The Latino market for tax prep could be big for tax preparers who go about entering it correctly, according to Carlos Lopez, executive director of the Latino Tax Professionals Association in Salinas, Calif.
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In Part One of our interview with him, Lopez discussed the overall picture of the growing Latino market for tax prep, including the burgeoning Hispanic population in the U.S. and how the IRS and other regulators must reach out to this population.
He added that potential clients in the Latino market are used to finding many different professional services under one roof, and tend to transfer trust gained by one professional to others that professional might work with.
“Most mainstream Americans would never consider this kind of shopping,” Lopez said. “The downside to this cultural outlook is that no one can be a master of all trades, but often the Latino consumer trusts the professional and will keep returning even if they are paying penalties and interest as a result of the professional’s errors. ‘Oh by the way, I can also prepare your tax return!’ ‘Obviously you did a great job on my insurance, so you’ll do a great job with my taxes!’”
He does believe, however, that the tax prep industry at large will recognize the potential of this market in another two to three years. (Some vendors, including H&R Block, have recently announced initiatives for the Latino market.)
He also offered tips for preparers looking to reach out to this burgeoning market:
• Talk to them about the long term. If they’re here undocumented and have children who were born here, the idea is to tell the client, ‘You’re here in this country for the long haul. Your plan is not to be deported for tax fraud!” Lopez said.
• Offer multiple services, but not necessarily by yourself. Partner with a notary public, insurance agent and/or travel agent. While acknowledging that many services, such as booking travel, have migrated to the Internet in recent years, “A lot of these taxpayers are not Internet-savvy,” he said. “They’re going online and buying something with a credit card, that’s not going to happen,” Lopez said, adding, “But their children will be doing it.”
• Be fluent in Spanish.This would seem obvious, but overlooking it in even the slightest way can cost you business.
• Target your marketing. Use very targeted direct mail, and “good old-fashioned handshaking,” he said. “Attend Hispanic community events, and reach out to your local Hispanic chamber of commerce and rotaries.”
Lopez’s Latino Tax Professionals Association works both to better prospects for Latino preparers and to educate all preparers on the Latino market. The association has been teaching tax preparation in California since 1999 as a California Tax Education Council vendor and IRS-approved CE provider for EAs since November 2006. It has some 5,000 members and offers a free e-mail newsletter.