Quoting fees for tax return preparation

Another accountant proposed the concept that there is significant business value of having a standardized and rehearsed response to an initial call from a potential client asking about tax work. I agree.

We presume that a primary motivation of the caller is to push for price information. But giving a price with limited information is risky and, in fact, has been my biggest business blunder this past year. I need to do better with this initial conversation.

I drafted this proposed wording that communicates my own business preferences:

“There are two things I want you to know before we even talk about anything else:

First, I am entirely set up to do business electronically. This improves my speed and service and lowers cost for you. I receive documents online, work with online accounting software, file your returns electronically and send communications by email and a secure portal. If you are not up-to-speed doing business that way, then we should discuss what that will mean for working together.

Second we won’t agree to having me prepare your tax return until after I review your documentation or tax return from last year. I will do that without cost or obligation to you. As far as the cost of having me preparing this year’s return, I will start with the national average costs but then we will need to discuss what makes preparing yours less expensive or more expensive than the average based on what we see.

Then, only if they push further on fees:

There is one other important point to consider right now. I am able to deliver a low cost / high value service only by focusing on clients who are not primarily focused on cost.  If we agree that low cost is a primary consideration for you, then we know that my service is not the best fit. How you see yourself in this scale?” The specific purpose of this is to weed out anyone who is shopping for a low rate.

We recognize that this is a matter of personal preference and that my own communication is likely to evolve over time.


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