How proactive is your CPA?


Special to the Recorder

It has been my experience that many CPAs are not proactive enough in saving their clients tax dollars. During my 32 years as a financial advisor, I can count on one hand how many times a CPA suggested a tax-reduction strategy for my clients. When a CPA did suggest one, it was, typically, a relatively minor recommendation, such as a deductible IRA. In the end, far too many CPAs simply complete the tax return and send a bill. I recognize that identifying how one can help their clients is not always easy. In fact, many times, clients themselves do not know what help they need. All too often, I think I know what my clients want, but this may differ from what my clients actually need or desire.

Nevertheless, one of the many debates in the accounting profession involves invoicing for time. I am in the camp that advocates billing on the value that one provides. The folksy midwestern guru Warren Buffett said, “Price is what you pay; value is what you get.” Of course, it is still necessary and crucial for CPAs to provide basic tax and accounting services in order to remain competitive. Unless CPAs increase their clients’ business efficiency and profitability, however, they will eventually lose these clients to someone who does. And while I believe accountants know and understand that adding more value (services) is the answer, most continue to turn a blind eye.

By being an innovative and proactive accountant, clients and potential clients will unquestionably view CPAs differently. In other words, accountants will no longer be a commodity. Instead, they become a valued and irreplaceable go-to person who provides insight and foresight and not just hindsight. Ron Nixon, a highly respected consultant to the accounting profession, says the following about a commodity: “If you are focusing on what clients think they want (cost), then they can get rid of you. If you are really helping them improve their condition (profit), they can’t get enough of you.”

These accountants will no longer rely on just preparing taxes or performing audit work, but will now actively address the diverse planning needs and wants of their clients. I suggest that most of us want our CPA to take the lead and become more hands-on in anticipating our needs and providing solutions to our challenges. Said differently, we want ideas and suggestions. We want issues dealt with before they become a problem. I suggest that CPAs, financial advisors, or just about anyone in the service business, should follow Jeffrey Gitomer’s advice from his “Little Teal Book of Trust” in which he discusses elements regarding what clients want and deserved. In his book, Gitomer lists approximately 20 suggestions from clients to their advisors. Most are common sense: Be prepared. Tell the truth. Be available. Respond quickly and deliver services on time. Be friendly. Keep your promises. Show value.

If we deliver on Gitomer’s following suggestions, how could we possibly disappoint our clients?

Harry Pappas Jr. CFP®

Managing Director-Investments

Master of Science Degree Personal Financial PlanningCertified Estate & Trust Specialist ™

Certified Divorce Financial Analyst™Pappas Wealth Management Group of Wells Fargo Advisors

818 North Highway A1A, Ste 200

Ponte Vedra, Florida 32082


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