Folks in the tax business usually think of January through April 15 as “the season” – that wonderful time of year when W2s, 1098s, and 1099s start rolling into the office and completed 1040s roll out. (Of course, procrastinators know they actually have until October to get their papers to you, no matter how much it drives you nuts. It’s sort of like my college fraternity days, when we threw one last bash in October saying “summer isn’t over until we say it is!”)

But those of us in the planning business know the real season starts after Labor Day, when business owners start worrying about tax bills piling up for next year.

I could write about how to prepare for the upcoming tax-prep season if I wanted to. But I don’t. That’s because there’s no point. Tax prep is tax prep is tax prep. For most accountants, that process changes as slowly as glaciers melt. And honestly, for most accountants, that’s a good thing. They don’t like change, and the new 1040 that came out earlier this year are as much change as they can handle at once.  

(Having said that, it’s important to note that the glaciers are melting. It may seem slow now, but someday, sooner rather than later, the melting will suddenly accelerate and the glaciers will be gone. The tax practice equivalent will be when the robots show up at your office and tell you, in that nasally robotic drone of theirs, that they’re taking over and you can go home now.)

But you’re not “most accountants,” and you’re not afraid of change. You’re here because you recognize it’s coming, you welcome it, and you want to use it to stand out from your competition. So your job is to gear up for planning season.

The best way to do that is to attend our upcoming Green Light Academy in Cincinnati, September 25-27. We’ve freshened up the curriculum quite a bit since the last time we offered the program, and added quite a bit more information on implementing the strategies we discuss, and going even deeper into the technical details. I’m so confident you’ll find it the best presentation you attend in 2019 that I personally guarantee it. If you aren’t satisfied, I’ll refund your entire fee out of my personal pocket, not TMN’s. (I figure, I’m the guy who personally created it, so shouldn’t I be the one to personally guarantee it, too?)

Want to get started networking for new tax-planning clients? Here’s a version of the Magic Question all dolled up for planning season prospecting:

“What sort of planning is your tax pro doing to help you minimize your tax bill for 2019?”

In most cases, the answer will be “nothing.” There’s your opening. Jump on in, the water’s great!

In some case, the answer will be, “well, we sit down every year around Thanksgiving and run some numbers to see what we should be planning for in January.” That’s great . . . but what your listener needs to know is, that’s not planning. That’s projection. So here’s your response:

“That sort of year-end projection is great. But it’s not really planning. So let me ask you, when you do that, is he telling you how much you owe? Or really telling you how to pay less?”

In most cases, that should be enough to convey your point, that projection doesn’t equal planning. In some cases, though, your listener will tell you that’s when they have the annual “buy new equipment” talk, and think that’s real planning. Wrong again. You just need to bring out a little firepower, like this list of challenge questions that longtime member Lynn Fletcher shared with us on last week’s member call-in:

“Should you have a C corp? An S corp? Proprietorship? Partnership? General or limited? More than one entity? Should you take everything out of your biz? Which years? Every year? As salary? As dividends? As something else? Rent? How much of each? Who should receive the payment? You? Spouse? Kids? Parents? Does that dictate re-designing your retirement plan? Then there are exotic strategies: CHICs, CRTs, CLTs (wear them out with acronyms) . . . . you get the idea, Mr. Prospect.”

Just use the “planning season prospect question” to start conversations and you’ll be happy with the results. No need to hire a social media marketing consultant, no need to set up 13 different prospecting funnels and sub-funnels, no need to create a budget. Just ask some questions and watch the planning business start to roll in. It’s a lot more fun than waiting until February for the 1099s!

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