Natasha Schamberger
Four client pain points you have the expertise to address

Spread the word on all the ways you can help.

March 24, 2014
by Natasha Schamberger, CPA

An AICPA member recently shared a frustrating experience. One of her tax clients was looking into launching a new business, and he wanted assistance developing a business plan and strategies for sustained financial success with the new venture. Instead of asking the CPA for help, the client turned to another third-party provider. Telling me the story, the CPA said: “I just don’t understand why my client didn’t seek my help. I have a long history with the client plus I have the expertise to help him achieve financial milestones within a realistic budget.” My answer: “I bet he didn’t know you could do that.”

Do your clients know the breadth of expertise you offer? With all you have on your plate, the default mode might be to assume clients do know, but now is a good time to capitalize on the assumption that they don’t. If you regularly stay front and center with your clients, you can remind them that, as their strategic partner, you have the unique ability to facilitate solutions to their various goals and challenges. In today’s complex world, clients will be relieved to know they have access to all the services they need in one place—you and your practice.

When you can establish that you have what it takes to address client concerns and aggravations, you will be well on the way to earning the clients’ trust and business. Plug in to your client’s needs using a two-pronged approach:

    • Amp your client communications to remind clients you have their best interests at heart and that part of your job is to monitor developments and opportunities that can impact their business.
    • Make it a priority to ask questions on a regular basis and listen. What are your clients’ objectives? What are their concerns? Reinforce how you can help address your clients’ needs today and also help them plan with a clear eye on the future.

Where do your clients need help? Through discussions with CPA firm owners and analysis of numerous small business news sources and surveys, the following four client pain points stand out:

Client pain point No. 1: Health insurance costs/Affordable Care Act
Higher insurance premiums and the complexities of the Affordable Care Act are creating all kinds of health care-related headaches for small businesses. With your expertise, you can guide small business clients through the health care reform paperwork and help them choose the best plan for their business. Or you can partner with a legal or insurance professional to provide the right level of client service. The AICPA Health Care Reform Resources Center and the Private Companies Practice Section (PCPS) Healthcare Reform Toolkit (which includes client brochures in plain English) can assist you in navigating the complexities of the health care reform provisions so you can help your clients make informed decisions.

Client pain point No. 2: Keeping up with federal and state legislative/regulatory requirements

  • Mobile workforce. There are 41 states that impose a personal income tax on wages, and among those states there are many different requirements regarding the withholding of nonresidents’ income tax. The AICPA has joined the Mobile Workforce Coalition, a group of more than 225 businesses advocating for a uniform national standard for state nonresident income tax withholding.          
  • Identity theft. Fraudsters have found a quick-and-dirty method of stealing from taxpayers by submitting tax returns with stolen tax identification and Social Security numbers. The IRS’s Identity Protection Specialized Unit saw a 78% increase in identity theft cases between FY 2011 and FY 2012, and the IRS expects to issue more than a million identity protection PINs to identity theft victims this year. Are your clients aware of how you can help them wade through the aftermath of identity theft—or to prevent it to begin with? The AICPA Identity Theft Information and Tools can provide you with the information you need to advise clients on how to prevent identity theft.

Client pain point No. 3: Keeping up with tax changes and the complexity of tax laws. Last-minute tax law changes appear to be becoming the new norm. To complicate matters, clients are inundated with information overload through media channels. Clients can find it overwhelming to try to cut through the clutter and identify which changes are relevant to their business. Take the pressure off by reminding your clients that you’re in their corner looking out for their best interests.

  • Uncertain tax positions (UTP). The threshold for companies to be required to report their uncertain tax positions drops to $10 million in assets for TY 2014 returns, and according to the Journal of Accountancy, Schedule UTP is here to stay. Give clients a heads up on new UTP requirements and help them rest easy knowing you are on top of it and can key them in on what they need to be doing differently.

Client pain point No. 4: Gaining access to capital and small business loans. It’s hardly surprising that finding financing continues to be a pain point for clients, but entrepreneurs are finding creative ways of raising capital for businesses and projects through Kickstarter and other crowdfunding platforms. Crowdfunding, which often takes place over the internet, gives companies the ability to raise funds by attracting relatively small investments from large numbers of people, but new proposed SEC rules could impact those seeking capital through crowdfunding. In addition to the opportunity that crowdfunding presents to small businesses, there is also a high potential for fraud. As your clients’ trusted adviser, you can provide guidance regarding both of these concerns.

The bottom line is that you need to give your clients confidence that you are their go-to person when any issue arises and that you are, in fact, their most trusted confidant and adviser. By plugging in to their concerns, you can connect them to vital information and resources and, in the process, empower them to succeed, which translates to lasting client loyalty.

Get the word out: The AICPA “Addressing Small Business Client Concerns” webpage for members only is a clearinghouse for client-facing tools (brochures, sample newsletter/website blurbs, and PowerPoint presentations) that can help you showcase your expertise and strengthen your client relations.

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Natasha Schamberger, CPA, is senior technical manager–PCPS/Firm Services with the AICPA.