Professional Chops Matter: Promoting Your Tax Business
According to the IRS, 80% of Americans seek the help of a tax preparer or tax software when filing their taxes.Aï¿½Aï¿½ But that is no reason for tax professionals like certified public accounts and enrolled agents to rest on their laurels.Aï¿½ With the increasing popularity of the Internet, and online tax filing systems, and greater competition among tax professionals, it is more important than ever that tax preparers promote their tax businesses in the best possible manner.Aï¿½ This requires strategies that go beyond the go-to refrain: don’t accept tax advice from anyone other than a professional tax preparer.
While this is a valid point to make when promoting a tax preparation business, it’s not the only one.
Online Filing Is No Holy Grail
The first step in promoting the distinct benefits of using a tax professional is to counter the public perception that online tax preparation software packages or online filing services are good substitutes for the real deal.Aï¿½ The CPA or IRS enrolled agent should advice prospective clients to resist the temptation to rely on these vehicles because they require that the taxpayer have knowledge of the Tax Code to prepare a correct return. As with any software, the rule is “garbage in, garbage out”. If a taxpayer isn’t trained on how to enter the information, or what information to enter, they won’t get the best or most accurate answers.Aï¿½ And the consequences can be costly: taxpayer may get hit with hefty fines and fees if the return isn’t filed correctly or is late.
In a word: no software package or online filing service is a substitute for actual tax knowledge, or for a competent, experienced tax professional.Aï¿½ Tax preparers are some of the most well trained professionals because they are required by law to enroll in certain number continuing education tax courses to ensure a high level of competence in issues of taxation.Aï¿½ There is no more compelling argument for seeking a tax professional than this.
Consumer Checklist on Choosing A Tax Preparer
Each year, around tax time, the Better Business Bureau sends out numerous consumer pieces cautioning to individuals to be selective when choosing a tax professionals.Aï¿½ A checklist of points to consider before making this important selection often accompanies this warning.Aï¿½ As tax professionals weigh in on how to attract more clients, they should operate with full knowledge of this checklist and proactively address all questions related it.
Here are some of the more important points a tax professional should mention:
Professional Affiliations and Tax Continuing Education
Promote the fact that you are affiliated with a professional organization that provides its members with continuing education and resources and requires them to take a regular schedule of tax CPE courses that ensures a high level of tax knowledge and holds them to a code of ethics.
Tax Preparer’s History
Encourage prospective clients to confirm your professional record (and for that matter the performance history of any preparer they might be considering) with the Better Business Bureau and to confirm licensure status through the state boards of accountancy for certified public accountants; the state bar associations for attorneys; and the IRS Office of Professional Responsibility for enrolled agents.
Promote Easy and Ongoing Accessibility
Make sure you to ensure the client that you can easily be reached after the return has been filed, even after the April due date, in case questions arise.
Emphasis Best Practices
The best way to sell a top-notch tax practice is to discuss the best practices that signal a level of competence and set you apart from fly-by-the-night tax services that promise a fast buck but disappear after April 15th.Aï¿½ Practices that reflect a reputable tax practice include the following:
Will request all records and receipts to prepare a return that is accurate and will hold up to IRS scrutiny
Will have the client review the entire return before signing so they understand everything and feel comfortable with the accuracy of the return
Will sign the return and include PTIN as required by law.
IRS Circular 230 Disclosure
Pursuant to the requirements of the Internal Revenue Service Circular 230, we inform you that, to the extent any advice relating to a Federal tax issue is contained in this communication, including in any attachments, it was not written or intended to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (a) avoiding any tax related penalties that may be imposed on you or any other person under the Internal Revenue Code, or (b) promoting, marketing or recommending to another person any transaction or matter addressed in this communication.