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Accounting Services
Sectoral analysis of U.S. trade and competitiveness in accounting and auditing services. 

Accounting Services

Accounting Services

Overview

The accounting industry is comprised of establishments primarily engaged in providing services such as auditing of accounting records, designing financial and accounting systems, preparing financial statements, developing budgets, tax planning and preparation, processing payrolls, bookkeeping, and billing.

U.S. accounting firms also increasingly offer consulting services as part of their work, with an aim to diversify revenue streams. 

International Environment 

Obstacles faced by accounting firms when expanding or providing services overseas include differences in accounting systems, economic and political turbulence in foreign markets, corruption, cultural differences, and regulatory hurdles and government roadblocks. All of these barriers impact the ability of these firms both to compete in foreign markets and to provide services for multinational clients. Additional barriers include:  

•    Local equity requirements.
•    Limitation on the number of accountants that can be employed and numbers of new licenses to be issued.
•    Discriminatory treatment with respect to foreign partners in a joint venture.
•    Minimum requirements for local hiring.
•    Overly burdensome fees and taxes on repatriation of profits and other payments.

Trade in Accounting Services

In 2019, the United States exported $2.6 billion in accounting services – a decline of 2% from 2018 exports. With the exception of 2019, the U.S. has seen growth each year in exports of accounting services over the last decade. Average annual growth from 2011 to 2018 was 11.9 percent, although the growth each year has varied widely, ranging from 5 to 23 percent. 

Column chart showing percentage change in exports of U.S. accounting services from 2011 to 2019.

The United Kingdom and Canada lead the list of top export destinations for U.S. accounting services, with $382 million in exports to the UK and $353 million in exports to Canada in 2019. Other important export markets include Switzerland ($194 million) and Mexico ($151 million). The European Union as a whole is also an attractive export market for accounting services, with the United States exporting $508 million to the 27 EU member countries in 2019. 

Bar chart showing the top export markets for U.S. accounting services in 2019.

India is by far the largest import source for the United States in accounting services, with $1.1 billion in imports in 2019. Other leading sources of imports include the United Kingdom ($652 million), Canada ($427 million), and the Netherlands ($358 million). 

Bar chart showing the top import source countries for U.S. accounting services in 2019.

While roughly two-fifths of all U.S. exports of accounting services go to Europe, the Asia-Pacific and Latin American/Western Hemisphere regions also attract significant portions of U.S. exports in this sector (25 percent and 18 percent respectively). Canada is an important market for the U.S. as well, receiving 14 percent of U.S. exports in 2019. 

Europe and the Asia-Pacific are the top two regions for sourcing U.S. imports of accounting services, providing 47 percent and 34 percent of U.S. imports respectively. 

Pie chart showing U.S. accounting services exports by region in 2019.
Pie chart showing U.S. accounting services imports by region in 2019.

Please click here to access the full data for these charts

ITA Resources
Rachel Minogue
Accounting, Legal, and Management Consulting Services
Rachel.Minogue@trade.gov
202.482.2991