Tax preparer certification and organization form among uncertified preparers influence client satisfaction and experience

Candace L. Witherspoon, Dan N. Stone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


How does state certification (e.g., CPA, enrolled agent [EA], or attorney) and organizational form among uncertified preparers (big box ‘‘franchise’’ firms versus not) influence client satisfaction and interactions? Results from a sample (n = 3,984) of Yelp ratings of U.S. tax preparers indicates that certified preparers receive higher ratings than do uncertified small-firm preparers, who earn higher ratings than do franchise preparers. Linguistic analysis suggests that clients of certified preparers experience tax preparation service as a ‘‘relational’’ interaction, with reviews evidencing more positive affect and inclusive pronouns (e.g., we). In contrast, the clients of franchise firms experience tax preparation as ‘‘transactional,’’ with reviews evidencing more swear words and impersonal pronouns. Linguistic results for uncertified small preparers fall between those of certified and franchise preparers. The paper is among the first to adapt emerging corpus linguistic methods to examine client perceptions of professional accounting services.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)117-136
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Emerging Technologies in Accounting
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank workshop participants at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, University of Kentucky, and University of West Virginia, and the 2011 and 2015 Behavioral Tax Symposium for comments on previous drafts, and we thank Monika Causholli for useful conversations related to the manuscript. The authors gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the University of Kentucky, the Gatton College of Business, and the Von Allmen School of Accountancy. Professor Witherspoon gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the Langdale College of Business Administration at Valdosta State University, the Rea and Lillian Steele Research Grant, and her dissertation committee at the University of Kentucky Von Allmen School of Accountancy.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018, American Accounting Association. All rights reserved.


  • Certification
  • LIWC
  • Linguistic analysis
  • Online reviews
  • Professional accounting services
  • Relational
  • Tax preparation
  • Transactional
  • Yelp

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Accounting
  • Computer Science Applications


Dive into the research topics of 'Tax preparer certification and organization form among uncertified preparers influence client satisfaction and experience'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this