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Your Guide to Sell Tax Planning

upsell tax prep clients to tax planning

If you sat across from a business owner for 45 minutes and could ask them anything you wanted, could you estimate how much they could have saved in taxes (roughly) in the prior year? This should be the goal of every tax and accounting professional: to know and have a tax planning system that can potentially save your clients tens of thousands of dollars every year. Once you have this knowledge, you can offer tax planning advisory services to both new and existing clients and get paid for it. Selling tax planning is the most important advisory service you can add this year!  

What is Tax Planning?

Tax Planning is the process of looking at a person’s life, business, and regulatory requirements to LEGALLY reduce taxes. This takes place before year end as opposed to tax preparation that takes place after year end. 

Tax prep is the simple process of preparing tax returns for submission to the IRS. This is what the majority of accountants do—and this is a mistake, because you’re not only costing the client money in excess taxes, you’re costing yourself money in unrealized fees.  

There are two main aspects of selling tax planning:

  1. Knowing how to save clients money in taxes.
  2. Knowing how to charge more for this service.

Many accountants know how to do one or the other, but not both. It’s vital to understand both the strategies that can save your clients money but also how to properly charge them for this service. 

Typical Tax Preparation

The transition from tax preparer to selling tax planning can go quicker than you think. Here is a story that may sound familiar to many accountants:

Tax Preparer – James Rainwater:

tax preparer
  • Low Priced Preparation
  • Seasonal Work Only
  • Low Profit Margins
  • Complaining He Could Never Find Good Staff
  • Clients Wanted To Pay The Least

James struggled doing endless, low-priced 1040s and having no idea how to grow his accounting firm…but he was able to transition from tax prep to selling tax planning!

New Tax Planner – James Rainwater

Tax planner
  • High Priced Advisor
  • Sales Every Month & Quarterly
  • High Profit Margins
  • Great Employees That See Working With Him As a Movement
  • Clients That Are Grateful For Paying and Want to Buy More.

So, what did James learn that revolutionized his accounting firm?

Journey to Sell Tax Planning

Since most accountants are busy preparing returns, they aren’t able to charge enough to even begin spending time looking for savings. To make matters worse, automation is driving down the value of basic tax prep and forcing the shift to tax planning and value added services. The key is that it’s WAY harder to get clients for tax preparation (compliance) rather than tax planning (advisory).

Why? 

Because tax prep work is a commodity. Tax planning is a high-level service that brings additional value that is hard to find. 

Think of tax planning like this:

Tax Preparation = Cost

Tax Planning = Investment with ROI

That’s WHY accountants can charge 5-7x more even though it takes less time to deliver! But the key point is that your clients have to understand the ROI they’re getting. So, when you’re tax planning, you’ll have to say things like: “I would estimate you overpaid $16,251 last year and are on track to overpay $18,382 this year. By next year you’ll be overpaying $22,942.

what your tax client overpaid in taxes

Once you are able to lay out the numbers to a client, it can be quite shocking—but then they will be begging for your tax planning services. 

And the good news is that you don’t need a CPA to figure these things out. In fact, all you need to do is learn the basic 20% savings strategies that apply in 80% of cases!

How to Price Tax Planning

The key to pricing tax planning is that the client gets a better deal than you do, which means they make more than you do. If you can save a business owner $2,700 in taxes but you charge them $3,000…that doesn’t work. However, if you save them $10,000…suddenly they would be much more eager to pay your $3,000. 

Common Reasons Accountants Never Sell Tax Planning

When many tax and accounting professionals first offer tax planning, they feel they do not have enough information about tax planning to be able to move forward with offering this service to their clients. They are intimidated by the U.S. tax code, which is tens or now even hundreds of thousands of pages long, and that is just the U.S.

They are discouraged by the idea of reading 70,000+ pages and still not having the knowledge they need in order to help clients save on tax. Ultimately, when accountants realize that they may never be able to know everything about all the tax laws and loopholes that could apply to every single client, they become paralyzed with fear that they are not prepared, so they never begin to offer tax planning as a service. This is a mistake.

If your goal is to get the client to the most optimal tax situation where they are getting as much savings as possible under the tax code, that is simply not possible. However, if you change your perspective to getting the client to a better state than where they were before they started working with you, that is completely achievable.

Here is a graphic to remember that illustrates this. Your goal right now is simply to know more than your clients:

your ideal tax clients

Having a tax planning business is not about having absolute knowledge of the tax code. 

Going from tax prep to tax planning is about having enough knowledge to help a business owner SAVE money in taxes.

If you can reach a higher level of awareness about where you are now and how you and the client fit into the graphic above, you will have more confidence to do tax planning for your clients.

How to Upsell Existing Clients to Tax Planning

Once you learn the basic strategies, you need to get appointments with your existing clients. Don’t just send out a mass newsletter. First, look at your client list and sort the list from biggest client to smallest—and start reaching out in that order. How? Text, email, Facebook message, a phone call…depending on how you communicate with your clients, you can simply ask, “Hey John, thought of you today. Are you free to talk tomorrow?”

Now, if you’ve got literally thousands and thousands of clients, we still suggest doing this first because you need to directly reach out to people to see if this is even something they’d be interested in. You can also shoot a little video and put it on a landing page, then directly message your clients to watch that video. Just remember you need to reach out and make it personable so that each client feels you are speaking to them and not a generic mass audience.

You Have a Tax Planning Appointment, Now What?

During the sales call, remember this rule of thumb:

The client IS NOT buying specific strategies.

Instead, the small business owner on the other end of the call is buying the process and the outcome. Here’s an example:

Let’s use the Late S election as the specific tax savings strategy. Most of the time, this strategy is added to quite a few small business owners. We call this a “Workhorse Strategy”. But if you just end the sales call saying, “I’m going to give you a piece of paper explaining the Late S Election Strategy”, the client won’t want to move forward—especially with a hefty estimated price tag of $4,500.

Instead, you must explain the process and the outcome, not the specific strategy.

What they are actually buying is a comprehensive review of:

1. Possible deductions
2. Legal entity structure 
3. Retirement
4. Insurance 
5. Potential loopholes 
6. Advanced strategies 
7. TCJA
8. FFCRA
9. CARES
10. Niche specific strategies

The client is also buying a review of:

1. Previous year returns 
2. Current year returns 
3. And a plan for the next year’s returns

In addition, included in the tax plan will be an estimated savings amount calculated on the same sales consultation. Bundle your offer into a packaged fee of anywhere between $2,500-$9,800 (depending on the client’s specific situation and estimated savings) and now you have a comprehensive tax plan to offer your clients!

Interested in adding tax planning to your practice?

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AccountingTax.com by Andrew Argue is now Corvee