“Liz! I am so glad I got you, I had this idea to get some cash to float my business, but I want to make sure it doesn’t screw me for taxes.” I am sure this opening sounds very familiar to you as a tax professional. I get the “make sure taxes don’t screw me” calls year-round without a global pandemic threatening my clients’ livelihoods. This week has only increased the cadence and the necessity of timely conversations, and I am sure everyone reading this has experienced the same demand of time.
This is the world of the tax advisor.
Psychologically speaking, people are feeling extremely out of control and the default is to control whatever piece of their world that they can. As such, they are making plans and building actions into a completely uncontrollable situation. As tax strategists, we have the responsibility to help them through it. It may feel like you are a therapist at times, and I promise, it is worth it for your clients’ sanity and your own business.
Here are some ideas to help you approach the topic with your clients in a proactive way. Yes, I know it is busy season and time is essential but getting on top of advisory will lead to less one on one calls and create more of a community sense of control.
- Send your clients updates on what is happening in Washington. When you send them, include your thoughts on how this will impact your local community and what actions your clients can take with the information. For example, congress recently passed the deferral of payments for 90 days. Tell your clients that they should not pay their tax bills for the 90 days (of course the ones that owe) and should instead use those funds to buy gift cards for local companies that they want to make sure survive the crisis.
- This is a great article to share about the SBA loan programs as well as other relief here.
- Clarify the facts of the tax law in a relevant way to your client base. If you work with a community of high-net worth individuals, it might be prudent to remind them of the estate tax rules and how to make sure they are covered in case of a death in the family. Giving them action items to take, referrals to local trust attorneys, and the steps to make sure they are protected would be beneficial.
- If you work with small businesses, advise them to switch their accounting to cloud-based tools like Xero, so they can access the information even if they are quarantined for longer periods than expected.
- Get ahead of tax planning for 2020. Offer meetings after April 15th and use a calendar link to make scheduling with you easy, accessible, and automated for you.
- Keep posting relevant information on your social media. Make sure you are leading your clients to reputable sources. They are searching for content that will help them cope, and you are the trusted professional source of information.
Make sure your communications are coming straight from your email and feel personalized. Leverage an intern or an administrative team member to draft the emails and do a mail merge for you. Include links to your social media so they can stay on top of the latest.
Economic recession means people will rely on those that they trust to guide them through the uncertainty. You have the privilege, the opportunity, and the responsibility to guide your clients wisely through being the best tax strategist you can on their behalf. Oh, and, don’t forget to send them bills for the work that you are doing for them. We have to get paid after all! However, be generous in your payment terms (if you can survive it). It will give you more goodwill than you know with any struggling clients to show some human kindness and understanding.