Writer/Editor Weave Communications
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How to Communicate with Accounting Clients in Our Unique Tax Season

For many people, it’s tough knowing that the most intensive part of an accountant’s year is going to last three months longer than usual. However, this unique set of circumstances also gives firms the chance to strengthen their client base and marketing strategies.

Mar 31st 2020
Writer/Editor Weave Communications
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The IRS extending the filing and payment deadline for 2019 federal income taxes is intended to be a reprieve and works in conjunction with the national response to the COVID-19 outbreak. But the extension presents accounting firms with additional responsibilities and opportunities. 0

Weave, a "business toolbox" for service-based businesses, recently commissioned TrendCandy, an independent market survey firm, to conduct a study that surveyed 828 taxpayers about their individual habits and preferences. The feedback they provided is immediately relevant to this unique tax season. 

Moreover, the guidance is that as we approach the July 15 deadline, accounting firms should be improving their communication with customers in three areas: the channels they use, the messages they send, and the timing of these messages.

Using the Right Channels

It’s easy to become a bit confused about which communication channels to use with clients in 2020. Technology permeates everything we do, and consequently, businesses sometimes resort to a shotgun approach to communication. They try to talk with their customers on as many platforms as possible.

While utilizing a wide range of communication tools is important, our survey of taxpayers indicates that the majority of them want to receive tax tips through specific channels. These channels include in-person meetings, traditional mail, and electronic mail. 

Unfortunately, in-person meetings and traditional mailing efforts are hampered by the COVID-19 crisis. Going to an accounting office just to hear tax tips isn’t considered essential by some, and going through the mail is another potential way to expose oneself to the virus.

Email, on the other hand, allows individuals to get tax tips from their accountant without leaving the safety of their self-quarantine. In Weave’s survey, 52 percent of the taxpayers interviewed say they prefer to receive tax tips from their accountant by email. So, the majority of taxpayers already want to get their tax education over a channel that conforms with current social distancing guidelines.

It’s important to note that these same taxpayers state they do not want to hear about tax tips over social media, video conferences, or website posts. These outlets are great for other creative content, but email is best for distributing your accounting firm’s insights into filing taxes in the 2020 season.

Sending the Right Messages

Once tax firms have focused their communication efforts on distributing tax tips via email, their next step is to send messages that catch the attention of both current and prospective clients. Messaging is about offering guidance and services that are attractive to broad swaths of taxpayers.

The survey commissioned by Weave shows that 35 percent of taxpayers are responsive to accounting firms offering low prices on tax services. Another significant statistic indicates that 27 percent of them want to hear about offers of audit protection. Additionally, 23% of taxpayers display interest in discounts for filing tax returns early.

The practical extension of these data points is fairly straightforward. In emails about the 2020 tax season, accounting firms should be offering things like accuracy guarantees, discounts, and audit protection. These types of offerings appeal to almost all consumers.

Weave’s study also indicates that some offers are to be avoided. This list includes long appointments (those lasting over two hours), video conferencing, and bundling tax services with legal ones. Firms can still offer these services, but they’re not ideal for marketing outreach through email.

Taxpayers in the survey mention the types of help they’re looking for through accounting firms. Most often, they’re hoping to find hidden deductions, clarifications regarding health insurance, and investments that can be written off. Tax tips sent out by email should attempt to educate taxpayers about these finer points or should prompt them to seek help.

While some taxpayers may ask for assistance that pertains to circumstances like divorce, starting a business, and running rental properties, these topics are best handled on a case by case basis.

Finding the Right Timing

After accounting firms hone in on their email marketing efforts by developing content that speaks to their clientele, they can start having a conversation about when to start contacting customers about the 2020 tax season.

Don’t neglect these final months before the new deadline. 34% of taxpayers admit to procrastinating on their tax returns. This time is a window of opportunity for accounting firms to demonstrate their worth to long-time customers and to discover new clients.

Why do taxpayers procrastinate? The survey found that 31 percent of them said they experience feelings of frustration dealing with tax returns, while 23 percent said they’re worried about filing, and 9 percent are anxious about the potential of an IRS audit.

The taxpayers in Weave’s survey said January is generally too early to begin thinking about tax returns. However, the situation surrounding COVID-19 has altered this year’s timeframe. 

Many people may not even know about the deadline extension. It’s imperative that accounting firms let their clients know about these changes right now through their email tree. A simple notification could save customers unnecessary stress, especially considering the financial hardships facing some of them due to limited work or unemployment.

Most taxpayers want to hear about the upcoming tax season in February. That’s two and a half months before the normal deadline. With the extension, that means May. This gives accounting firms the month of April to gear up their channels and messaging for the July 15 deadline.

Start Communicating Now

Accounting firms are key in helping taxpayers move past the negative emotions associated with tax returns. They can establish themselves as experts by notifying their clients right now about the 2020 deadline extension, sending out effective tips over the extended season, and doing their best to encourage customers not to procrastinate.

The Weave survey took a random sample of 828 verified US taxpayers who personally prepare their taxes. The study’s margin of error is +/-3.41% at the 95 percent confidence level.

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