CPA Value to Their Clients

value.jpgWhile you are in the midst of finishing personal tax returns, filing extensions, viewing recordkeeper’s reports, sorting through transaction ledgers amongst countless other tasks associated with the normal course of your business, it may be tough to fathom stopping to ask yourself “What other value could I be adding to my clients?” So I have done that for you! Here are a few ideas that you can immediately add to your practice that could add additional value to your client relationships.

  1. Nonqualified Deferred Compensation Plan – If you are a CPA who works with high net worth individuals or business owners, simply mentioning the idea of a Nonqualified Deferred Compensation (NQDC) plan may be enough to spark your client’s interest. A NQDC plan is a type of savings plan that a business sets up that allows a select group of individuals to put away sums of money over and above what a traditional retirement plan allows. There are several forms of investments that a NQDC can utilize, including mutual funds and corporate owner life insurance, and you must have a plan document in place. However, as the name states because the plan is nonqualified there are not the same restrictions to contributions or participation and there is no annual compliance testing associated with this type of plan. It should be noted that NQDC plans are suitable only for regular (C) corporations. In S corporations or unincorporated entities (partnerships or proprietorships), business owners generally can’t defer taxes on their shares of business income. However, S corporations and unincorporated businesses can adopt NQDC plans for regular employees who have no ownership in the business. There are many more nuisances to a NQDC which we would be happy to help you explore if you have a client who is interested in learning more.
  2. Safe Harbor Features – If you audit a plan that consistently fails testing resulting in the highly compensated employees receiving refunds, it may be time for that plan to explore the options of adding a Safe Harbor feature to their plan design. A Safe Harbor 401(k) plan generally satisfies annual compliance testing. By satisfying annual compliance testing through either an approved matching formula or non-elective formula, the highly compensated employees are no longer at risk of receiving a refund of their deferral dollars.   The stated Safe Harbor match formula is 100% match on the first 3% of elective deferrals and 50% match of the next 2% deferred and the stated non-elective contribution formula is equal to a contribution of 3% of eligible compensation for all eligible employees regardless of participation. In both cases, the participants must be formally notified of the Safe Harbor provision through a notice and the contributions are immediately 100% vested.

  3.  Automatic Enrollment – Another idea that can help that plan who consistently fails compliance testing would be to suggest adding an automatic enrollment feature. In a our best case scenario of automatic enrollment, all eligible employees would be enrolled at 6% with an auto-increase feature up to 10%; but, even adding automatic enrollment at the more widely accepted 3%, the plan is taking steps to not only increase their chances of passing annual compliance testing, but also to help their employees become better prepared for retirement.

As a CPA working side-by-side on a business owner’s personal return or auditing a corporation’s benefit plans, you are in a unique position to provide guidance on areas slightly outside your scope of services that may have a meaningful impact on the retirement success of your client and further cement your already valuable relationship. The information provided on our 3 value-add ideas was brief and there are of course individual circumstances that could affect the appropriateness of the recommendations; therefore, please reach out to me if I can be of any further assistance in explaining.

Jamie Kertis, AIF®, QKA jamie kertis headshot
Retirement Plan Specialist
Grinkmeyer Leonard Financial
1950 Stonegate Drive / Suite 275 /Birmingham, AL 35242
Office: 205.970.9088 / Toll-Free: 866.695.5162
www.grinkmeyerleonard.com

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Calling All COIs

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Poll most business owners, presidents of companies, or C-level executives about who are there most trusted advisors are and chances are you will get the same answers: their spouse, their attorney, and their CPA.

As a CPA, who are your most trusted advisors?  Do you have an attorney or other professional who you can turn to for ideas or advice to help you expand your knowledge base and bring new ideas to your clients?

Argument for an Attorney

When determining which attorney to work with as a center of influence, first take a look at your own practice and where your clients may have a specific need.  If you work with a large number of business owners, there may be a need for an attorney that has a strong working knowledge of buy-sell agreements, estate planning, or liability.  Additionally, if you are a CPA who deals with business clients and their qualified retirement plans, there is a good chance that you will come across a situation that will require an outside opinion, sometimes even a legal opinion, on the operation of the qualified plan.  I would argue that it makes more sense to have already vetted and established an relationship with a legal professional before the situation arises that you need to recommend one.  Attorneys also can provide you with insights and opinions that can help you guide your clients away from trouble to begin with.

Argument for a Financial Advisor

Similarly when deciding which advisor to partner with as a center of influence, first take a look at your practice to determine if it would make more sense to partner with a professional that specializes in personal wealth management or qualified plan management.  If you find that most of your practice is focused on personal returns and individual tax preparation, then it would make more sense for you to team up with an advisor that also focuses on that form of client service.  On the other hand, if your practice is focused on qualified plan audits and business tax preparation, then working with an advisor who also works on qualified plans is the best way to go.  The pool of advisors that focuses on qualified plans, such as 401k plans, is much smaller, but our knowledge base of the challenges that our 401(k) clients face can be very valuable.  For instance, a qualified plan advisor is integral in changing plan service providers.  Although a service provider change may not seemingly have an impact on your ability to conduct an audit, it certainly can when you consider the reports that you need to complete your audit and the vast differences when it comes to the availability of reports on a provider website.  If you have a relationship with that advisor prior to the conversion taking place, you will have a better chance to give your opinion on the new provider that is chosen.

Cultivate the Relationship

In both cases, attorney and advisor, these professionals are more than likely looking to add value to their clients and you as a CPA have an excellent opportunity to do just that.  Perhaps you could consider hosting joint lunch and learns, seminars, or webinars that offer content to clients from your unique perspective as a CPA.  For example, I recently learned there is a significant difference between a limited scope and full scope audit offered to plans with over 100 employees; I would not have gained this useful information had it not been for my relationship with a trusted CPA partner.  Vice versa, I was able to inform this CPA group about the short-comings that we have seen in plan audits and what are clients felt were the most overlooked items in their audits.  In both cases, we were able to add value to our own practices while gaining information that we can pass along to our respective clients.

jamie kertis headshotJamie Kertis, AIF®, QKA
Retirement Plan Specialist
Grinkmeyer Leonard Financial
1950 Stonegate Drive / Suite 275 /Birmingham, AL 35242
Office: 205.970.9088 / Toll-Free: 866.695.5162
www.grinkmeyerleonard.com

Contact Jamie

Follow Jamie on LinkedIn

Follow Jamie’s Blog