How millennials are changing tax practices
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How millennials are changing tax practices

3 years ago · 3 min read

Millennials are everywhere.

As the largest generation of Americans ever, they seem to be changing every aspect of our society. They’re influencing marketing trends, technological advancements, politics, travel, food — there’s little that isn’t affected by this generation’s unique way of doing things.

They are affecting your tax firm too — even if you don’t realize it yet.

Millennial tax clients are few and far between for most of us. Generally, their taxes aren’t yet complex enough to warrant our services. But as this age group acquires wealth, we’ll begin to see more and more of them walking through our doors.

So it’s crucial we’re thinking about how to adapt our unique way of doing things to meet theirs.

Here’s how the millennial generation is already changing our image of the typical tax client and how you can prepare your firm to advise them.

It all starts with technology.

Millennials are technologically-oriented. Born between 1981 and 1996, this generation saw the introduction of personal computers into private homes. They witnessed the birth of widespread internet and mobile phone use. They were some of the first to engage in e-commerce and social media. Their entire way of life is framed and filtered by the technological advances of the last 40 years.

It shouldn’t be a surprise, then, that this appreciation of technology would influence their interactions with their CPAs. But for some CPAs, this is a tough adjustment.

Some of us rely on tried and true tax preparation and communications methods to do our jobs. We mail out paper engagement letters and organizers. We sit down to face-to-face meetings with clients. We still use fax machines! But millennials are interested in high-tech, paperless and sustainable options when engaging with their CPAs.

So how do we adapt? We use the technologies they’re using to deepen our relationships with them. We introduce paperless options — like electronic organizers and PDF copies of returns — to our practices. We use electronic signatures, client portals, secure mobile apps and virtual meeting platforms. We start texting! We equip ourselves with new tools and get on board with a different way of doing things.

Millennials know more about tax than you think.

At their core, the millennial generation is inquisitive and industrious. They’ve grown up in an era when information is literally at their fingertips, and they’re savvy when it comes to using that information. By the time a millennial client walks through your door, they’ve already read up on you, your firm and are often well-versed in their tax concerns. Millennials looking for tax services will likely rely on search engines to find and learn more about you. They’ll also look for you on social media and business review websites like Yelp.

If you don’t have a website and social media presence, you’re not going to get traction with this generation. And it’s not enough to just have an online presence. Your website must be well-designed and up-to-date with curated content relevant to a younger audience. You can learn more about how to use technology to better interact with all clients in this guide from the Tax Practitioner’s Marketing Toolkit.

Don’t rely on your website and social media presence to do all the talking. Taking steps to create a deeper relationship with younger clients can help retain them throughout their financial lives:

  • Create opportunities to connect that are outside of the norm. Consider scheduling an open house where millennial clients can meet and mingle with staff over hor d’oeuvres.

  • Set up client appreciation programs, giveaways and prizes for referrals.

  • Tailor your services to a younger generation and go out of your way to show that you care about their current and future financial situations.

No matter how you engage with your millennial clients, do so often and keep your finger on the pulse of what they value in their interactions with you.

Financial concerns are different for many.

Current millennial tax planning generally focuses on the best methods to maximize tax savings. But their current financial situations will affect how we address their tax planning in the future.

For instance, many millennials have significant student loan debt, which can impact their ability to save for retirement. This could be a major financial concern should monthly Social Security benefits change or be reduced in the future. As a result, this generation may work longer, altering how we approach their tax planning around retirement, investments, property and healthcare.

With a wide variety of possible financial concerns facing this generation, we’ll need to adjust our approach to tax planning early and often for each client.

Whether you’re seeing an influx of millennial clients or not, the fact remains that this generation is going to change the way the tax profession functions. If you aren’t taking steps now to prepare, you may be behind already. Times are changing, and tax firms must keep up. To help guide you, the AICPA created the Small Firms Resources hub where you’ll find tools to assist your firm’s transition into a powerhouse of the accounting profession.

Michael Ohanesian, CPA, MST

Michael lives in San Antonio, Texas, and is a member of the AICPA Tax Practice Management committee.

Kristen L. Pilchard, CPA

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