ACCOUNTANTS enjoyed a better pay rise last year than professionals in other commercial sectors, and an accounting expert predicts that their salaries will rise further in coming years due to a booming cross-border trade. A recent survey commissioned by the Hongkong Society of Accountants (HKSA) found that wage increases for the profession ranged from 14 to 16.5 per cent during the 12 months to April 1, 1992. Professionals in other commercial sectors received a 13 per cent average increase. The research board chairman of HKSA, Mr Herald Lau Ling-fai, attributed this to a persistent shortage of local accounting professionals. However, Mr Lau, also a partner of accountancy firm Coopers and Lybrand, said the shortage was not as bad as it had been three years ago, despite a continuous increase in demand for the professional service. This was because ''many emigrated accountants have returned from Canada, Australia and even Britain'', he said. ''On top of the returnees, there is also an influx of expatriates whose prospects in their home countries are not promising because of the economic downturn.'' He said these changes had helped to reduce pressure for a greater salary adjustment, such as had been needed in 1990. Then the brain drain was so serious that pay had to be increased by as much as 25 per cent to retain experienced accountants. The average turnover rate around 1990 was about 23 per cent of a total of 59,979 professionals. Mr Lau said that at its peak, the rate had surged to about 60 per cent. He expected the salary increase for this year to be about 11.5 per cent, but warned that demand for better pay might return because of a booming cross-border trade, which would increase the demand for professional services. He gave as an example the nine Chinese companies planning to seek listings this year in Hongkong. ''These projects require the assistance of a great number of local accountants as mainland accountants are not yet recognised here,'' he said. ''If the political row between Hongkong and China can be resolved soon, these investments are set to surge rapidly and there is bound to be a vast demand for local accountants, which will probably push up pay levels.'' Mr Lau said he would not be surprised the average pay rise for the next two to three years match that for 1990. But he indicated that as more mainland professionals were receiving internationally recognised training, China might depend less on Hongkong in future. Mr Lau said the survey was the first of its kind the society had conducted. The aim was to provide something both employers and employees could refer to. He said the results indicated that pay for private practitioners was cash-driven, while government employees enjoyed better fringe benefits such as housing allowances or medical coverage. He said another survey, looking into the supply and demand of professionals, was being considered.