As we follow the news about the partial government shutdown, we may be thinking about longer-than-usual phone wait times to get our IRS questions answered, an inability to file amended returns, and a slowdown in getting additional clarification on the tax laws. But let’s put our marketer’s hat on and see how we can benefit from the changes that taxpayers will experience this year.
Relate Your Marketing Message to the Shutdown
If you want new clients no matter how small, I recommend adding some of the following on your website or other marketing materials:
- Yes, you need to pay taxes whether the government is open or not
- We’re open and we can help
- We can answer questions you have in case you can’t get through to the IRS this year
- We can educate you on the timing of your refund and filings
- We answer our phone even if the IRS does not, so let us help you
- If you’re confused about the new forms, we can help
- If the line is too long at the tax franchise store, we can help (since they have laid off a lot of workers)
New Services and Pricing
There are several trends you can take advantage of this year and even develop into new services if you’re good at scaling your business.
- Consider pricing based on not only the return this year but also for answering some of the new customer service questions that will come up. Be sure to account for your extra time on rework when new regs come out, new forms change, and IRS help line wait time that goes longer than usual.
- Consider billing for Q&A for do-it-yourself filers. To scale, you can have clients agree to a Terms and Conditions document, but check with your insurance carrier and attorney first.
- Think about a fixed fee price for the new, younger gig economy workers: the Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, GrubHub, Amazon delivery, and other 1099 workers with simple Schedule C expenses.
- Consider a package for taxpayers who can’t get their tax software to work and come to you for help or just to look it over.
- While the IRS audit function has temporarily stopped, there won’t be as much representation revenue for a while. Plan to supplement that lost revenue with other services such as tax planning.
In all cases, you might want to have a “bare bones,” medium, and “the works” package options. Bare bones is return filing only, no explanation, no customer service follow up. Medium includes customer service, and “the works” adds tax planning tips.
New Workforce Opportunities
If the government shutdown continues for a long time, you might be able to help furloughed workers by temporarily hiring them. This is a long shot, but you will be making some real friends if they are IRS workers; they are definitely hurting without those paychecks.
Filtering New Leads
If you have a mature practice with no need for additional simple 1040 clients, consider adding some filtering messaging to your marketing materials as well as developing a screening script for incoming calls. You might even want to develop a chatbot for your website that greets visitors, asks basic questions, and sends clients to the right place.
For example, you might send clients with W-2 income and not much else to a VITA or AARP center or to someone you’ve met who wants to start a tax practice and needs clients no matter how small the work is. You may need to stop taking free consultations and charge a flat fee per hour to answer basic questions. You can also develop a Frequently Asked Questions list to post on your site and direct prospects there first.
In any case, be prepared for a wild ride this tax season, and turn lemons into lemonade where you can.
Author Bio: Sandi Leyva, CPA, CMA, MBA, and founder of Accountant’s Accelerator, has helped thousands of tax and accounting professionals earn more, work less, and serve their clients better through her innovative marketing, training, and coaching services. Author of 30 books and hundreds of CPE courses, Sandi has won 12 awards for her thought leadership. Visit her at accountantsaccelerator.com and acceleratorwebsites.com.