By John P. Napolitano, CFP®, CPA, PFS, MST

Here in the middle of tax season, whether you like it or not, clients feel that this is their time to communicate directly with you. Even the once-per-year tax clients need to interact with you during this compressed season of work. From here, you have two choices.

You can be a commodity, like a “wham-bam” provider of tax preparation services, or you can be the trusted advisor.

If you are building a wealth management practice or want to deepen your role as their trusted advisor, take the time to find out what is going on in your client’s life and become more significant to them. This isn’t hard to do, but you need to avoid the temptation to rush them through the process and hear what is on their mind. Furthermore, with just a little thought, it is very easy with the information presented to prepare their taxes to recognize gaps in their financial plan that need fixing.

At first, the content of this article was designed as an eight-hour CPE course to help CPAs recognize issues in their clients’ lives that need mending. Even the most dubious, know-it-all CPA came away with new knowledge and was better prepared to deepen the nature of the services that they delivered. However, what I have learned by interviewing some of my students was that CPAs were indeed smarter, but they haven’t yet elevated the service experience for their clients.

What most practitioners did was to take this new knowledge and give orders to their clients such as: 

  • “You need to change your beneficiary elections.”
  • “You need to update your estate plan.”
  • “You need to start saving for college.”
  • “You need to invest that idle cash.”

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