Staying in Touch During the Off-Season
Whether Seasonal or Year-Round Practice
Whether you have a seasonal tax practice or a year-round practice geared primarily toward tax preparation, staying in touch with your clients during the off-season is essential for a strong retention rate the following year.
There are a variety of ways to keep your name in front of your clients during the off-season: membership in civic organizations, sponsoring community events (Memorial Day, July 4th, Labor Day, etc.), social media, and newsletters (paper and/or electronic).
To post relevant information on social media and craft newsletters that are engaging, you need to curate good content. One of the best ways to get the creative juices flowing is by getting out of the office and attending some continuing education events. Many conventions, conferences and forums are held all over the country by state and national associations, and the IRS. The NAEA held a convention in Las Vegas this year; the NATP hit Orlando in August and visits Atlantic City and Las Vegas in September; the IRS held five national tax forums - the tour ends in Orlando at the end of August. Software vendors also hold CE events. Drake Software, for example, holds numerous seminars and classroom training sessions, some around the country and some at the Drake Training Center in North Carolina where its corporate headquarters is located. Bottom line, getting out of the office to learn new things and network with colleagues is a great way to get new ideas to talk about, and there are many events to choose from.
For those who are not able to break away from the office, the next best option is to participate in some webinars. You miss out on the networking, but you still gain valuable information, and CPE credit.
Once you have your content, create a newsletter (for electronic, check out www.mailchimp.com) to share with clients, or push the information out on social media channels such as Facebook. Here are four examples of content you might consider:
1). Save now for retirement: The deadline to fund most retirement accounts for this year is April 15, 2015 but there’s no reason to wait until the last minute. Regular IRA contributions are tax deductible and the contribution limit this year is $5,500 ($6,500 for taxpayers 50+). Simple IRA’s can be funded at $12,000 ($14,500 age 50+). Roth IRA contributions ($5,500 / $6,500) aren’t tax deductible but taxpayers at the lower end of the income spectrum may qualify for a savers tax credit for Roth IRA contributions.
2). Save now for healthcare expenses: Taxpayers with Health Savings Accounts (HSA’s) can get a tax deduction for contributions up to $3,300 single / $6,550 family. Making a contribution can save your clients money and planning those contributions now can help avoid unnecessary stress in the spring.
3). Check those quarterly estimated tax payments: The amount of estimated tax payments required is a function of both last year’s taxes and this year’s income. In most cases, taxpayers are required to pay at least 100% of last year’s taxes or 90% of this year’s taxes to avoid a penalty. If estimated income for this year has changed, estimated tax payments may need to change also. If income is higher than expected they may need to up their estimates; if income is less than expected, they may be able to pay less. And as of this writing, there’s no itemized deduction for state and local sales taxes paid so make sure to factor that into the calculation as well, especially in states with no state income tax like Florida and Texas.
4). Beware of the Affordable Care Act: Taxpayers (singles and families) in the neighborhood of 400% of the poverty level probably qualify for subsidized health insurance. However, there are a variety of ways those subsidies can be paid and they will likely impact 2014 returns. Taxpayers who qualify for subsidies but have not received them may be able to claim them as a credit when they file. For taxpayers currently receiving subsidies, they are probably being paid directly to the health insurance companies on their behalf based on estimated income and family size for 2014. As those estimates change, additional tax credits can be claimed when filing – or excess subsidies may have to be repaid with money the taxpayer never received. Of course, there’s also a new penalty for taxpayers who fail to purchase and maintain qualified health insurance coverage for the entire year.
Once you stop and think about it, there’s always something changing in the tax world so there’s always something new to share with clients and there are always new ways to help your clients meet their financial goals. Reach out and remind people how valuable your services really are.
What are some of the ways you stay in touch with clients during the off-season? Which events have you attended? What are you talking about this summer? Please use the comment section below to share your thoughts!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jerry Gaddis, EA is the Founder and CEO of Tropical Tax Solutions, a full-service tax firm located in the Florida Keys. He earned a BS Degree from the University of Florida and an MBA from the Crummer Graduate School of Business at Rollins College in Winter Park, FL. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for the National Association of Enrolled Agents and you can interact with him on LinkedIn and Twitter (@TropicalTax).