An Open Letter to My Tax Preparer
Dear Tax Preparer:
By, Michael Platt, AccountingWEB Founder
Let me be honest with you. I look forward to receiving your Tax Organizer at this time of year about as much as I used to enjoy getting that 1040 packet from Uncle Sam. But I also will come clean with you - it's probably the one communication that I get from you each year that I am sure to review.
So let me give you some advice - take advantage of my captive attention - and throw in some information that will be valuable to me - so that I can feel better about you and feel like you really have my best interests at heart.
So before you seal that envelope on the Organizer that you will send to me, consider these seven quick ideas that I just might find appealing:
- Tell me what I can toss. Include a page that describes your recommended document retention policy - in other words, how much of my mountain of paperwork can I start shredding?
- Tell me what I should do in the next 60 days to improve my financial position. I know I can probably find a beginning-of-the-year tax and financial checklist on the Internet, but it would be much easier and more helpful if you were to tell me what I can and should do in the next two months to get my financial house in order.
- Let me choose my fee. That's right, you heard me. I know two things about tax season: I have one deadline - April 15 - and I know that you're a professional and that you'll get everything done by that date, regardless of my tardiness. So, if your average fee is $100/hour, why not give me different deadlines that I can choose my own fee? If I get my Organizer back by February 15, I pay $80/hour. Get it back by March 15, I pay $100/hour. If I drag my feet and get it to you after March 15, charge me $120/hour.
- Tell me when I should meet with you. My dentist sends me a postcard every six months to remind me that it's time to meet with him. I respect you enough as a professional to allow you to dictate my schedule - just a bit - and tell me when I should come in for my "tax checkup."
- Tease me with your talents. I may just know you as the firm that does my taxes, but I'm pretty sure you do other things that can help me as a business person. Show me what you have - and tell me how it can help me. And go ahead, be creative - paper clip a one dollar bill to your promotional information and tell me "there's plenty more where that came from," or something similar to catch my attention.
- Make it easy for me to buy more from you. I know that you work in a very formal profession that requires engagement letters, consultations, and scope of service agreements. But if you've got a simple service - like a $200 mid-year tax review where I can come in for an hour to make sure I'm on track - put a box on the Organizer that I can simply check so I can say "yes" to your offering without having to do too much. Follow up with me to set the appointment, and consider offering me a slight discount if I commit to the meeting when I return the Organizer.
- Show me that you are human. I like doing business with people I know. Send me a copy of a newspaper article that shows your staff involved in some community activity. Send me a photo of the tax service team along with a bio on each person so I can see the human side of your firm. Don't worry - I've got enough "love-thy-neighbor" goodwill left over from the holidays to warmly embrace your "softer" side.
Please take these ideas in the spirit in which they are given - I want you to be successful because I like to work with successful people. I know that sending out the Organizer is seen as strictly as a logistical and administrative task in your firm, but don't overlook the marketing and client relationship building opportunity it presents.
Good luck, and thanks for listening!
Your Average Tax Client
About the Author: Michael Platt is the founder of AccountingWEB and a consultant with Upstream Midwest, a division of William F. Gurrie & Co., Ltd., CPAs and Consultants. He is a frequent keynote presenter  at accounting conferences and provides marketing and practice management consulting to a number of clients, including CPA firms and financial organizations. Mike can be reached at 317-965-5100 or firstname.lastname@example.org .