The actions your clients take now will impact the tax return you prepare for them next year — as well as their financial success in both the short- and the long-term.

That’s why now is the right time to start reaching out to help them make smart decisions.

Conducting a year-end review with tax prep clients now, when there’s still time to act before Dec. 31, will not only help them — it will also help deepen your relationship with them. “Tax prep services are going to continue to face price compression and client attrition driven by technology that streamlines preparing returns, and other factors,” warned Chad Smith, a wealth management strategist at HD Vest Financial Services.

And it’s a good idea to apply the classic 20/80 rule — i.e., 20 percent of your clients give you 80 percent of your business — in deciding whose tax situation to begin focusing on first.

“Clients who generate more revenue have more complex problems,” observed Smith.

Devising solutions to those problems, whether strictly through immediate tax-driven actions or longer-term strategic moves, solidifies your relationships with those clients and ultimately will make your business more profitable.

TIME TO ACT

The sooner that year-end review takes place, the more you can fit in before you run out of time not only to schedule meetings, but to preserve the opportunity to take concrete steps based upon what you learn during the review.

“This highlights the natural progression from tax work to providing more comprehensive financial services,” according to Smith. “You can recommend that clients take advantage of a tax-reduction opportunity, but if you’re not in a position to help them implement it, there’s a good chance that it won’t happen.”

When clients understand the purpose and benefit of, for example, tax-loss harvesting, and you have pinpointed specific ways it can be done, having you execute the required transactions will seem entirely logical and appropriate. “It’s not as if you are asking clients to suddenly trust you to pick out their next vacation destination or a good bottle of wine,” quipped Smith.

CLIENT REVIEW TEMPLATE

It’s helpful, for efficiency’s sake, to create a template for your year-end meetings. One approach Smith recommends is to divide your agenda into four broad categories:

1. Annual review items: This includes topics like family dynamics, personal health, estate planning and risk tolerance.

2. Contributions: Retirement plans, both employer-based and individual, fall under this heading.

3. Gifting: Check clients’ plans and actions with respect to family members (including educational savings plans) and charities.

4. Tax timing and strategies: Opportunities here include tax loss harvesting, retirement plan distributions, Roth IRA conversions, and business expenditures.

It’s important to begin the review by understanding your client’s basic personal situation. Not only is it a natural matter of concern (plus clients appreciate knowing that you care), but you could uncover a fact that would color the rest of the review meeting.

For example, if a client is facing a serious health challenge, or about to get a divorce, those circumstances would likely lead you down one planning path instead of another.

You might not have answers or be able to help a client address all of the issues that arise in a year-end review — and that’s OK. If, for example, a client has estate planning or other specialized legal needs, it’s a valuable, loyalty-building step for you just to help the client frame the issue, and suggest ways (including specific professionals you know and trust) that those needs can be addressed.

When you demonstrate this level of value to clients, the competitive threat posed by low-cost technology-based tax preparation services begins to fade into irrelevance.

For more information about HD Vest Financial Services and how they can help you transfer a client’s wealth, visit hdvest.com/join or contact a Business Development Consultant at (800) 742-7950.

HD Vest Financial Services® and its affiliates (collectively, “H.D. Vest, Inc.”) do not provide tax or accounting services. You should consult your tax professional regarding the tax implications of any investments.

The views and opinions presented in this article are those of Chad Smith and not of HD Vest Financial Services or its subsidiaries.

HD Vest Financial Services® is the holding company for the group of companies providing financial services under the HD Vest name.

Securities offered through HD Vest Investment ServicesSM, Member SIPC, Advisory services offered through HD Vest Advisory ServicesSM, 6333 N. State Highway 161, Fourth Floor, Irving, TX 75038, 972-870-6000.