4 steps to take your tax practice to the next level before 2021

GettyImages-991037654This year has been a whirlwind. I’m sure that the extended April 15 filing deadline, the payment deadlines and helping clients navigate PPP funding have kept you busy. Like me, you’re probably just catching your breath. When you’re ready, why not take a moment to reflect on the year you’ve had and consider your goals for your practice. Have you spoken with clients about their retirement or estate plans? Now might be the time to proactively and more formally incorporate financial planning into your tax practice—and begin identifying yourself as a CPA financial planner. Here are four steps you can take to get started: 

  1. Create a roadmap. When you set out on a trip, you plug the destination into your GPS and review the directions. The same goes here. Where do you want to go and how will you get there? The Roadmap to developing a tax & financial planning business is a great resource to help you get off to a strong start. It lays out key priorities to consider, such as selecting a business model and examples of specific financial planning activities you can offer your clients. CPAs who have transitioned from tax to financial planning created a 10-part podcast series that’s ideal if you prefer to learn on the go. 
  1. Hone your skills. Before year-end, make time for learning. You have many options, so pick what speaks to you, whether that’s attending webcasts on recent legislative changes or taking courses on year-end planning. The coursework associated with the Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) credential, including the Personal Financial Planning (PFP) certificate program, provides a comprehensive and strong foundation. I recommend it. An added benefit is that they can help you reach your CPE requirements for the year.
  1. Engage in holistic client conversations. Proactively talk with clients regularly. It’s amazing what you’ll uncover if you ask probing questions that often lead to new ways you can support them. There’s a webcast  Nov. 10 (free CPE for PFP Section members) on post-election year-end planning that will illustrate actionable planning ideas you can put into practice to help clients before the year ends. Even if you consider yourself a tax specialist, you can advise clients in areas beyond tax. You’ll help your clients navigate challenges while further illustrating your role as their trusted adviser. You don’t have to have all the knowledge as long as you have a network of peers who can offer expertise. Your clients will appreciate that you’re coordinating all activities relating to their finances.
  1. Explore financial planning software. You may want to consider investing in additional tools to help you. While there are several types of software available, I find it helpful to focus on two: financial planning software and client relationship management (CRM) software. The former helps manage your client’s financials and has a client-facing interface while the latter helps you maintain relationships with clients and prospects. This guide, written by a CPA financial planner who offers both tax and financial planning services, lays out what you’ll want to think through, and includes a checklist to get started.

Regardless of where you start, your clients will appreciate that you are expanding your offerings to serve their needs. They’ll realize the benefits of having a trusted adviser who takes a comprehensive look at their finances. Take your practice to the next level and see the results these efforts bring to your practice.

Deborah Meyer, CPA/PFS, Family Wealth Manager and CEO, Worthynest. She has over 15 years of experience as a CPA financial planner. Her areas of technical expertise include business exit planning, entrepreneurship, charitable giving, college planning and tax strategies. Deb received the AICPA's Standing Ovation Award in 2018.