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Plan now to get the most out of client contact

Dec 7th 2007
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As 2007 comes to a close, tax preparers are getting ready for the onslaught of tax season. Figuring out ways to maximize your time with clients now may pay off in a little more sanity down the road.

Clients will always be disorganized and April 15 will always come too quickly. That's a given. Consider these ideas on getting the most out of client interactions.

One common approach is to offer clients tax organizers. Think about ways to make it more valuable. Make it more than just an administrative chore by adding information on tax planning for the coming year, and perhaps suggest a time to meet to get a plan in place early.

Compile your questions into an organized list. Go over last year's tax return. This will remind you of any tax issues or situations that you need to talk about. Offer information to help them plan ahead.

GoSystem Tax, among other providers, offers online client organizers. Product manager Boyd Gackle told WebCPA that 3,500 online organizers were completed this past tax season. He figures that usage will grow as more tech-savvy professionals enter the workforce. Online tools can help CPAs save time with clients, not to mention save postage costs. Clients like them because they're easy to use and access, although paper organizers are always going to work better for certain clients.

Anther idea is to update your Web site. It can do more than tell visitors a little about your firm and its services. An online FAQ list can cut down on the time clients spend calling with basic questions and prevent a frustrated client from going elsewhere, Entrepreneur magazine advises. "Don't worry as much about fancy graphics as making sure visitors can get the information they need."

According to the CPA Technology Advisor, some tax prep firm Web sites also provide financial calculators, tax calendars, tips, tax and retirement planning information. Some of the Web site tools also make it easy for clients to check the status of their tax refunds or have secure client portals that allow secure document transfer.

On the other hand, those who become slaves to gadgets "are running reactive businesses and being reactive with their time," said Barry Izsak, president of Arranging It All, an Austin, Texas, firm that helps companies get organized. Keep it simple.

Most of all, keep your perspective. Tax preparers can feel like psychologists or marriage counselors some days, and it's always necessary to wear many hats. Above all, remember you're in the business of helping people with the best financial advice available.