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PRACTICE MANAGEMENT / TAX

How to Stand Out in Today's Marketplace

 

By ALEXANDRA DEFELICE
JANUARY 2011
How to Stand Out

The Institute has developed a multiyear marketing campaign to differentiate CPAs from other tax preparers. The initiative includes a set of tools to help members promote the value of CPA providers of tax services and to distinguish them from their competitors, and a comprehensive tax website for consumers with dynamic content and interactive functionality.

 

The AICPA is offering a marketing toolkit that is free to members. It includes:

 

  • Print ads and a radio spot.
  • Tweets to post on Twitter as part of CPAs’ social media campaigns centered around holidays throughout the year.
  • Suggestions CPAs can use to pitch local newspaper and television stations for tax-related stories using the member as an expert.
  • A tax savings brochure for clients that includes information on tax rates, exemptions, deductions and additional tips.
  • A PowerPoint presentation and speech (one for individuals, one for small businesses) CPAs can give to potential clients and/or use in their communities.
  • A brochure promoting the value of a CPA. This also includes information about the types of year-round services CPAs provide, including retirement planning, education planning, estate planning and day-to-day budgeting, among other things.

 

“As stewards of the CPA brand, we help our members create market awareness and establish themselves as the trusted financial adviser in their communities by providing them with marketing materials that showcase their expertise, qualifications and breadth of knowledge,” said Cheryl Reynolds, director–Communications, Advertising & Brand Management for the AICPA.

 

In particular, the AICPA is concerned that the IRS regulation of paid tax preparers may create confusion among consumers. As a result, it is important for CPAs to educate their existing and prospective clients about what makes them the preferred providers of tax services, Reynolds said.

 

Recent regulations require paid preparers to register with the IRS, obtain and use a preparer tax identification number, comply with Circular 230 ethical standards and, in the future, pass a minimum competency exam and undergo continuing education. CPAs, attorneys and enrolled agents are exempt from the examination and continuing education requirements. For additional details, see “Tax Season Brings New Twists,” on page 24 in this issue.

 

When differentiating themselves from other tax preparers, the AICPA suggests CPAs highlight the following:

 

  • Your credential and what it takes to become a CPA (education, exam, experience and licensure).
  • Your ethical commitment (adherence to the profession’s code of conduct and the AICPA’s own enforceable tax ethical standards).
  • Your efforts to maintain the CPA credential and licensure, and to remain current and competent (completing approximately 40 hours of continuing professional education each year, staying abreast of standards and tax rules).
  • Your breadth of knowledge, experience, specializations and other credentials.
  • Your ability to provide a broad array of services (beyond tax return preparation).
  • Your availability and accessibility year-round.

 

In December, the Institute launched a consumer-facing website, 360Taxes.org, which highlights the importance of tax as a year-round consideration, and an ongoing relationship with a CPA, not just when April 15 is approaching. The site includes:

 

  • “Ask a CPA,” a feature consumers can use to ask CPAs tax-related questions. The answers will be available for everyone to view.
  • Tax season articles.
  • A variety of calculators, including ones for mortgage tax savings, self-employment taxes, U.S. 1040EZ tax estimator and a 1040 tax calculator.
  • FAQs and resources for choosing a tax preparer as well as year-round tax-planning information.
  • Links to consumer-focused tax blogs written by CPAs.

 

CPAs who are interested in volunteering to answer consumer questions, submitting tips or participating in the consumer-focused tax blog can e-mail financialliteracy@aicpa.org.

 

Note: CPA Marketing Toolkit materials can be found at tinyurl.com/27r6g54.

 

Alexandra DeFelice (adefelice@aicpa.org) is a JofA senior editor.

 

To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Alexandra DeFelice, senior editor, at adefelice@aicpa.org or 212-596-6122.

 

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