Working with a Client’s CPA? 5 Steps to a Successful Partnership
By Kevin Lozer, CFP®
Financial advisors and certified public accountants (CPAs) have one common goal: to help their clients make the most of their finances.
While the end goal might be the same, the actual path to getting there can look vastly different for advisors and CPAs. Advisors mostly look forward at a client’s entire financial picture in order to build a long-term plan built around reaching their goals. CPAs, on the other hand, mostly look backward, helping clients pay their taxes without paying more than is necessary.
While you may cover different parts of your clients’ financial pictures, there will always be overlap, and sometimes you may be concerned you’re stepping on their CPA’s toes – but it doesn’t have to be that way!
That’s why we compiled this list of five ways advisors can partner with a CPA without stepping on their toes. Read on to learn more!
1. Start by helping them make the tax prep process smooth for clients
The CPA will likely handle all tax preparation, so you can be helpful as they round up documents for that process. A couple things you can do:
- Provide tax-related documents (such as 1099s) in January or early February
- Ensure they know about any Qualified Charitable Contributions (QCDs) and all contributions to tax-advantaged accounts (529s, HSAs, IRAs) your client made last year.
When gathering all of this information, consider creating a Tax Prep Letter that summarizes all of the above. This can really improve the communication between you and the tax preparer and make their job easier. It also shows them the type of tax-related actions you could potentially help their other clients with.
2. Identify the opportunities, then get the CPA’s approval/feedback
The CPA is there because they have the tax expertise – so don’t be afraid to ask questions. I often start modeling an opportunity in Holistiplan, then show the CPA for validation. You did the work for them, now all they have to do is bless it.
Even if you’re feeling confident and know your strategy is sound, it’s always a good idea to ask if the CPA agrees or if they see any flaws in the logic based on your client’s goals.
It’s important to build a process that incorporates CPA approval on all tax-related suggestions. An efficient and successful system is founded on intentionality, as Taylor Schulte (founder of Define Financial and co-founder of The AGC™ Community for Advisors) explained in a recent Retirement Tax Services podcast.
You’ll also want to share your process and expectations with the CPA early on so they know what you’ll need along the way.
3. Defer to the CPA when appropriate
Just like in all other areas of life, flattery is likely to get you everywhere.
You’ve got a tax pro in the room, so take advantage of it and make your workload easier. When possible, lean on the CPA for advice or assistance.
4. Seek out opportunities to refer them new tax prep business
Working with a CPA offers one major collateral bonus for you: networking.
The best way to broach the subject? Introduce your own clients or connections as possible business for them. The referral networking doesn’t have to be reciprocated to be successful for you. While it would be a nice bonus to get referrals back from the CPA, the big win is that you are building a relationship with a trusted accountant and helping form a finance team for your clients.
5. Focus on the client outcome
Remind CPAs that the more you work together, the happier the client will be. A seamless work relationship showcases your professionalism and capabilities – so do your best to work as a unified team.
In the end, your client believes that your knowledge in combination with their CPA can lead to the best possible financial outcome – and you’ve got everything to gain by proving them right.
Remember to view this partnership as a learning and networking opportunity, and do your best to focus on the tax planning while leaving the tax advice to CPAs.