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From Tax Preparer to Financial Planner

Financial planning consultation

Congratulations on making it through another tax season! As you helped your clients prepare their tax returns, did you ask yourself any of these questions?

  • Who, if anyone, is looking at their overall financial picture?
  • What can I do to help remove financial obstacles so they can accomplish their goals?
  • Can I offer financial knowledge, analysis and a framework to make this person’s dreams a reality?

From those long hours, including rigorous reviews and meetings with clients, you’ve gained unique insight into their lives – insight into their incomes, spending habits, investments and life events. While reviewing those 1040s, you are able to envision potential tax impacts of financial decisions and begin considering tax planning opportunities for your clients. This is a great first step in helping them meet their overall financial planning needs, including making estate, retirement, tax, investment and insurance planning decisions to move them toward meeting their long term goals.

When I first began my accounting career in the tax department of a major firm, I didn’t even know this career path existed. Fortunately my clients, friends and family constantly asked me questions about the tax implications of various financial decisions they were making. I realized how much more interested I was in addressing these challenges than preparing tax returns. And frankly, the returns I was preparing were past the point of being impacted by planning. With personal financial planning, however, I discovered the ability to be more creative in my work and offer my clients value beyond tax planning and return preparation. I grew to love the career and am now excited to help other CPAs understand the endless possibilities in this field, and how they can be successful.

AICPA members are seeing increased demand from their clients for financial planning services. CPAs, who are trusted advisors to their clients, may have an advantage on other investment professionals. “We're in a natural position of trust with clients to expand into financial planning,” said Lyle Benson, CPA/PFS, of the executive committee of the AICPA's Personal Financial Planning Section. The economic conditions in the U.S. and abroad have only added to the perception that CPAs are a great option when looking for a financial planner and the AICPA is ensuring that members who wish to expand their financial planning services have the resources they need.

There is an entire profession of CPA financial planners dedicated to advising clients on the financial decisions that will impact every facet of their lives. If you enjoy interacting with people, are good with numbers, have an interest in providing value-added and profitable services to your clients and like to have a positive impact on others, a career as a CPA financial planner or CPA/Personal Financial Specialist may be right for you.

Join me for a free webinar, Break into Financial Planning: How CPAs Can Get in the Game, to be held 2 to 3:30 p.m. ET on May 16, to learn what it means to be a CPA financial planner. Our panelists will share the different paths each of them took to achieve the career of their dreams. This webinar is ideal for both emerging CPAs trying to move into this niche career path and seasoned CPAs who want to expand their existing practices with this value-added service.

For those who would like to make financial planning a permanent part of their practice, we are offering a webinar series, From Tax Preparer to Financial Planner: The Road Best Traveled, detailing the pathway to transition from tax preparer to financial planner.

I wish you much success in your endeavors and encourage you to reach out to the AICPA’s PFP team for help along the way. 

Andrea Millar, CPA/PFS, Sr Technical Manager - PFP, American Institute of CPAs. Andrea leads the AICPA Personal Financial Division. Her responsibilities include working with the PFP Executive and PFS Credential committees to drive the advocacy, education and other initiatives on behalf of the 7,500 AICPA members who specialize in providing estate, retirement, tax, investment and insurance advice to their individual clients.

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