One of our roles as trusted advisors is to inform our clients of any changes to the tax code in order to make adjustments that will benefit them, especially in light of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). How can you best provide your clients with straightforward, targeted advice to produce results that clearly identify your value?
The first thing we need to do is educate ourselves. It’s vitally important for tax practitioners to either read the text of the TCJA or go to a reputable online source that summarizes its key provisions, such as the Intuit® ProConnect™ Tax Reform Resource Center or articles on the Tax Pro Center. You also need to keep an eye out for IRS guidance and updates on the IRS tax reform website. Make sure to take notes and highlight the areas you believe will have the most significant impact on your clients.
Now that you’re familiar with the TCJA and the impact it has on your clients, you need to pass this knowledge to them. Communication is a two-step process. The first step is to provide updates to your clients; the second step is to let them know that you are available to answer their questions regarding their particular needs.
There are many vehicles to communicate information to clients; email, social media marketing and website updates have the most immediate impact. Newsletters, webinars and phone calls have their place as well, but take much more time and energy. Either way, you can use a mix or all of these tools to help educate your clients.
I’ve found that email is the best way to open a line of communication with your clients. Aside from a phone call, it’s the main way you can tailor your message to those with concerns, such as their ability to itemize deductions, whether they are eligible to receive additional child tax credits or if they will benefit from the Sec. 199A deduction. In addition, in your email, you can invite clients or prospects to like or follow you on social media, or provide a link to a news page on your website. This allows you to push and pull information to them; you will send them information, and they will reach out for more explanation or detail.
For those who want to educate a broader audience with an in-depth review of the TCJA, online webinars using conference tools such as Zoom or WebEx are helpful. Depending on what works best for you, you can encourage participation via an embedded messaging tool or offer a Q&A session at the end.
One thing I would suggest is that there’s no need to recreate the wheel if you can find content that is freely available to distribute. For example, if you’re a member, the AICPA produces periodic client bulletins and tax updates specifically written to be easy to understand, and encourage interaction between members and their clients. Keep in mind that you still need to understand what you’re sending in case clients call with questions … and they will!
Another resource that may be valuable to your clients are online calculators that estimate an individual’s tax burden based on the new laws. For example, the IRS has a withholding calculator for W-2 employees. Small business owners may find calculators that consider LLC and S corporation income more useful. Many of these can be found online by searching for “tax reform calculator.” Try them yourself based on your own income expectations; if there’s one you’re comfortable with, share it with your clients.
As tax advisors, we’re always looking for ways to provide value-added services to our clients, but there are few opportunities where the advantage to having a tax advisor is so obvious. Understanding the TCJA and passing on your knowledge is a great way to let your clients know that you’re in their corner and showcase the value you provide.