coffee cup by tax documentsCOVID-19 has created challenges for nearly every industry, and accountants are no exception. A recent article in Accounting Today highlighted some of the issues firms are facing as they struggle to keep up with ever-changing tax laws and deadlines instituted as a result of the pandemic.

For example, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) provided much-needed funds for struggling small businesses. However, there are a number of variables that determine whether those loans are forgiven, partially forgiven, or not forgiven. Tax preparers must sort out which category their business client falls into. Schedule C sole proprietors may also have the potential for various payroll credits muddying their 2020 return, which accountants must decipher.

Further complicating matters when it comes to filing businesses’ taxes, tax laws related to the PPP vary from state to state. California, for instance, does not permit PPP expenses to be forgiven or deductible. And that’s on top of the state’s already-complicated tax laws around the Affordable Care Act mandate.

Another hot topic is the Economic Impact Payments (EIP, aka stimulus payments). These payments weren’t applicable to everyone, but some people who did not receive a check (or direct deposit) should have qualified via their reduced 2020 adjusted gross income (AGI). These people will have to claim on their 2020 return the EIP dollars they should be entitled to.

Give them what they want…but how?

Accountants and CPAs are waiting for additional guidance from the feds and their respective states on how to address some of these issues when preparing their clients’ tax returns.

While it is of course essential that accountants keep up with the latest tax regulations, they must also bear in mind what their business owner-clients really want from their accountant: a value-added trusted advisor to them and their business. They are looking for someone who understands the nuances of their industry and has insights that can help them be more successful in that niche.

But there are only so many hours in an accountant’s day, and this time of year, those hours are packed! How can they possibly keep up with ever-changing tax laws AND serve as a value-added resource to clients?

Adding value to small businesses

A previous Accounting Today survey of over 1,000 small business owners and executives found that most were using an accountant in the hopes of finding tax savings and cost-cutting opportunities and/or remaining legally compliant. Yet, many business owners are looking for more from the professional relationship they have with their accountant or CPA.

When asked what is the most important quality that their accountant can possess, more than three out of four respondents (78 percent) said the most important attribute of an accountant is that they are “a trusted advisor to me.”

The response to this question should be eye-opening to accountants and other tax advisors — many of whom are small business owners themselves. They know first-hand that running a business is hard work. The hours are long, and it can be tough to accomplish everything on your must-do list on any given day, much less keep up with those “extras” like staying attuned to industry-specific trends and opportunities.

Yet the irony, of course, is that those types of industry insights are the very thing that can help a small business rise above their competition and thrive in the marketplace. As this survey reveals, business owners are literally clamoring for trustworthy guidance on how to avoid industry-specific risks and take advantage of trends to make their business run more efficiently and more cost-effectively.

Incorporating Industry Intelligence

When looking for someone to turn to for this very type of tailored business advice, a business owner’s accountant should be an obvious choice. But accountants typically are working with companies in a wide array of industries — how can they possibly stay up-to-date on the latest trends within all of those niches? That’s where Industry Intelligence comes into play.

Industry Intelligence enables accountants and CPAs to attain that coveted “trusted advisor” status with clients by providing key insights on their unique industry. Using Vertical IQ, you can get up to speed on your accounting client’s industry in as little as 5 minutes, preparing you to offer them valuable information on things like the latest trends benefiting others in their industry, as well as cautioning them about potential pitfalls others have encountered.

Industry Intelligence adds up

If you are a busy accountant, adding valuable insights to client relationships by incorporating Industry Intelligence into your touchpoints can be simple with Vertical IQ. Here are some simple ideas to get you started:

  • Read the 5-minute Call Prep Sheet for your client’s industry prior to your next meeting to quickly get up-to-speed on key trends in their vertical.
  • Print and share the Business Valuation chapter of the Industry Profile to start a conversation about succession planning.
  • Print a recent article from the News section of the Industry Profile, highlight a salient point in the article, and use it as a leave-behind.

Using this type of Industry Intelligence instantly adds value to your client relationships, boosts your credibility and clients’ appreciation for you, and provides them with an incentive to purchase additional cross-sell services from your firm. The cost-benefit is clear.

Let’s get started

For small business owners who use the services of a CPA or an accounting firm, the value of that relationship can and should extend beyond just advice on how to take advantage of tax laws and streamline accounting practices. An effective accountant can make themselves invaluable to a business owner by offering real-world guidance on how to better-run their business.

While the pandemic has created a more complicated tax season, accountants still have a unique opportunity to attain this coveted “trusted advisor” status with their business owner-clients. Utilizing Industry Intelligence enables accountants to provide insights on trends to grow the client’s business or challenges the client’s competitors are facing.

That type of tailored guidance is particularly useful in unusual times like we are experiencing now. But maintaining a relationship with a trusted advisor who can serve as a source for such insights will remain important to that business owner in the future as well. It’s a service that’s valuable not just during tax season but year-round.

Contact us today for more information about how Vertical IQ makes sharing Industry Intelligence quick and simple.

Image credit: Kelly Sikkema, Unsplash

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