Hawaii’s Board of Accountancy, under the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, licenses CPA candidates who have earned a bachelor’s degree at minimum, gained a year of practical work experience, and passed the Uniform CPA Exam. Because bachelor’s degrees result in just 120 semester hours of college credit, going on to earn a master’s in accounting provides an ideal way to earn the additional credit hours required for a CPA license in Hawaii.
Honolulu is the location of the greatest concentration of CPAs and other accounting professionals in the Islands. It continues to be the hub of business and international commerce in Hawaii, and is actually home to branch offices of three of the “Big Four” international CPA firms: Deloitte, Ernst & Young, and KPMG. These continue to be the world’s most respected and best recognized professional services firms employing CPAs who provide auditing and attestation services, management consultation, and financial advisory services. Financial advisory and investment strategy firm Edward Jones has personal advisors and strategists with backgrounds in accounting working on Oahu, as well as on the east side of the Big Island in Hilo.
Hawaii is home to diverse industries and businesses that create unique opportunities for accountants in everything from finance and private industry, to government and non-profit work. The HOKU Corporation, a clean energy technology company in Honolulu, retains accountants like any other company, to work as controllers and internal auditors. Interestingly; however, is the fact that they also employ environmental accountants tasked with monitoring the environmental impact of their business so as to mitigate the effects in accordance with the company’s environmentally respectful ethic. Hawaiian Dredging Construction Company, Inc staffs cost estimators experienced in the construction process and knowledgeable of the supply chain involved in sourcing materials for projects located all over the Islands. They also retain managerial accountants and internal auditors who support the business off-site from their offices in Honolulu. All federal government entities with a presence in Hawaii, from the military’s Defense Logistics Agency in Pearl Harbor to the U.S. Department of Agriculture with office in Hilo, retain fund accountants involved in the management of taxpayer funds allocated to support the daily operation of the agencies and their projects. Those more interested in becoming accountants with careers that support the credo “life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness,” work as environmental accountants or manage donated funds as fund accountants for nonprofits like Castle Medical Center in Kailua and the Research Corporation of the University of Hawaii.
The Hawaii Department of Labor (DOL) and Industrial Relations predicts that the number of business and financial operations jobs will increase between 2012 and 2022. The field of accounting is expected to see the greatest number of new jobs within this larger occupational category. The Hawaii DOL predicts that the number of accountants in Hawaii will increase by 11.7% between 2012 and 2022—generating an average of 210 accounting positions a year during this ten-year period.
The US Department of Labor reported that the median salary for an accountant in Hawaii was $55,600 in 2014. Experienced professionals in the 90th percentile earned an average annual salary of $92,300.
As detailed in the 2015 Robert Half Salary Guide, a number of factors affect the salaries of accountants. In Honolulu, corporate accountants in small firms with one to three years of experience earned an average starting salary of $42,770, while those in large firms started at $50,525. By mid-career, salaries for accountants working at small firms rose to an average of $55,460, while those in larger firms earned an average of $65,330.
Controllers who worked at small financial services firms in Honolulu earned between $86,480 and $116,090 a year.
Chief Financial Officer salaries varied by as much as three fold depending on the size of the firm they worked for. The average starting salary for a CFO at a company with annual revenue of up to $50 million was $98,935, while the average salary among top earners was $142,645. Their colleagues at firms that generated revenue in excess of $500 million a year earned salaries ranged between $$273,775 and $437,805.
Salaries for Hawaii’s Forensic Accountants
Forensic accountants in Hawaii helped to unravel a $26 million Ponzi scheme that resulted in convictions for former Maui residents Holly Hoaeae and George Lindell in 2015. The evidence produced in court indicated that 166 people invested $26 million and lost a net amount of $8.99 million. These former mortgage brokers helped their investors refinance their homes and urged them to invest in a fund called The Parking Lot that primarily invested in marginal real estate investment activity or junk bonds.
Forensic accountants are highly compensated for their specialized analytical activities and earned salaries ranging from $67,210 to $104,810 in Honolulu according to the 2015 Robert Half Salary Guide.
Salaries for Accountants in Honolulu versus those in Hawaii’s Nonmetropolitan Region
Information provided by the US Department of Labor indicated that the salaries of accountants in Hawaii in 2014 varied depending on their location:
Tax Preparer Salaries Throughout Hawaii
The median salary for tax preparers located in the nonmetropolitan area of Hawaii/Maui/Kauai was nearly as high as that of accountants in Honolulu in 2014 (US Department of Labor):
The Hawaii Senate recently rejected legislation that proposed taxing pension income in Hawaii. Hawaii’s senior citizens opposed the bill, which would have taxed individuals with incomes over $100,000 or couples with incomes exceeding $200,000 annually. Given that Hawaii is a very popular place for wealthy retirees from the mainland, this came as a great relief to both Island residents and those considering Hawaii as a retirement destination. However, other tax increases are still pending in Hawaii. A proposal to increase taxes on car rentals from $3 to $7.50 per day is still in the works, as are measures that would increase taxes on tobacco, alcohol, stock options, and timeshares. It is estimated that these new tax proposals would raise about $400 million in revenue for the state each year.