The tax and accounting profession will play a vital role in assisting taxpayers and businesses through the coronavirus emergency. Your clients are facing a great deal of stress and uncertainty about how to respond to the COVID-19 shutdown. As your clients' most trusted advisor, it’s time to start thinking outside the box about how you can help answer questions, plan ahead, and guide clients to make smart financial decisions. As you are faced with many decisions on how you work with clients and plan for the future, we have identified three issues that you need to consider when making decisions:
- Your clients need you now more than ever;
- Constant communication is the best way to strengthen client relationships;
- And a digital workflow isn’t that hard to implement.
The Challenges and Roadmap to Recovery Ahead
JP Morgan economists are predicting a 40% drop in GDP for the second quarter of 2020. Over 26 million people have filed for unemployment since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, effectively wiping out all job gains since the Great Recession. A recent small business survey indicated that over 7 million businesses are at risk of closing permanently if they don’t get help fast. Those are the serious challenges we’re all facing. The question is how will the government, your practice, and your clients respond to this crisis?There are three main phases to consider:
- Phase 1 – Initial health response, government shutdowns, and hunker-down mentality. Survive at all costs.
- Phase 2 – Major monetary and fiscal stimulus - CARES ACT, Treasury, and Federal Reserve Response.
- Phase 3 – Opening up and the new normal. Will this be a V or a U recovery? What will happen when the stimulus hits the market and the pent-up demand starts letting loose? Will it be a slower and deeper recession and then recovery? Who are the losers and winners? When will we have herd immunity and a vaccine?
Here’s the good news: the government is starting to talk about opening up again. There is a huge debate of when and who makes the call, but pockets of recovery will be evident in the next few months. Taxpayers are receiving their rebates, fortunate businesses are receiving their Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funding, and businesses are pivoting their models to survive.
Where does this leave tax and accounting professionals?
One thing is for certain: while medical professionals, first responders, and other essential personnel are heroes on the front line; tax and accounting professionals are pulling up the rear helping their client navigate the economic collapse. The volume of questions combined with the tax deadlines and various emergency lending programs has made most of you work harder than ever. And many DIY users are figuring out they need a pro on their side when they apply for a PPP loan after laying off their entire staff.Client questions – and hence the opportunities – are immense:
- Should they take on more debt?
- What tax credits apply to them?
- Should they lay off staff?
- Do they need to raise cash fast?
- What government help is available to them?
- What changed with NOLs?
- They need much more than bookkeeping – do you offer virtual CFO services?
We have put together a guide for possible consultation packages for your current clients. In addition, there are many losers and winners in the economic comeback. We have identified a few opportunities to target that will need tax and accounting help in the coming years as well.Not every business will survive, but the smart practices will adapt and grow through this crisis and come out stronger on the other side.
1. SBA Program Consulting
The "Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act" or the "CARES Act” includes more than $350 billion in loan and assistance programs for small business owners. Your clients are faced with a maze of programs and options – the last thing you want them to do is to borrow too much or sign up for a program that does not fit their needs. Or, worse yet, they don’t understand the fine print and possible loan forgiveness criteria and make a big planning mistake. It is your role as your client’s most trusted advisor to analyze the programs both big and small. It is also vital that the application and financials are accurate and complete so they do not slow down the loan approval process. The SBA and banks have their hands full here. The initial round of funding has run out, and as of 4/24, an "interim" relief bill called the "Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act" was signed into law.Here's what was included in the PPP & HCE Act:
- $310 billion for the SBA's Paycheck Protection Program
- $60 billion for the SBA's economic injury disaster loans and grants, including:
- $50 billion for economic injury disaster loans - each loan can be up to $2 million with interest rates not to exceed 4% and long-term repayment periods of up to 30 years;
- and $10 billion for grants of up to $10,000 that do not have to be repaid.
- Additional funds are provided for the SBA to administer these programs.
- $100 billion in emergency supplemental appropriations, $75 billion of which is designated for hospitals and health care providers and $25 billion of which is designated to ramp up COVID-19 testing.
Please check back for updates on future deals.We have designed a series of emails, white papers, blog articles, sales decks, and webinar presentation material to be able to communicate the options with your existing client base. There has been a ton of debate on whether you should be compensated for this type of engagement. The AICPA already came out and said CPAs can not act as loan agents, but they can provide consulting and advisory services. We have some “coaches” who push charging high fees for assisting. Others will argue that they are doing these tasks for free so their clients can survive.
2. Reverse mortgage consulting and referral
For homeowners age 62 or older, a reverse mortgage offers a way to convert some of the equity in your home into cash. During this economic pullback, your clients may need to consider emergency sources of funding.
- Eliminate or lower their monthly mortgage payments, freeing up more money each month
- Consolidate their debts
- Pay for in-home care or large medical bills
- Make home improvements
- Supplement their income to allow other assets to grow in value
- Create an emergency fund or increase their savings
- Protect home equity from declining home markets
- Have access to the net worth tied up in their home
The reverse mortgage consultation can be part of a bigger tax planning discussion, but might be a good option for select clients. You can review the pros and cons, and your clients are required to go through a third party education process before they make a lending decision. We are working with Finance of America Mortgage on developing an affiliate program for Tax and Accounting professionals. Details will be shared in the coming months.
3. COVID-19 Tax Planning and Tax Credits
Tax planning and financial strategies have been turned upside down. Now is the time to migrate some clients from annual tax preparation services to year-round tax minimization planning subscriptions. If just 10% of your client base signs on for the tax planning program, you can better serve these clients and will drastically increase your income. For example, with a tax practice with 350 clients, let’s say 35 of your clients move over from an average tax return of $500 to a yearly subscription of $200-$1000 per month. Even if you average $400 per monthly subscription, that’s $168,000 per year.If you are a Growth-level client (K2 or Whitney) of CountingWorks PRO, check out our previous workshops on value pricing and subscription models to get started. They are all about communicating your value, and now more than ever tax planning can drive huge results. You may access our previous workshops by logging in to our Learning Center here.Not a Growth client yet? Talk to us about upgrading or purchasing a subscription here.
4. Emergency virtual CFO
With many businesses and taxpayers making emotional decisions, it is vital that they work through the problem with input from their accounting expert. Decisions on payroll, headcount, receivables, payables, budgeting, and forecasting are all vital pieces of a virtual CFO role. This is another monthly recurring program that can range from $300 - thousands of dollars per month. You are more cost-effective than having a full-time accountant on staff and provide greater insight because of your exposure to multiple businesses. We are developing outreach campaigns to your existing client base and can assist with targeted landing pages and marketing programs.
5. IRS and payroll tax problems
Currently there are approximately 14 million taxpayers facing some sort of IRS action. It is expected that this will increase by millions of people as a result of the COVID-19 emergency. We recommend pros begin setting up the marketing collateral now to start getting indexed with Google as the wave of IRS tax problems clients start surfacing and people seek help from experts like you.
6. Winners and losers
While hotels, restaurants, events, and gas stations struggle, many businesses have pivoted and are growing through this crisis. The demand for attorneys will be high. Many businesses may close down but resurface with cleaner balance sheets. Landlords are going to want someone renting the space. This is the time to start focusing on niches and industries that need help to recover or even come back with added growth. We are very close to launching a new product line that will make it easy to target a specific service or niche. So, start planning what you want to focus on and we can support you on the marketing side.
The Importance of Showcasing Expertise
Now more than ever, your clients appreciate and want to hear from you on ways you can help. We have been working overtime developing client-facing content that helps showcase your expertise, answer client questions, and drive more engagement opportunities. How you support your clients today will determine how your practice thrives in the future. Unfortunately, we have seen some tax and accounting pros get overwhelmed by the economic fallout. Instead of stepping up their digital presence and marketing commutations, they have done the opposite. Investing in maintaining and strengthening your relationships with clients during the time of crisis will define your long-term success. Here’s an overview of all the COVID-19 content we have launched for our pros thus far:CORE (Profit Margin & Capital Gain subscriptions)
- 25+ expert-written blogs to educate and inform clients on key topics like SBA relief programs, the CARES Act, tax deadline changes, and so much more
- Digital workflows – Ready-to-use Trello boards that you can implement immediately to easily move your workflows online
- Two free webcasts – “Adapting to Client Engagements During the Coronavirus Emergency” and “Tax Effects of Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the CARES Act”
- 8+ ready-to-use email templates to update your clients on the latest changes
- Coronavirus Resource Hub – updated daily with the latest news and resources from key government agencies and other stakeholders
- Curated social media posting over 4x weekly with the latest news
GROWTH (K2 & Whitney subscriptions)All collateral from Core, plus:
- Google My Business (GMB) Integration – GMB optimization tool that continuously posts your latest blog updates, notifications regarding COVID-19, reviews, due dates and more to your GMB profile
- Payment Protection Program (PPP) & Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) comparison sales deck – Slide deck that outlines a side-by-side comparison of the COVID-19 recovery loans to use when explaining the program to clients
- SBA sales deck – Slide deck which covers the SBA disaster strategic plan and helps you support clients with their applications
- PPP Outreach email to your clients – PPP-specific email template to show your clients why they need your help with this process
- Website content options – A side-by-side PPP vs. EIDL comparison chart page, landing page options, the option to have a COVID-19 "hub" on your website, and white papers for PPP and SBA
Who Knew Digital and Remote Work Would Work so Well?
Last month we put together a free workshop that reviewed all of the elements of setting up a remote and digital workflow. If you missed it please take a look via this link. In this workshop, we shared our strategy to help guide your practice through the coronavirus disease emergency. We wanted to provide you with best practices for setting up a virtual tax and accounting practice, as well as tips on how to manage client engagements during this time. We also discuss this coronavirus outbreak update template, to give your clients the information they need to work with you during these uncertain times. We have also been hard at work developing online workflows for use to replace manual processes. We published two free templates on Trello, and over a thousand tax and accounting pros have started using the workflows for their practice.
- 1040 clients: https://trello.com/b/qOptTyVA/individual-tax-preparation-workflow
- Business tax clients: https://trello.com/b/cT1nvMpO/business-tax-preparation-workflow
We are also finalizing our integration of Trello into the CountingWorks PRO 2.0 platform. It is not our intent to develop an ultra-complicated practice management tool – just something that is easy to use and learn, integrated within your portal. However, the Trello integration will make it simple to track engagements from beginning to end, assign projects, apply deadlines, and much more. The COVID-19 crisis is going to affect every individual, business, and tax and accounting practice – that’s a simple fact. Using the tools we discussed above will help you adapt and grow through this time and come out stronger on the other side. If you have any questions or would like to learn more about how we’re helping our pros navigate the pandemic and its effects, contact us today at 1-800-442-2477 x3 or set up some time to speak with one of our digital marketing experts. We’re here to help!