By Susan Maphis, AccountingEdu contributing writer
Updated August 2015
The North Dakota Workforce Intelligence Network expects the number of accounting and auditing jobs in the state to grow by 19.2 percent between 2012 and 2022. When businesses expand, they inevitably create more jobs in accountancy, which means that North Dakota’s unsurpassed economic growth plays a role in expanding the state’s accounting industry. USAToday explains that in 2012, while the United States economy grew by 1.9 percent, the North Dakota economy grew by nearly 10 percent.
North Dakota is growing, in part, due to the fact that is it one of the top five states in the nation for mining, which includes oil, natural gas, and coal production.
CPAs working in the state are regulated by the North Dakota State Board of Accountancy, which requires candidates to earn 150 semester hours of college credit and a bachelor’s degree at minimum, as well as passing scores on the Uniform CPA Exam and a year of professional accounting experience prior to licensure. Since most bachelor’s programs consist of approximately 120 semester hours of college credit, a master’s in accounting provides the perfect path to earning the 30 additional credit hours required for a CPA license in North Dakota. Although none of the “Big Four” international accounting firms have offices in North Dakota, other major national and regional firms do. CPAs work with Eide Bailly LLP, one of the top 25 CPA firms in the nation, which has offices in Fargo and Bismarck. Software giant Microsoft has recently established an Executive Briefing Center in Fargo where the Microsoft Finance Operations team retains CPAs who work as controllers, auditors and management accountants.
North Dakota’s top industries, as of 2015, were agriculture, tourism, coal and coal gasification, oil and gas, and renewable energy, according to the North Dakota Department of Commerce.
North Dakota is a prime exporter of agricultural products, ranking first in the production of flaxseed, canola, durum wheat, all edible dry beans, all dry peas, spring wheat, honey, lentils, sunflowers, barley and oats. Along with that, the state produces beef, dairy cattle, and hogs, and 526 million pounds of milk per year, making milk production the second largest industry in North Dakota. Environmental auditors work for the state office of the USDA Farm Service Agency and the Dairy Extension of North Dakota State University, both in Fargo, to help mitigate the environmental affects of large-scale dairy farming.
Next to the production of food is the state’s tourism industry, which brought in about $4.6 billion in 2010 alone. With over 16 million visitors coming to the state to experience places like Theodore Roosevelt National Park in Fargo, which has over 70,000 acres of canyons and hiking trails, tourism generated $760 million in wages in the state in 2010 alone. Auditors, accountants and financial controllers in this industry are found working with national parks, such as Theodore Roosevelt, trails, the Maah Daah Hey Trail, and the Chateau de Mores State Historic Site.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that approximately 3,610 accountants were employed in North Dakota as of May 2014, with the highest number of accountants employed in Fargo. That year, Fargo was home to at least 1,320 accountants—not including those with independent practices of their own.
In 2014, the average salary for accountants employed in North Dakota was $56,230. Those employed in the far western nonmetropolitan area of the state made an average of $63,660 per year, with the top 10 percent of accountants in that region making an average of $88,540. The second highest-paying areas in the state were tied, with accountants in Fargo making an average of $56,840 and those in Grand Forks making an average of $56,320.
A House Bill recently signed into law by North Dakota’s Governor Jack Dalrymple will reduce the state’s corporate income tax by 20 percent and reduces property tax by up to 19 percent. North Dakota, unlike most states, has a budget surplus, and is using part of that surplus to make the state more attractive to business by offering these tax-based incentives.
In other news, the North Dakota Society of CPAs warned its members that the August 31 deadline for North Dakotans to participate in the IRS’ Offshore Voluntary Disclosure is nearing, and that there are tens of thousands of state residents with unreported offshore accounts affected by this deadline. Failing to file the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR) is a felony. If North Dakota CPAs have clients to whom this applies, they are advised to start the filing process immediately, as it involves complex paperwork.