A Survey Investigation into the Use of the Internet among Accounting Firms

Article excerpt

The speedy development of the internet in the past decade has made the global information network of today like the invention of telephone centuries ago, thoroughly changing the ways that businesses operate. How would accounting firms take advantage of the internet to enhance working effectiveness and efficiency, expanding business and assisting clients, are discussed in this paper. The research aims to explore the internet applications of accounting firms in Taiwan. Data were collected through questionnaire surveys of 595 CPA firms selected randomly from the registered list of the CPA Association of Taiwan, of which 73 out of 84 questionnaires returned were effective for analysis. The study found that the main reasons for accounting firms implementing the internet were for sharing internal resources, enforcing communication with clients and cost saving, while the major usage of internet was in database research, documenting and file transmission. Results of analysis about firms after applying the internet, whether internally or externally, were all positive. Differences in internet establishment and level of usage produced different effects on accounting firms.

1. Introduction

With its overwhelming popularity, the internet has been an important device to obtain profit since the end of the last century. The Internet has not only brought nearly revolutionary changes to business in general, it also has had a significant effect on human society. Facing the huge impact of the internet, business could no longer overlook internet applications in enhancing their competitive advantage.

1.1 Background and Motivation

In a service industry, the internet has provided global consumers with various choices around the clock. In the accounting profession, CPAs have always been consultants to business. Those CPAs who wanted to maintain their business could no longer overlook the advantages of the internet. Besides, accounting firms had the first hand opportunity and responsibility to suggest to clients how to use the internet to expand competitive advantage. This study discusses the advantages brought about by the internet.

The information technology applied by accounting firms has been slower than in other industries in Taiwan. The use of e-mail was already a millstone for many accounting firms, some of which even had to found committees for the handling of internet intrusions. The most common internet applications in global accounting firms are: (1) Communication tool, (2) Information search and documents access, (3) Usenet newsgroups, (4) Software support, (5) Bug fixes, (6) Understanding competitors' movement, (7) Marketing (Kahan, 1998).

Regarding internet application in accounting firms, a related study pointed out that internet usage has effectively upgraded both production and service. Take KPMG in Taiwan as an example. By looking at the ratio of revenue to numbers of employee, the firm's revenue for the year 1996 was approximately 0.8 billion NT dollars, of which each of 800 employees contributed 1 million NT dollars. While the annual salary per employee was not less than 1 million NT dollars, the production value per person was not high. Thus, how to increase production value per working hours or reducing non-value-added activities in work, such as paper work, were critical issues that need to be solved by many accounting firms (Chang, 1997). Therefore, the use of the internet has became an essential part of the firms' development.

1.2 Research Objective

Because of the importance of internet applications to accounting firms and the lack of comprehensive related studies, this study explored internet application of accounting firms in Taiwan. The research aims to investigate the following: 1. To understand the current internet application of CPA firms in Taiwan. 2. To study the relative effects of different organizational features on internet applications. 3. To understand the effect of internet applications in CPA firms. …