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What You'll Learn In Today's Episode
  • Decide that tax strategies are different from tax advice. Internalize the fact. Next, if you feel there’s an organizational barrier, address it. Get yourself into being comfortable there, mentally.
  • Find your strategies. Steven has suggestions and inspiration for brainstorming in Wednesday’s episode.
  • Mindset is key when collaborating with a CPA. Be respectful and remember that they know more about some things than you do.
  • Leave us a 5-star review. Wherever you normally listen to podcasts, if we’re delivering value to you, please make that known.

Executive Summary:

Welcome to the Friday Tax Q&A edition of the Retirement Tax Services Podcast! Steven’s guest is advisor Sten Morgan of Legacy Investment Planning, the author of 7 Mindsets of Success.

You may want to share tax insights with clients, though you’re not a CPA. Maybe you work for a large organization that fears loose cannons: In other words, should you give up?

Steven and Sten say “No:” If you’ll discuss a Roth IRA, it’s irresponsible to refuse other tax-related conversations. In fact, there’s a difference between sharing tax strategies and doing tax returns. Stay sensitive to compliance issues. At the same time, don’t close the door.

Strategize For Success

Do you need to be an expert on every IRS code ever written?

That’s a “No,” too: You just need to be intentional, proactive, and willing to work with experts as needed. So, set appropriate expectations, communicate clearly, and you’ll add massive value.

You don’t need to be a CPA to identify potential tax-paying strategies. As long as you make it clear you’re not providing tax advice (on how to file), you can provide value. In fact, there are significant ways in which you can help.

Lose any head trash you have about lacking tax expertise. You’re not taking clients’ hands and saying “Trust me” or “Do this, this, and this.” Subsequently, you’re sharing suggestions and observations based on your experience.

From there, you’ll work with their tax preparer to make sure a plan is executed correctly.

You Know More Than You Think About Tax Planning

Surprise: If you’ve ever told a client to fund an IRA, you’ve already given a tax plan. In fact, chances are your insights could prove extremely valuable to the right client.

Pair that experience with a willingness to research specifics when you need to. Next, keep humble enough to view the client’s other center of influence as a potential ally.

You may be tempted to avoid that CPA out of fear of stepping on their toes. However, don’t. If you’re sincerely seeking to work with them proactively, a warmer reception is likely. You might even start a mutually beneficial long-term alliance.

With experience, research, and a respectful relationship to the tax preparer in play, you’ll maximize value provision to clients.

Meanwhile, work with your compliance department. With this in mind, do they want you to say “tax planning” and not “tax advice?”

Fine. That’s a no-brainer. It’s not the point, anyway: Many financial plan recommendations contain tax implications—and they’re given out every single day.

Consider the amount of money you could potentially save clients through effective retirement tax planning strategies: You almost can’t afford to avoid helping them out. Nothing encourages loyalty like sparing someone from paying thousands of dollars needlessly.

Steven and advisor Sten Morgan have more on tax planning in this episode of the Retirement Tax Services Podcast. Do you have suggestions? Would you like to share a retirement tax planning experience on the podcast? Drop us a line at

Thank you for listening.


Steven Jarvis:

Hello everyone and welcome to the next episode of the Retirement Tax Services Podcast: Financial Professionals Edition. I am your host Stephen Jarvis, CPA and in this show I teach financial advisors how to deliver massive value to their clients through retirement tax planning. and as this is Friday this is going to be our Tax Q&A Friday edition of the podcast and Sten Morgan who is our guest on Monday’s episode was gracious enough to participate this week. So, the question I’m going to put to Sten and let him answer is: do I have to be a tax expert to give tax advice?

You Are Not A CPA, But You Can Still Help Them Design The Right Plan [1:00]

Sten Morgan:

Great question, Steven thanks for having me again buddy. This was something I struggled with early on. I came from business from these larger organizations that were very kind of worried that they would turn these advisors loose and we’re out there saying too much, going beyond our scope. As I grew up in the business and experienced different firms in my path to independence and becoming kind of eventually all right it’s really important how we define tax advice. I tell clients up front, I’m not preparing your tax-return, but if you’ve ever told a client to fund their IRA or their Roth for this and this reason you’ve just given a tax strategy. So there is a difference between tax advice, telling somebody to file this form or check this box but as financial planners, I’m a CFP, I can talk tax strategy all day. So I set the stage that “hey I’m not your CPA, but these are ideas we need to talk to your CPA about”, because at the end of the day they’re going to be the one that checks the box but we need to help design the plan. That’s part of our value and there’s a lot of ways we can do that.


For sure and depending on what situation you find yourself in currently, whether you work for a broker, dealer or a big wire house or you’re independent, like Sten is. You obviously want to be sensitive to compliance issues. We’re not trying to be casual or just kind of blasé about making sure that you’re using the right terminology but don’t let that be an excuse to not provide value to your client. If your compliance department wants you to say tax planning or not tax advice or tax strategies or whatever word they want to use, that’s fine, that’s not the point. The point is so many financial planning recommendations have tax implications and – send push back on me if I’m going to hard here – but in my perspective if you’re willing to recommend a Roth conversion or a particular type of tax advantage account but you’re not willing to talk about taxes, that’s not being a responsible financial planner.


Yeah, I agree with you and I think as you start flexing that muscle and we’ve been doing it for years, eventually you get really good at identifying tax strategy but then also helping the client apply the numbers to it. Like we talked about on Monday’s podcast, if you could help them quantify the value of that idea, all of a sudden you’re helping them create urgency. If I told a client, ‘hey, you should think about this tax idea to lower your tax burden.’ Great, you know, all of a sudden they’re back to their business because somebody just quit and that’s all they’re thinking about versus me saying, ‘hey here’s a great tax strategy I’ve seen it before and there’s a chance it might save you $15,000 a year, by the way over the next 10 years that’ll be about $150,000 idea if we do it now.’ All of a sudden that stays on the radar and so we need to take that did the onus of being the one to help them see the value of that idea while reminding them he will get the CPA to execute it but let’s talk about it yet.

Learn About The Right Strategies, But Don’t Shy Away From Consulting an Expert [3:49]


And the last point there, super important for a couple of reasons of, ‘we’re going to work the CPA to execute it’. One, it really should get you past any head trash you have about: Do I have to be a tax expert? Because you’re not telling the client, ‘hey just trust me this is what we’re going to do.’ You’re saying this is my suggestion or this is my observation based on other experiences I’ve had, now I’m going to proactively work with you and the tax preparer or their tax professional to make sure it gets executed correctly.


And there is some lift here Steven. You can’t be completely ignorant to any tax planning and strategies and just throw some random recommendations out. As a professional…


Haha (wry chuckle)


… – if that’s how we view ourselves, as we should – we need to spend some time learning enough about Ideas to recognize the opportunity but not necessarily be the expert to have to execute it. So I told an advisor you don’t have to be a tax expert but you need to ask really good questions and I need to know enough about tax credits to recognize hey there could be an opportunity here, let’s set up a call with the CPA versus having every client jump on an R&D tax credit call when it’s not relevant. So I think there’s a line of do effort and study but don’t feel like you have to all of a sudden be a black belt, so I’m just not going to do anything. I think you’re doing actual harm to the client if you’re not willing to step in a little bit.


Yeah now there’s countless stories I hear from advisors of tax implications gone wrong whether it’s the advisor not communicating to the tax preparer or go figure, sometimes mistakes happen and a strategy gets recommended by an advisor and then the advisor doesn’t follow through to make sure I got reported to the IRS correctly. This happens all the time with QCDs – Qualified Charitable Distributions. There’s so many different areas where mistakes can happen so if you’re going to recommend a strategy you need to make sure it actually got implemented.


That’s right and then there’s a system thing there of saying, ‘hey, I’m going to send you an email reminding you to tell your CPA about this idea, feel free to forward it to him.’ Maybe you know the CPA so you forward it to the CPA and say, ‘by the way we did a Roth conversion this year, we need a back door Roth make sure you file the right form.’ And also just notes internally of saying hey I had a great meeting with the client, we talked about the XY&Z, they were interested in this Roth conversion, I recommended they go talk to their CPA about it. Or professionals, like we just need to document and have good processes but that doesn’t mean we can’t share good ideas to show a client the value we can bring to them.

Work Proactively With CPAs, But Don’t Step On Their Toes [6:07]


Well, let me just weigh in here really quick based on my background as a CPA and talking to other CPAs because sometimes there’s advisors – this is hypothetical – I’ve heard this from advisors of ‘I don’t want to step on their toes’, ‘it’s their realm’, ‘they’re not going to appreciate me telling them their jobs’. That’s not what Sten is recommending here at all, right? As this is given, proactively working with them and the response I get from every single CPA when I tell them I work with advisors on this kind of stuff is, ‘oh yeah that’s the advisor I want to work with.’ Every time.


Oh yeah! They love help, you know? Most of them I mean, come tax time like they’re just staying afloat. CPAs don’t get the chance to sit down with the client’s tax return for 30 minutes with no distraction.




So they need help with that. So if I say, ‘hey what do you think about this.’ It’s like, ‘oh that sounds interesting, let’s look into it.’ They’re all about it, you know? So don’t be fearful of that. Obviously approach it respectfully, professionally where it doesn’t seem like you’re calling out stuff they’re doing wrong. But suggest stuff, ask good questions and every once in a while this happens where, I’m like I don’t think this CPA is capable of accomplishing what you need them to, you may have outgrown them, because again the client is paying you to give them direct advice and ideas and if you say, ‘my experience is that this CPA is out of their league a little bit with this particular item.’ They may have to find another CPA sometimes. But, more often than not you can just be a part of the team and help everybody out.


Yeah, love that team approach. I like how you said maybe you’ve outgrown them. That’s super professional way to work with your client not try throw anyone under the bus. And I feel like every advisor I’ve worked with has some sort of negative experience they’ve had with a CPA which kind of taints their opinion a little bit, but when I dig into those a little bit more, I see usually that nothing was communicated to the CPA. Something goes wrong at tax time or maybe doesn’t go wrong, but it surprise-attacks and then yes you were going to make TPAs very very angry because if you didn’t tell him about a strategy you implemented… Let’s take Roth conversions. When you do Roth conversions, the client is going to pay more in taxes this year, right?


Oh yeah!


And so if if you haven’t communicated that to the CPA, if the client maybe didn’t remember the details of that. Eight months later when it’s tax time or whatever the case might be and the CPA is now the one saying, ‘hey Bob and Sue you need to cut this $10,000 check.’ And now the client can lose their mind on the CPA. I promise that CPA is going to say, ‘oh well, your advisor screwed this up.’ And they’re going to throw you under the bus every time, and honestly they probably should. Because, why didn’t you just tell them?

Set The Right Expectations With Your Clients And Their CPAs Upfront [8:35]


I think that’s part of defining expectations upfront. Like in my Raymond James days when all we did was manage money, if my client thought I was doing tax stuff for them or helping with their insurance like that’s my fault. Like, really I should’ve said I manage your money I’ll talk to you twice a year, but that’s it. In today’s world where I’m helping advisors charge for advice there’s also reason you can’t charge somebody $500 for a financial plan. ‘Cause you’re going to lose money ‘cause if the expectation is you’re communicating with professionals you need to charge $3000 – $4000 a year but then you need to deliver on it. And so I have a great service model, I set good expectations and have a good system to deliver but also realize the value of your time. I know a lot of attornies in Nashville that will charge $2500-$3000 for an estate plan that is literally a template with names filled in and they spend two weeks on it. And that’s not to bash them, it just means a lot of advisors are working for near a dollar an hour, if we really think about it. So we need to value the advice more but also have a process to back it up.


Yeah, yeah I love that. Totally agree with that, so to go back to the question we started with of: do I have to be a tax expert to give tax advice? The answer it sounds like is a resounding no, no you don’t. And if we’re defining tax expert as your CPA or enrolled agent or you have some sort of tax related designation. No, you don’t have to as long as you’re being intentional, and proactive, and working with the experts when you need to.


Yeah, set good expectations, communicate clearly and you’ll be totally fine. That is that is a huge value add and I would argue for my business, probably the biggest value add that’s helped me grow like I have is just being really good at identifying potential tax playing strategies and helping see those through to the end with the CPA. And all of a sudden now that’s my idea that I get to remind the client of wow, look what we did we just saved $50,000… [client says] ‘Hey, great, I’ll pay you again next year.’ So, quantify it, remember it, record it because those tax planning ideas are a big win.


Yeah that’s great. Alright, if you missed our episode on Monday be sure you go onto, Sten’s got some great things out there for advisors, some training courses and then the Elite Advisor Network that he puts on for advisors who are looking to really up their game as it relates to building their practice and really having that that life they want. So, Sten, thanks again for joining me on an episode I really appreciate it.


You bet!

Actionable Advice For Financial Advisors [11:03]


Before we go we want to make sure before we just wrap up, it’s a short episode we still want some action item that listeners can take away from this. So Sten, what should listeners do as a result of this episode?


First, I’d say you know decide in your mind the tax strategies are different than tax advice. Internalize that ‘cause that’s true and then if you feel like there’s some organizational barrier, address that. If compliance is your excuse, go talk about it. If it’s a managing partner or if it’s just a business partner, get yourself to a place where you are now willing and there’s no mental block of just venturing into the tax strategies. Step two is go find the strategies, but the biggest obstacle is probably just going to be you. Getting out of your way.


Yeah and make sure your mindset and how you’re talking to those people – whether it’s compliance or managing partner – make sure that’s framed as: how do we make this happen? Not, can we do this? Because I talk to so many advisors who are doing this. it’s not a matter of can or can’t, it is happening already. If you’re not doing it you’re being left behind. So it’s how do we make this happen? What what do we need to call tax planning for compliance to feel good about it? But I’m not your compliance department, I don’t know what the answer to that is. But make sure that’s how you’re framing the question. So, the only other action I’m going to throw out there to make sure that you take just that minute to go and leave us a five-star review and any comments or feedback you have for us. If you have any questions that you would like to have us answer on tax Q&A Friday feel free to email us at, we’d love to answer your questions or potentially have you on the podcast to go ahead and answer it for us. So, thank you everyone for listening I really appreciate you being here, and until next time good luck out there and remember to tip your server not the IRS!


The information on this site is for education only and should not be considered tax advice. Retirement Tax Services is not affiliated with Shilanski & Associates, Jarvis Financial Services or any other financial services firms.

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