Social Security’s going broke, nobody’s socked away enough money, those lucky enough to live to 90 will wind up eating cat food: Saving for retirement is the financial fire alarm of our time. How can you help clients through it?

“We find ourselves routinely discussing retirement plans with our clients and prospective clients, particularly regarding U.S. income tax implications of international pensions,” said John Dundon, an Enrolled Agent at Taxpayer Advocacy Services in Englewood, Colo., and blogger http:www.JohnRDundon.com.

“My wife just retired with her securities license and 15 years of insurance experience. While we won’t sell products, we offer that independent knowledge so the client can make informed choices,” said Kerry Freeman, an EA at Freeman Income Tax Service, in Anthem, Ariz.

The best method of assisting a client with their tax retirement planning is through a joint meeting with their investment specialists, financial planners, and the client, said EA Janet Sienicki in Schererville, Ind., “so all goals and tax consequences are clarified. It certainly is a part of my service menu that can always be increased.”

Alan Vitberg, executive director of the professional services team at marketing firm Lead G2, noted that if your practice doesn’t have a wealth management business that can supply products to fund a retirement or tax strategy, you should look for a strong strategic alliance or partnership that can complement the firm’s tax and life planning advice with reputable insurance an investment products and services.


Partnering

Fewer than 3 percent of accountants and preparers are accredited retirement advisor/elder-care specialist or a certified senior advisor, according to a recent practitioner survey from the National Society of Accountants. Nevertheless, the AR consultancy Funding Gates reports that retirement planning has been one of the better growth niches (http://blog.fundinggates.com/2015/05/the-top-niche-accounting-services-of-2014/) for accounting firms in recent years.

Jennifer Brown, an EA at Implex Tax & Accounting in Clearfield, Utah, partners with a certified financial planner for help with clients’ retirement planning. Speaking as an EA, Brown added, “I believe it’s important that we only advise in areas we’ve studied and are certified [in].”

“I give the tax ramification on what [the client] and their financial advisor are thinking of doing” concerning retirement, said Jeffrey Schneider, an EA in Port St. Lucie, Fla. “I have a select group of contacts, depending on what the client is looking to do, that I can recommend to treat my business and individual clients fairly. I do charge if the client wants me to attend a meeting,” he added. “The client is told [that] up front when they ask.”


What to charge

Billing varies for this service, practitioners said, but generally does stem from services already being delivered. For instance, “This service is complimentary for answers to basic questions,” said blogger Dundon. “When research is involved, our time in these regards is billed out in 15-minute increments at $50 per increment.”

“Clients will schedule appointments to discuss retirement planning as it relates to their taxes,” Indiana’s Sienicki said. “Initial consultations are typically not billed a fee. Any time spent reviewing investments, however, consultations with client financial planners and follow-up appointments, will generate a bill.”

“If the planning is done as part of the tax appointment, I generally don’t charge for the discussion,” said Laurie Ziegler, an EA at Sass Accounting in Saukville, Wis. “If additional work is done, such as estimates, it’s charged accordingly.”

Arizona EA Freeman, predicting that “many of my peers will shake their heads,” doesn’t charge for the retirement-planning service. “All year, only a small number take advantage of this service during the off season,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that most wait again till the filing season to ask these questions, often after the fact of making changes or financing moves that will cost them.”

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