: Technology will continue to revolutionize the industry, with advancements in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and blockchain expected to shape the future of accounting.
- Data analytics: As firms continue to harness the power of data, those capable of translating complex data into insightful business strategies will have the upper hand.
- Globalization: As businesses become more global, accounting firms will need to navigate complex international tax laws and financial regulations, providing a competitive edge for those firms with a global presence.
- Value-added services: With automation managing repetitive tasks, accounting firms will increasingly focus on providing value-added services like strategic financial consulting and business advisory services. This shift allows firms to engage with their clients more strategically and underlines the changing nature of the accounting industry.
- Cybersecurity and data privacy: With the increasing digitization of financial data, cybersecurity threats and data privacy have become significant concerns. Leading accounting firms offer cybersecurity consulting and have robust measures in place to protect sensitive information. This facet of operations will only become more critical as digital transformation continues.
The top accounting firms in the U.S. significantly influence the country’s economic landscape. These firms are not only champions in their field but are also at the forefront of technological integration, setting the pace for the industry’s future. As digital transformation continues to evolve, the landscape of the accounting industry will undoubtedly continue to change, with these top firms leading the way.
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