The Smart Tax Planning Worksheet™

By William Hamilton

Founder, SmartPath.co

tax_planning_worksheet

When you need to do tax planning for a client…

Nobody wants to pay more in taxes than they have to. 

 

Besides not wanting to deal with the paperwork, potential tax savings is one of the top reasons why clients choose to work with a tax professional.

 

But with over 72,000 pages of tax code, how can you follow a simple process to ensure any client (business or individual) doesn’t overpay in taxes?

 

We want to get you the Smart Tax Planning Framework™

 

It will help you or any preparers in your firm follow one simple framework to use with your clients.

 

As soon as you start using this framework,

 

    • You can start being compensated for all the help you’re giving clients year-round.
    • You can increase fees without jeopardizing any of your client relationships since you’ll be giving them the service they want most.
    • You can attract more clients like your “best” clients (enjoyable, productive, profitable).
  • You’ll have the right messaging so you’ll know what to say to clients so they understand why they should pay more than they’re already paying…
  • You’ll have a plan to increase your margins and cash flow this year.

  •    

Why is Tax Planning so important?

It allows you to: 

 

  • Automatically increase your margins. 

 

If you have higher margins for every engagement: 

  • You can pay yourself more 
  • Hire the right staff 
  • Invest in marketing & tech 
  • Build a firm you love 

   

  •  It deepens your relationship with clients. 

 

When you have a deeper relationship with clients: 

  • You separate yourself from bots, A.I., and DIY options
  • You position yourself as the trusted advisor 
  • You stand out from the competition
  • The right clients will want to pay for your help 

 

                             Tax Planning = Stability 

Increasing Tax Planning for Clients Is the #1 Strategy
to guarantee your firm is profitable in the future.

The Smart Tax Planning Framework

 

The proven Framework to Structure Your Tax Planning + Increase Your  Margins:

  

  •  Identify  

Planning Opportunities
 

  •  Engage  

Get fairly paid for your help

 

  • Execute  

Gather data, analyze, & implement savings steps

 

1. Identify Opportunities

Have you ever thought about buying a certain car? 

Once you decided on that specific car you started seeing them everywhere?

 

  • We first need to create the space in our brains to start identifying planning opportunities with clients.
  • Once you do, you’ll start seeing planning opportunities everywhere. 

  

Why is this the first step? 

Once you see opportunities in the work you’re already doing with clients,  

  • You’ll know exactly which opportunties you want to act on. 
  • You’ll see how to grow revenue faster by simply acting on the opportunities that naturally happen in every tax practice. 

  Tax planning opportunities usually fall into one of three key categories:

 

  • Post Tax Filing 
  • Major Life Event 
  • Faster Progress 

  

   Let’s dive into each categorie to start identifying opportunties.                                                          

 

  • Post Tax Filing 

Whenver you complete a client’s tax prep for the year, the result is either “good” or “bad” (in your eyes, in the clients eyes, or both).

 

  •  If it’s good = there’s an opportunity to plan how to maintain the result in the future.
  • If it’s bad = there’s an opportunity to plan how to create a better result in the next filing. 

 

Regardless of the outcome of any return, documenting what happened in that client’s year through their tax prep creates and opportunity for planning. 

 

  • Major Life Event 

On average, every year 10-25% of your clients will experience an impactful life event 

  •  Get married 
  • Inherit money 
  • Get divorced
  • Have or adopt a child 
  • Buy a home
  • Retire
  • Sell a property
  • Lose or gain income 
  • Change jobs
  • Need to pay for education
  • Start a business
  • Need to pay for healthcare 

  

ALL of these are potential tax planning opportunities. 

 

The key is to go deeper with clients so we can know:

  • What is truly happening in their lives now? 
  • What’s the next significant even on the horizon?

 

Then help them proactively plan for these events so they can happen with the best possible outcomes.

 

This is the level of service: 

  • Your best clients are yearning for.
  • They would happily pay your for.
  • Over 80% of small tax firms in the US (your competitors) are not providing.

 

  • Faster Progress 

The complexity in client’s business and financial lives has ballooned.

 

Every tax professional is feeling this and shrinking profit margins in the industry reflect this as well.

  

A “1040” client 20 years ago probably looked something like this:                         

  • 1 or 2 W2’s                          
  • 1 Mortgage Interest              
  • 1 brokerage statement (Investment
  • income from the company 401k)  

 

A “1040” Today looks like this:

  • 1 or 2 W2’s 
  • Mortgage Interest from primary 
  • Mortgage Interest from rental 
  • Schedule C with income and deductions from Airbnb
  • Multiple Investment Statements (Robinhood, Traditional Brokerage, Crypto) 
  • Side Income from a “Gig” (Uber or DoorDash)
  • Two or three bad “tax strategies” they heard about that don’t apply to them but they want to talk about because they asked ChatGPT how to save on taxes before they came to your office.

 

Then 2-10x this list for a business client.

 

The good news is, helping a client make faster progress on any of the complexities in their life or business creates tax planning opportunities. 

        

 What happens if you don’t identify planning opportunities for clients? 

 

  • You end up giving away countless hours of free work answering “quick questions” instead of defining a proactive planning process. 

 

  • You could put off charging for your planning services because you 

 think you need to “hard-sell” clients and don’t want to have awkward conversations. 

  

  • You could lose planning clients to other firms who act on the planning opportunities in the client’s life. 

 

When you do this the right way 

  • Easily find planning opportunities you can bill for, and clients will be happy to pay your fee. 

 

  • You will never have to “hard sell” any client on complicated tax plans, you can just act on the natural opportunities that arise. 

    

  • You can significantly increase your revenue in a short time by simply going deeper and addressing opportunities with more clients.

  

 How to Do It In Your Practice

 

  1. Post Tax Filing >
    Start sending post-filing emails to clients you enjoy working with. 

 

  “Bad” result = 

  • “Hey, I hate that this happened. I want to make sure it doesn’t happen again. 
    The only way for us to do that is to take time throughout the year to execute some planning…let’s schedule a call to discuss next steps.”

  “Good” result = 

  • “Hey, your tax picture looks great this filing. Every year tax law can change and                the  only way for us to ensure you keep paying the least amount of tax possible is to take time this year to execute some planning…let’s schedule a call to discuss next steps.” 

  

The goal of the call should be to discuss your options for adding paid tax 

planning services to their engagement. 


(We’ll cover how to do that the next step of the framework). 

  

  1. Major Life Event >

Once you find out a client is experiencing a life event, or is about to, send an email to book a Discovery Call.

 

You want to help them identify how this even impacts their taxes…

 

  •  “Hey, since you shared [define life event], I put aside some time so we can discuss how this might impact your future tax filings. I’d like to spend a few minutes and map this out together…let’s schedule a call to discuss the next steps. 

  

The goal of the call should be to discuss your options for adding paid tax 

planning services to their engagement – not just jumping in and giving them planning services for free

(We’ll cover how to do that the next step of the framework). 

 

  1. Faster Progress >

If the client has some complexity going on in their life and they want to make faster progress toward their goals…

 

Send an email to book a Discovery Call. 

Help them map out the next 12 months and what priorities you can work on to help them make progress. 

 

  • “Hey, the economy is wacky right now and tax law is continuing to morph rapidly. I know you have a bunch happening this year, I want to make sure we set aside some time to see how we can help…let’s jump on a call to discuss next steps. 

  

The goal of the call should be to discuss your options for adding paid tax 

planning services to their engagement. 

(We’ll cover how to do that the next step of the framework) 

  

 

The Smart Tax Planning Worksheet™ 

If you want to begin documenting what progress clients want to make and what their priorities are, use the SmartTax Planning Worksheet to help you define progress manually with a client. 

 

Free Download >> TaxPlanning.SmartPath.co

 

If you want to completely automate this step:

  • Use the Magic Pricing Link™ inside the Engage Software.
  • You can send clients one link that automatically identifies their goals, presents up to three options for engagement, and allows them to pay, e-sign, and begin onboarding. 
  • All securely online and from any device. 

                

What happens if you don’t do progress analysis for clients? 

  • You get stuck with 2% annual fee increases because you don’t have the clear “WHY” behind adjusting a client fee…
    • “We’re going to adjust your engagement this year so we can help you make more progress on the things you care about.”
  • Clients will push back on fee increases because the new engagement isn’t matched to what they specifically want.
  • Quoting a fee can be stressful because you don’t know if the client will value the services you put in your proposal. 

  

2. Engage

Why is this the next step? 

So you can be fairly paid for your tax planning help. 

 

Once you know the progress a client wants… 

 

You have real opportunities for planning… 

 

  • You can accurately calculate what their price should be for your help.

The Good News is, to get fairly paid for your help:

  • You don’t have to guess! 
  • You don’t have to limit your calculation to the forms in their return. 
  • Or limit your price to what the firm down the street is charging. 
  • Or feel like you must charge $10k+ up front for some complicated plan.       

 

 

 Why is this step critical? 

  

 It’s natural to worry that your “new price” is right.

 

  • Quoting a new fee for a client can be stressful.
  • The reality is, by clearly defining the planning opportunities in Step 1 the “right” price will automatically reveal itself.
  • The right price will compensate you for all your work, year-round, so you can generate profit margin for every client. 

  

Why does pricing for planning services feel so difficult sometimes?

 

 

 

Fee schedules haven’t kept up today’s client needs 

 

Let’s compare a traditional fee schedule with a more modern engagement:

  

Traditional Fee Schedule            

  • Prep & Filing 1040            
  • Prep & Filing Schedule C                                                      
  • Prep & Filing  State

—————————–

$450 One-Time   

            +

$150 Excel “Bookkeeping”
($50/hr. x 3 hours)


Total = $700 Year

 

Modern Engagement

 

  • Tax Planning Save more toward retirement
  • QBO Setup & Training
  • Get insights into your rental property costs
  • Cash Flow Analysis so you’ll alays know what you can spend or how much to pay yourself each moth.
  • P&L Analysis to see if you should buy another property or buy more inventory for your side gig.
  • Expert, Pain-Fre Tax Prep & Filing.
  • Year-Round Support

 

Total = $109/month ($1,308/year)

87% increase 

 

The right, modern engagement simply displays all the value the client is getting througout the year, then structures that proposal in a ways clients can easily understand and pay for. 

 

You’re already providing much of this help to your best clients, you just may not be getting paid for it.

 

 Different clients value different things 

  • Paying less tax to buy investment properties
  • Grow their business revenue to hire more staff or expand locations 
  • Finding more savings to build retirement
  • Having a better budget to get out debt   

                  

Whatever the client values can always point to strategies for how you can help them plan for their taxes/accounting/payroll etc. 

  

Here Are the Top 5 Categories of Services Clients Value 

  

Category 1 : Setup Help 

Helping someone set up their QuickBooks or S-Corp
 

Category 2: Expert Historic Work 

“Compliance” – Tax Prep or Accounting Reconciliation 

  

Category 3: Done-For-You Management 

Accounting, managing payroll, or helping with an active IRS Issue 

  

Category 4: Tax Reduction Planning
Year-Round Tax Planning or Reasonable Comp Analysis 

  

Category 5: Better Results Planning 

Helping with budgeting cash flow, recommendations for how 

and when to depreciate an asset, consulting on a business sale, debt structuring, etc. 

                                                                         

Most tax & accounting engagements only calculate help with 1 or 2 of these categories. 

                  

Try to align your new engagement with help in as many categories as possible.

 

  •   This new Price will align with what your ideal clients want, are willing to 

    pay for.  

 

  •   This is a critical steps that will significantly increase your margins 

     (most firms miss).

 

The cool thing is, your best clients already want to make progress in their lives. 

They will naturally be attracted to 5 major categories of value you can offer them

  

What happens if you don’t calculate your new engagement based on the 5 categories of Client Value? 

 

  • You’ll give away too much free work.
  • You get stuck pricing per form.
    Each form can be very different based on the client. 

  

  • You won’t have a way to get paid for “Quick Questions”.
    If don’t give them a price point that allows you to partner together year-round, they will default to trying to get it “for free”.
  • Clients will churn when they find a better option.
    When a firm offers them an engagement that helps them make more progress, when they have the time and energy to switch, they will.         

 

When you setup your engagement the right way 

  

  • You can perfectly match clienta with an engagement they’re happy to pay for.
     
  • Clients will stop pushing back on your fees.
    They will see and feel exactly how paying your fee will lead to the results they care about.
  • You can INCREASE your average price high enough, you can DECREASE the number of clients you work with. 

 

If you want any easy template for pricing out any tax or accounting client,
The Perfect Pricing Template™  help you define progress manually with a client. 

 

Free Download >>  PricingTemplate.SmartPath.co 

  

If you want to completely automate this step 

  •   Use the Client Services Calculator™ inside our Engage Software.

 

We have pre-built service packages, with pricing already created, so you can customize a proposal for any client in seconds.

                                               

3. Execute 

The goal at this step is to execute your tax analysis and implement whatever needs to happen so this client can realize their tax savings in the real world. 

  

Why is this critical? 

Once someone pays for planning services, you need a simple and 

repeatable process any preparer in your firm can use to identify potential tax saving. 

  

Most trained tax professionals can tax plan, but they don’t have a documented process to make it scalable. 

 

How to do it 

  

Tax strategies can be complicated. 

  

If you follow a simple process, you can make it manageable for any one in your practice. 

 

Step 1                                               

Define the specific progress this Client wants to make in their life, in their business, or both.

 

Step 2

Gather Data. Income, prior years returns, paystubs, 1099’s etc. 

 

Step 3    

Create your results by inputting the data into your tax software, running a projection, and documenting and managing the implementation steps with the client. 

 

If you want any easy template for executing delivering tax planning results for a client,
The Smart Tax Planning Worksheet™  help you execute this with a client. 

 

Free Download >>  TaxPlanning.SmartPath.co 

  

If you want to scale this step with a easy to use digital tool 

  •   Use the Digital Tax Planning Worksheet™ inside our Engage Software.

 

It will help you crystalize the clients goals across 5 key categories, give you suggestions for tax savings actions, and provide tax savings checklists for businesses and individuals. 

 

Next Steps

Tax planning doesn’t have to be a nightmare.

 

If you follow this framework you can make tax planning simple and repeatable for any client.

 

We hope we’ve given you the confidence to double down on your planning services, go deeper with clients, and get paid what you deserve for all your help.

 

Access your free tools with this link > taxplanning.smartpath.co 

 

 

 


William Hamilton is the Founder of SmartPath.co
Over the last 14 years, they have helped 1,000’s of Tax Pros perfect their pricing so they can focus on work they enjoy.