With tax season over, now is the best time to meet with accountants to build a revenue-sharing relationship between your two practices. Accountants are finishing up one of the more challenging tax years due to the fact that their clients with higher incomes were subject to significantly higher taxation in 2013.
I have learned from talking to numerous accountants that the tangible impact of recent tax increases didn't fully register with higher income clients until they received their final tax bill.
As an adviser, I have found that we tend to fall into one of three categories:
1. We already work with an accountant or CPA in a revenue-sharing relationship.
2. We would like to build a relationship with an accountant and structure some kind of revenue-sharing arrangement.
3. You simply want to keep a relationship with an accountant based on reciprocity.
No matter which category you fall into, the fact is that the window of opportunity to work with accountants on proactive tax planning for 2014 is open, but will quickly be closing. The time to act is now.
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If nothing else, get out and talk to accountants and focus on their higher-income clients — they will need help and financial planning tips. Whether they are needlessly paying higher taxes because they have never had a plan or they are simply at risk because they don't understand the implications of higher tax rates, they will present unique planning opportunities.
I encourage you to take the relationship a step further by offering joint meetings with the accountant and his/her (and your potential) higher-income clients to discuss tax planning for 2014. In an earlier article, I emphasized the importance of being seen as a top 2% adviser in order to have the desired impact when meeting with the client face-to-face.
And here's an important point: always remember that when you meet with a client with a CPA in the room, the CPA is paying very close attention to how you act, how you work with their clients and what new and fresh ideas you bring to the table. If you can impress the accountant, who is listening intently to your ideas, observing the nuances of your presentation and witnessing the client's response, the door will be open to many opportunities.
So be impeccable and do a great job.
SET THE STAGE FOR 2014
I cannot stress enough the positive impact that working with an accountant's clients will have on their clients' 2014 tax season experience. Once you have found your accounting partner, there are three areas you should address immediately.
The ability to defer income taxes to another time in the future becomes a priority in planning for business owners and high-income individuals. Available strategies such as retirement plan design, life insurance solutions and a thorough knowledge of the tax return should be discussed now to be implemented in time for next year's tax plan.
1. The need for competent retirement plan design has never been more important. By analyzing and restructuring small company retirement plans now, you could potentially put the higher-income employees and/or owners in a position to defer taxation by putting more money away for their retirement.
2. Life insurance as an asset class is a theme permeating the financial industry. You should get up to speed on the many articles, concepts and insurance designs. These ideas will allow your business owner and higher-income clients to utilize the tax preferential features of a life insurance contract.
3. This is an ideal year for you and the accountant to sit down with the accountant's clients for the purpose of tax planning. We have found that after the harsh reality of seeing this year's tax bill, our accounting firms' higher-income clients are eager to review their options. You want to leverage the current tax environment — and the fact that many higher-income clients were caught by surprise — even shocked and distressed when it came time to write the checks to pay their taxes. One percent of the population did tax planning in anticipation of the higher taxes. Most said, “We'll wait and see."
Now that they've been hit with their tax bills, they are saying, “We've got to do something!”
One caveat — which cannot be stressed enough — if you don't think you are prepared to engage the client in a meaningful conversation regarding tax planning options, or have the skill and/or the knowledge to have a powerful meeting, ask for help. Hopefully you are with an organization or backed up by a financial institution that can provide the support and ideas that you need to help you be seen as among the top 2% of all financial advisers when it comes to tax planning.
Paul Saganey is founder and president of Integrated Financial Partners Inc., a firm that specializes in helping financial advisers build revenue-sharing relationships with accountants and attorneys. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.