Raise Client Awareness of Additional Services

By Edward Mendlowitz, www.accountingtoday.com

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During a tax return preparation interview, getting a client’s information is a tremendous opportunity to find out the concerns of the client and how you can help.

The assistance you give can sometimes provide a life-changing benefit to the client while enabling your firm to increase its service base and gain additional revenues.

The in-person interview is quite important to getting a tax return prepared. Many tax returns are now prepared without an interview. Clients simply mail or email their information. However, for the clients that are still met with, the interview can become a document collection process.

While chatting with clients, ask what would be considered financial-planning questions. These questions can lead to opportunities for additional services, like saving taxes by suggesting tax beneficial investment alternatives:

Clients in high brackets with a large amount of taxable interest should consider tax-free government bonds or repaying their mortgage if they still have one. Clients with unrealized capital losses or concentrated portfolios could learn about ways to realize these or diversify without substantially altering their investment allocations while decreasing risk. Those with children in college could be told how to maximize college cost tax breaks. Clients who give large cash donations should be presented with noncash alternatives such as donating appreciated securities.

How the interview proceeds depends on how you value your time and your appreciation of what you can do for the client.You should make your clients understand how they are spending their money for your time. During the interview, be interested in the client, ask what they are concerned about, and really listen. Get the client to articulate what they care about and what keeps them awake.

Another feature of the interview is to ask questions about the current year and then suggest the benefits of a current year projection to give a heads up of what they might owe or to discuss some tax-planning moves.

Use the questions to determine if there is interest in additional information. If there is, send a follow-up article, blog or fact sheet a few days after the interview. Then follow this up after tax season to see if they should come in for a consultation. Sending the info and making the follow-up calls indicate the scope of expertise in areas concerning clients.