Workflow of the future
Workflow of the future

Creative approaches to problem solving

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In our office, we say, “It’s not a problem; it’s an opportunity.” When issues arise, we take the time to evaluate the situation to determine the cause. Did we break an office rule, step around a procedure or was it a case of not being careful?

At times, solving our clients’ problems definitely requires a creative approach, but the real creativity lies in truly listening to their needs and understanding their situation before finding a solution.

When a client has a problem or concern, it may be eating at them for some time before they are ready to share or even ask for help. During our tax return exit appointments, we take the time to talk with, and listen to, our clients to determine if they have any non-tax related financial concerns that are keeping them up at night.

In a recent client meeting, I asked, “How is work going for you?” and “Have either of you considered selling one of your New York City apartments?” The discussion progressed and indicated two concerns:

  1. Could the working spouse afford to retire?
  2. Would the tax on the capital gains be so large that it would not pay to sell, based on the recent rise in the apartment’s value?

After holding a discovery session with this couple, I used the tax planner feature in Intuit® ProConnect™ ProSeries® to calculate several different scenarios. I held a video conference, sharing my screen to show that using retirement funds, pension distributions and Social Security benefits would yield a very small monthly difference in available funds. I was also able to show the estimated tax consequence of the sale of the second apartment, and again reminded the client that this, too, would free up cash based on no longer paying for a mortgage, real estate tax and maintenance. The couple was so relieved that I could actually see and hear their reaction during our meeting.

We all know that tax simplification is anything but simple, and that our tax clients still have concerns about a number of issues. These include paying down student loans, paying for college, planning for retirement, paying off mortgages and/or refinancing existing debt, and figuring out if they can itemize deductions on federal and/or state tax returns. Clients are even confused as to what now constitutes an itemized deduction. Among other issues, our corporate clients are concerned with sales tax nexus, succession planning and product lines.

As accounting professionals, we are still relevant – event for those clients who now file using the standard deduction!

For a good portion of 2018, I worked with a corporate client and several tax attorneys regarding sales tax and corporation entity nexus. I realized that if they were to form a new entity, they would also have the opportunity to institute a tax advantaged succession plan and offer additional employee benefits. I was able to hold a discovery session with all the officers to determine each of their personal needs and goals. We set up a subcommittee to review scenarios I am currently working on in order to take all tax options and shareholder goals into account before taking action.

When we can help evaluate the situation, many times we can clear up the confusion or concern, putting the client at ease. With the help of technology through ProSeries and a video conference, we can communicate effectively, offer advice or solutions regarding the problem, ease the client’s concerns, and help create new long and short term goals.

Editor’s note: Andrea was recently featured in a tax practice profile on the Intuit ProConnect Tax Pro Center.

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