insight magazine

Turning Tax-Time Clients Into All-Time Clients

It’s prime time for CPAs to turn their seasonal clients into year-round revenue generators. By JEFF STIMPSON | Spring 2018


CPAs certainly hear a lot from their clients during tax season, but how can they transform this seasonal flood of tense traffic into a steady stream of year-round revenue? It’s quite simple, really. The best way to turn seasonal clients into year-round clients is to sell them on added services by consistently communicating your value and benefits.

Naperville, Ill.-based accounting, tax, audit, and advisory firm Sikich, for instance, makes it a point to hold specific in-person client meetings at the end of each year. “These meetings serve several purposes,” says Illinois CPA Society member Louis Sands, CPA, JD, a managing director in Sikich’s accounting, audit, and tax practice. “First, they allow us to build stronger relationships with clients and get to know them on a more personal level. Second, meeting at the end of the year allows us to uncover information that can help us better plan for the upcoming tax season, make any necessary end-of-year changes, and talk about longer-term plans and strategies.”

In fact, a renewed focus on tax strategies and financial planning, thanks to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA), is likely to be a boon for CPAs and other advisors hoping to build better connections with clients in the year ahead.

“Since the passing of tax reform, we’ve had an unprecedented surge in client conversations,” says Charles “Chuck” McCabe, president and CEO of Richmond, Va.-based Peoples Income Tax and The Income Tax School in Glen Allen, Va. “Everybody is interested in learning how the new tax law will impact them.”


“The key with something as omnipresent as the new tax law is to be proactive and understand how it applies to your clients before they call you,” Sands says. “Reform is being talked about all over, and people are hearing different, sometimes contradictory, advice. Your clients are relying on you.”

This presents a unique opportunity for CPAs to showcase their expertise by providing clients with much-needed information and tips, McCabe suggests, which could ultimately spur them to seek you out for other services, like payroll, financial services, or taxpayer representation.

Many Sikich clients, for example, are closely held businesses. “The top things we’re discussing with these clients are the 20 percent potential deduction for pass-through entities, the prepayment of taxes, and suspension of many applicable deductions,” Sands explains.

“One of the biggest changes brought by the TCJA involves the calculation of qualified business income,” adds Illinois CPA Society member Mark Heroux, JD, principal in the tax services group at Baker Tilly in Chicago. “Many of our clients are passthrough entities, and the TCJA provides a new scheme for taxing these. The rules are complex, have uncertainty, and pose risks and opportunities.”

TCJA changes affecting repatriation of offshore income is another topic raising a lot of questions and confusion. “Don’t be hasty with your conclusions — there are different options available to taxpayers who might want to repatriate income, and modeling these options is a must before making decisions,” Heroux says, suggesting this is another area CPAs can use to drive value-added services and discussion.

The point is to show that you’re an expert, that your services are scalable, and, most importantly, that you want to serve clients beyond what they’re already coming to you for.


Whether your forte is offering tax reform insight to corporations or maximizing an individual’s income tax savings, one of the best ways to determine additional services you can offer to benefit your clients is to, quite frankly, ask them. “Surveys and Q-and-As are easy, inexpensive ways to secure useful client feedback and information,” Sands says.

That said, McCabe recommends limiting surveys to about 10 questions and offering appealing incentives to complete the survey if it’s not directly related to a service just provided. And don’t neglect post-engagement feedback, which is crucial for client service and business development.

Following client engagements, Baker Tilly’s dedicated client services director conducts satisfaction assessments through a mix of direct telephone calls, client visits, and web-based surveys, according to Thomas Walker, CPA, JD, the firm’s Chicago-based regional managing partner.

“We verify that we’re delivering on the commitments we made, and that clients’ needs and expectations are being met,” he says, explaining that all documented client feedback is shared with the engagement team and partner.

“Additionally, we utilize Huddle, a cloud collaboration software,” Thomas says. “Huddle allows for secure collaboration anywhere, anytime, and on any device, making it easy for our internal teams and clients to come together, share and edit files, assign tasks, and track activity in a secure environment. This investment in technology supports real-time communication — both internally at Baker Tilly and with clients — and provides a seamless trail from initial planning through the final financial statement issuance.”


When going beyond service and engagement communications, it’s important to consider how, and how often, to communicate with clients. In his book, “Guide to Start and Grow Your Successful Tax Business,” McCabe urges writing to every client at least once a year, and clients with complex tax situations and small business owners should receive formal communications at least two or three times a year. The letters should act as reminders that you’re available to serve first and foremost, but they also should summarize any changes in your practice that could potentially benefit your clients and any economic or regulatory developments that could affect them.

Email newsletters, website or blog posts, and social media posts also are effective communication tools you can use more frequently to drive awareness of your services, news and information of interest to clients, speaking engagements, important filing dates, referral offers, and much more. These informal communications should be easy for clients and potential clients to understand — and share. After all, “A referral from a current customer is the number one way to secure new clients,” Sands notes.

Baker Tilly, for instance, promotes its complimentary educational content, including seminars, roundtables, live and on-demand webinars, and targeted industry newsletters and alerts, through these channels. “Both clients and prospective clients have access to these through our website and by signing up for our mailing list,” Walker says. “Education allows our firm and our professionals to stay in front of our client base on a regular basis while providing them with timely information.”


“Take the long view on every client and strive to build relationships as opposed to transactions,” Walker encourages. “ROI is not the only metric of success. Rather than weighing potential fees against hours required, we constantly ask ourselves how we can better understand our clients’ businesses and therefore identify additional areas where we can add value.”

Converting seasonal clients into year-round clients is a process. It takes effort. It might even take getting new certifications or learning new practice areas. But diversifying and cross-selling year-round services that complement your core offering, and effectively communicating about them to current and prospective clients, will undoubtedly open new business development and retention opportunities.

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