Click Here To Listen To The Retirement Tax Services Podcast
Are you trying to learn how to deliver massive tax value to your clients? Then look no further. Retirement Tax Services Podcast, Financial Professional’s Edition is a show hosted by Steven Jarvis, CPA. Steven aims to bridge the gap between tax professionals, financial advisors and their mutual clients in their quest for reducing tax expenses in retirement.
Johnna Long is a CPA who works with advisors to ensure the experience for their shared clients is elevated to a whole new level when it comes to tax prep and planning. Having worked for some of the biggest firms in the world, Johnna joins the show today to share the journey that moved her into the area where she is now, as well as great insight into how to unite the roles of CPAs and financial planners to help clients be more proactive and successful when it comes to tax planning.
Listen in as she breaks down the importance of building trust with not only the clients, but also the financial advisors she works with. You’ll hear tips on how to build these crucial relationships and work together throughout the year to create a more beneficial situation for everyone involved, key ideas of specific solutions she presents to clients, and more.
Steven and his guests share more tax-planning insights in today’s Retirement Tax Services Podcast. Feedback, unusual tax-planning stories, and suggestions for future guests can be sent to email@example.com.
Are you interested in content that provides you with action steps that you can take to deliver massive tax value to your clients? Then you are going to love our powerful training sessions online. Click on the link below to get started on your journey:
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We’re not overpaying. No, we’re not overpaying. We’re not overpaying anymore. The tax code’s complicated, boring, and overrated. You don’t want that, you want a pro. One thing that you should know: this is a radio show. It’s not tax advice, don’t take it that way.
Steven Jarvis: Hello everyone, and welcome to the next episode of the Retirement Tax Services Podcast, financial professionals’ edition. I am your host, Steven Jarvis, CPA. And in this show, I teach financial advisors how to deliver massive value to their clients through tax planning.
Taking a little bit different approach today. I’m so excited for my guest, Johnna Long, is a CPA (yes, you heard that right) — CPA, who is still doing taxes.
And I was really excited to connect with Johnna because she is taking a similar approach to RTS in that she is working proactively with financial advisors to make sure that the experience for the shared client is elevated to a whole another level when it comes to tax preparation and tax planning. So, Johnna, welcome to the show.
Johnna Long: Thank you for having me, I appreciate it.
Steven Jarvis: So, Johnna, as we were getting ready for the show, I learned more about your background. You definitely have a lot of great experience. You work with Big Four accounting firms, some of the biggest firms in the world, not an exaggeration there.
So, you had all this great experience. And then at some point, having similar kind of to my own experience, you said, “Hey, wouldn’t it be fun if I just quit all of that and left it behind, and went and worked with financial advisors. How cool would that be?”
Johnna Long: I love that thought of how easy it was for me to transition. It was a journey really, like you mentioned. I was in the Big Four firms and started very typical career in tax accounting. I went through the boot camp, I went through the really long hours, actually two different Big Four firms in both Seattle area and New York area.
After a while, I was ready to make a change and really be a little more hands on with my client and start working with high-net worth individuals. And the thing that I found out, and I’m sure you found out as well, is I kept running into this issue where April would come and I would receive all my taxpayer’s documents and a big old pile and I’d sort through it. And then I would get the honor to announce to them that they’d be owing a huge tax liability.
And I tell you, I tell my clients all the time when I get done with their tax returns, especially my ones that owe a ton of money, I sit on it for a day because I don’t want to have to deliver the news, and I want to believe that I’ve done something wrong.
The problem is I’ve been doing this for a long time, 99.9% of the time, I haven’t done anything wrong. And through that process, I realize that wealth advisors and tax accounts aren’t talking. There’s no interaction throughout the year, and so, oftentimes, we aren’t able to advise them to withhold more taxes or implement different tax strategies that’ll help that a little bit. And without that communication, it’s just not going to happen.
And so, I really wanted to dedicate myself into creating this practice where I’m finding strategic alliances with financial advisors and that we’re able to serve the clients from a holistic proactive perspective.
Steven Jarvis: So much of that resonates with me. That’s very similar to what we’re doing with advisors at RTS, but I was so excited to learn that there are other CPAs out there doing that, even if there’s only a handful of us, because I don’t run into very many.
Because like you described quite often, the case for tax preparers is get to tax season, clean up a big mess, and then kind of even wait to make that phone call, because it’s such a painful phone call to make if there hasn’t been proactive planning that’s been done.
And for a lot of my listeners, they’re probably thinking, “No, I did the planning, the CPA didn’t listen, or the client was supposed to tell the CPA and that didn’t happen.” We can point fingers in a lot of directions, but finger pointing doesn’t accomplish anything. What you did is say, “Okay really, I don’t care whose fault it was, what can we do to make a better situation for clients?”
So, talk a little bit about how that works for you as far as working with the financial advisors. How do you make this a better experience for the clients?
Johnna Long: I mentioned creating those strategic partnership alliances and I try to stick with a handful of different advisors. So, I already have a relationship with them first and foremost, because I’ve learned that I have to build the trust with them just as much as I have to build the trust with my clients.
And so, after I built that relationship and I know that they’re serving their clients well and more so than anything, they’re willing to communicate with me and I’m willing to communicate with them — I’m actually touching base with them throughout the year, especially in years like this year where everything is a little wonky in the market, getting a sense of what does their client’s portfolio look like, what options do we have available, can we do some loss harvesting?
There’s so many different strategies that are out there based on what the year looks like and what their tax bracket is. And we’re just having those conversations. Now, that doesn’t mean that we’re always doing crazy tax planning ideas, but even just having those conversations throughout the year gives us the opportunity to find something, present to the client, and if they don’t want to do it, that’s totally fine.
But I’d rather come to my client with an idea and have them know that we are thinking about them together than just go through the year and again, collect those tax documents in April and have to make the news.
Steven Jarvis: We like to call that the dishwasher rule where even if you can’t take action on it, we’re still letting the clients know that we did something for them. And where that comes from is kind of this idea that you only get credit for doing the dishes, if you’re significant other knows that you did it.
This isn’t about patting yourself on the back. The clients, they get peace of mind, they get value out of knowing they’re being taken care of. So, that now, instead of seeing a headline or seeing someone on social media about tax loss harvesting and wondering, well, “Is my advisor or is my CPA, is Johnna taking care of that for me?”
They know you are, because you’ve practically reached out to them and said, “Hey, you’ve probably heard a lot about this, we went through and did an assessment. Here’s why it’s not a good fit for you this year or here’s why we might look at it next year” or whatever it might be, but we’re taking the time for that proactive communication. And that’s so much more effective when they’re getting a consistent message from their tax preparer and their wealth advisor.
Johnna Long: 100%. And I must say, I’ve never heard the dish washing rule and I will be bringing that not only into my tax practice, but my home. So, thank you for that at least.
Steven Jarvis: I’m a big fan of that. I learned that from our friends over at the perfect RIA. So, Johnna, as you look at this last tax season, working proactively with financial advisors, what were some other things that stood out to you that were different from what you had experienced in the past?
Johnna Long: So, I think a lot of the past, we get into the groove and everyone — well, not everyone, but people that are familiar with the tax accountants typical season are going to be like “Well, you’re in your busy season. And they just see it as this crunch to get through as much as possible. And that is true to a certain degree.
But what I did different this year was really take an approach of examining the investments a little bit closer, especially with those that I’ve already developed the relationship with their financial advisor, and getting a sense of what happened and coming with solutions.
I found out that when I came to my clients with solutions, especially when it came to large capital gain and all the taxes that come with that; when I came to them with saying, “Hey, I know that this is brutal from last year, but here are a couple things that I have in mind going forward that we can talk about with your financial advisor to make this year better.”
And I found that people respect it a little bit more and can chew that a little bit more when … they’re like “Okay, past is the past, but we’re going to fix this.” And so, that was a huge focus of this last tax season, at least for me. And I’d be curious to hear what you went through.
Steven Jarvis: So, a couple things I want to pull out of what you just said, and then I’ll share my own experience, but I talked to hundreds of financial advisors. And so, I know that it can feel at times with a financial advisor, like tax preparers are out to get you.
That we’ve all had this meeting and said, you know what, anything that goes wrong, we’re just going to blame on financial advisors, like let’s make this pact. But I at least wasn’t invited to that meeting. I don’t think that meeting ever happened.
I think what happens in reality is that you have tax preparers working in a silo and you have financial advisors working in a silo. And so, that when it comes to tax time, the tax preparer isn’t proactively trying to make life harder for the financial advisor, they’re just looking out for themselves, which is what all of us do.
And when you don’t have that intentional relationship you talked about, it’s only natural that the tax preparer would say, “Mr. and Mrs. taxpayer, you had to pay at an extra $20,000 in taxes this year because of what your financial advisor did.”
And that doesn’t come across well to the taxpayer. Like you said, Johnna, coming with solutions is a totally different scenario, but you’re really only going to be motivated to do that because you know that the financial advisor’s going to answer your call and that you’re going to work together on it.
And so, you’re creating a completely different dynamic where the tax preparer feels like they’re part of the team and they feel motivated to work collaboratively. So, that might seem like a small difference in how you describe that to some of our listeners, but it’s so impactful just knowing that proactive relationship is there.
And a lot of what we saw at RTS this year going through tax season, while it was on different topics, it might not just have been about having to pay more in taxes, although that did come up.
But just being able to come to the table with a tax preparer and … or a tax payer and feeling confident for myself that whatever I said to them, as far as planning went, that I would caveat it with, “Hey, I’m going to work with your financial advisor to make sure this fits in with your overall plan.”
And I felt confident knowing that the financial advisor was going to answer my call because we have that relationship. Whereas, if that relationship wasn’t there, then I’m probably not really offering a lot of that because I don’t know what’s going to happen when I call the tax or when I call the financial advisor.
And so, even if that relationship isn’t completely formal or it’s new and developing, having that baseline of, okay, when I call this financial advisor, I know that they’re going to take my call, that we can talk together that even if we have differences of opinion, we’re going to work it out and then go to the client, it makes a huge difference on the outcome for the client.
Johnna Long: 100%. And I think what you’re saying about the collaboration part and everyone’s working in the best interest in the client, but if the right hand’s not talking to the left hand, you could be building completely different structures.
And so, I think it’s so important to just get on the phone and have a quick call. And like you said, we can’t promise anything’s going to be done from a tax planning perspective because people don’t make their financial decisions on taxes alone.
We are kind of always left in the afterthought, and I think that’s what, it sounds like you are doing as well, is trying to be a little bit more ahead of that and say let us sit at the table and let us help you help our clients.
Steven Jarvis: So, you mentioned that really, you’re looking to work with financial advisors who meet some kind of base criteria of … you have some screening of you’re not just going to work with anyone because I could probably guess what some of those are, but I’d rather you just kind of share them.
So, when you look at whether or not you’d be willing to partner with a financial advisor, what are some of those things you’re looking for to say, yes, this is somebody I would be excited to collaborate with?
Johnna Long: So, I think it’s a little bit of difficult question because I think it changes along the way. First and foremost, I get on the call with them and someone once told me this once in a business sense and I thought it was funny, but now, I get it.
I do the vibe check: do we get along? Do we see eye to eye? Can I talk to them? Do we have the ability to make a relationship because it’s not going to be purely transactional. We’re both going to care about our clients and really be their advocates. And so, if I can’t just sit and have a conversation like you and I are having, it’s probably not going to be a good fit.
Beyond that, I try to make sure that we have similar clients. I don’t want myself to be stretched thin among doing taxes for everyone in every business, with all different types of investments. I want to continue to be as much of an expert in my area as possible and allow that for the financial advisor as well.
And then besides from a technical perspective, I just need to be partnering with people that are willing to pick up the phone like you said. Like I need to feel confident that when I have a question or when I want to check in to see how a client’s portfolio is going, that they’re willing to answer that call and work with me.
And I think that, for a lot of financial advisors for a lot of good reasons, haven’t had a lot of CPAs knocking on their door to do that. And so, it is a little bit newer, but I think a lot of it is just, do we get along, do we have common enough clients where it makes sense, and then, are we going to serve our clients well together? Like we have to be collaborative. And I will say that probably 50 more times on this podcast.
Steven Jarvis: Yeah, please keep saying it. It’s such an important piece there. And there’s a lot of reason I was excited to bring you on the podcast. But one of them is that in my perspective, if you see something happen once, it can be an exception and maybe it’ll never happen again. If you see it happen twice, okay, well then maybe this is real, we can keep finding instances of it.
And so, I’m just so glad that I now find the other CPAs who are taking this approach so that I can give hope to advisors out there. That even if you don’t ever have an opportunity to work with RTS or to work with Johnna, this is something to keep working towards.
And you might come across a lot of tax preparers who aren’t willing to do this before you find one who will work with you, but this is going to change the way your clients experience both financial planning and tax planning because every financial decision has a tax impact to it. So, don’t give up hope, keep driving, keep pushing for this type of relationship. Because like I said, the client is ultimately the one who’s going to win.
Now, at least from my perspective and Johnna, I’d love to hear your thoughts on as well — I am also very mindful of the fact that even though CPAs think very highly of themselves, this isn’t that CPAs have everything to offer, and so financial advisors should just come to us and do whatever program that we’ve thought up for them because we’re clearly the superior profession.
So, what are things that you are seeing in what you’re doing that are benefiting the advisor directly and not just the end client?
Johnna Long: First and foremost, we’re building a relationship. I’m building a relationship almost as a colleague relationship with these financial advisors. And I found that once that communication, the line of communication opens, my financial advisors are giving me calls and asking me high-level tax questions.
And it serves both of us really well. There’s been this like educational exchange where if they have a question on something from a tax perspective, I’m there to answer the call. It’s not just for specific client situations.
The more they know about taxes, and the more I know about what they’re doing, this is going to be so much more seamless. So, I see that benefit going in tenfold and it’s a benefit to me. It’s a benefit to them, it’s a benefit to the client.
Steven Jarvis: Yeah, absolutely. I definitely agree with that. So, Johnna, as we’re thinking back on this last tax season that we both just went through, I know for me that first and foremost, it was a phenomenal experience.
The level of interaction, the level of value, the level of planning I got to do, as opposed to just preparation was honestly more than at any other point in my career, because I went in with — the compliance still has to get done, but I went in knowing that I had created time, I had left myself room for part of the goal is the planning aspect of it.
And for me and the other people on my team, that really changed the dynamic for me and made it a lot more enjoyable experience because you mentioned it earlier about leaving the big firms and getting to focus more on working with individuals — it’s energizing to be able to go beyond, okay, I put the right number on the 10.40 to saying, “Hey, if we look at it this way, we can save you X amount of dollars over the next 10 years.”
And so, that was a huge benefit to me of how we’ve adjusted this model. What was that like for you?
Johnna Long: I can’t agree more with the energizing part of that. I think bringing solutions and actually starting to see them, especially right after tax season, start to see them put in play the plans that we put together for our clients, and they’re excited about it.
And I’ve had several clients since this last busy season schedule calls to sit in with both myself and their financial advisors. And to see that actually happen, to see that collaboration happen, that forward thinking happen, to see things actually be put in place that are including tax considerations, it’s been huge. And I think that our clients just feel like they’re being taken care of from a full perspective.
I heard this quote a long time ago and it stuck with me since we started doing this, but it was that the tax return really is just a report card of how you did with tax planning the last year.
And so, I’ve just tried to focus on, it’s a necessary evil, we have to file our taxes. But what can we do to really make that a better process along the way. And the energy that came from that, and just being excited to really be a part of my client’s financial perspective going forward and not have to deliver that bad news, it makes me feel like I’m offering more of a holistic approach.
Steven Jarvis: Yeah, that’s a great way to look at it as far as the tax return being a report card and really … so, where the differentiation comes in is most tax preparers are saying, “Here is your scorecard, come back again next year, and we’ll look at next year’s scorecard, cross your fingers, hope for the best.”
They’re probably not saying that last part, but that’s kind of how it happens, where now, taking this different approach of let’s work proactively together while we’re looking at that scorecard (you tell me if it’s different for you) — but while I was looking at the report card, I’m already thinking about, well, great, what do we do for 2022.
2021 is done by the time you get to tax reporting, there’s very little … there’s a couple of things, but there’s very little we can go back and do. But since I’ve got that relationship with the financial advisor, since I’ve committed to my clients, hey, we’re going to work together throughout the year, I am already thinking about how do we change the report card for next year?
And that’s the part I really like of not how many As did you get, or how many Cs do we need to turn into As. But great, what can we actually put into practice, what can we actually start doing?
Johnna Long: Right. It’s not a one-time transaction throughout the year. And I think that’s what really sets working like this apart from a typical turn in your tax documents, get your report card, pay your bill, see you next year.
And I think that it’s just personally showing in the way that my clients are interacting with me and in the tax strategies that we’ve already been able to put in place. We’re halfway through the year and we still have a solid six months to plan things. And so, I think it’s good to be thinking constantly of like okay, what are we going to do next?
Steven Jarvis: I always like to make sure that I’m sharing with my audience how things work in practice. So, Johnna, can you share a little bit more about how this dynamic works with financial advisors?
Because from a high level, it sounds great, that we’re all going to play nice, and we’re going to collaborate, and you’re going to send me information and we’re going to talk together.
But for you, what does this actually look like as far as are they signing agreements with you, how is information getting shared; how do you set that up so everyone is on track for success.
Johnna Long: So, once we’ve gotten past the point of okay, we’re going to be great business partners, this is going to work really well from a relationship perspective, and we start sharing the clients, it really for me, it’s worked out well so far. It’s been an open-door policy.
Once we have the proper documentation in place to share information back and forth for our clients, anything that’s shared, at least on my end, is always through secure portal and vice versa.
But I’ve found that any financial advisor I’m working with currently is always very quick to act when I’m asking for something. Their clients are seeing it too, and everyone is being really proactive and really quick and on top of their game. And I try to offer the exact same courtesy. If I have an advisor reach out to me, I try to get back to them right away.
So, from a logistical perspective, it is making sure that all the nuances, all the paperwork, everything like that is in place first, and then starting to work together, starting to have those combined client meetings.
And I think more than anything, at least having one initial meeting. And I would hope that you’re having more meetings together with your clients. But having that first meeting to show your clients, hey, we’re on a team. It’s not CPA versus financial advisor, it’s a team.
And I had one of my clients call me one time and they’re like … I’m going to make up a name. So, this financial advisor doesn’t know, but they’re like “Yeah, so, what did Alex say? Did she say that we should do this thing? The strategy she came up with?”
It’s like if Alex said that I trust her 100%, we can talk about it together. And I think it’s just keeping that team mentality all the way through.
Steven Jarvis: Absolutely. That changes the experience so much. And I like how you said, “I trust her 100%, we can talk about this together.” So, you’re not rubber-stamping everything the financial advisor says because you have your professional opinion as well. But great, I trust her that we can work this out together.
So, just to draw a couple of details out of there for listeners who are thinking, maybe I don’t have the chance to work with Steven or with Johnna — which reach out to us, maybe you do have the chance to work with us.
But if you go to a tax preparer, we don’t need dozens of pages of legal agreements to collaborate like this. What I heard in there Johnna is that you obviously have some kind of information sharing agreement. That’s key, that’s required by the IRS. That’s not something that you and I are making up.
But beyond that, we of course, need to take care of cybersecurity and some other things like that, but we’re not … at least correct me if I’m wrong. We’re not talking about dozens of pages of legal agreements that lawyers need to go back and forth on. We’re talking about some pretty basic things to say, yep, we’re going to keep this all confidential, here’s how we’re going to share the information.
And then it’s really more about building the relationship and having that collaboration. Is that fair to say?
Johnna Long: That is completely fair.
Steven Jarvis: Okay. Because I just want to make it real clear to all our listeners, all the financial advisors who listen to this podcast, that there’s definitely some additional work to set up a relationship like this, but it is totally possible.
You might even use this podcast of Johnna and I talking to share with tax preparers that are in your network to say, “Hey, could we explore something like this” so that we keep where we’re all kind of leaning in together and saying, “How do we keep elevating that client experience?”
Because as you and I were talking about it, this has been a better experience for us as tax preparers to collaborate with advisors. The feedback I get from the advisors I work with is that it is definitely a better experience for them. They love having someone they feel like is on their team, as opposed to someone they have to get defensive with or have this kind of battle of egos, of well, who’s smarter when it comes to the tax code. That’s not what this is about. It’s about how do we help our clients not get killed in taxes?
Johnna Long: Yeah, I want to just build off of what you said. I encourage any tax preparers or financial advisors, if you have even a CPA to reach out to that you’re comfortable enough with, explore that. Just try it out with one client that maybe you know that they’re already serving and you’re serving and see if you can have a meeting and work on that.
So, I think you’ll find that once you’re on the same page, it’s so much easier than you would ever imagine to just keep pushing forwards because ultimately, both of you want the same thing. You want to provide the best client experience. And so, I highly encourage reaching out to anyone that you can to try that out.
Steven Jarvis: Yeah, absolutely. And so, Johnna, you are now based in the Seattle area. So, if there are advisors who are like “I really like what she’s describing here,” how would an advisor reach out directly to you and learn more about what you’re doing?
Johnna Long: So, they can go ahead and reach out to me at Johnna, that’s, J-O-H-N-N-A @FinTax partners.com (firstname.lastname@example.org). Our website is www.fintaxpartners.com. Please feel free to reach out to me. Even if you just have questions on how I’ve managed to make this work, I’m more than happy to have that conversation.
Steven Jarvis: Yeah, there’s so much need in the industry for this. I love that that’s your attitude, that’s your approach of hey, let’s just share, let’s have this abundance mentality and share what works and what’s been good and what needs to keep being improved.
So, yeah for people listening, we’ll make sure that gets in the show notes, but definitely reach out to Johnna, reach out to me. We’d love to keep talking about things like this on the podcast.
So, thank you for sharing that, Johnna. We always want to make sure that we are wrapping up the podcast with action items because as we all know, information without action has no value. And so, want to make sure that we’re taking this conversation and making it real clear, here’s what you can do with this.
So, I think you already covered the first step there, which is, think about the tax preparers already in your network and proactively reach out to further this conversation to say, how do we elevate the way we collaborate?
And this probably isn’t, let’s go from wherever we’re at today to immediately to what Johnna and Steven are doing, but how do we keep pushing that along so the client keeps elevating their experience as well.
Johnna, as you think about what you’ve gone through and what you’ve built so far, what are other action items that you would recommend for people listening to the podcast?
Johnna Long: It will be dependent on how your CPA is or what their experience is. But I encourage to ask questions. If you’re a financial advisor, feel free to reach out to CPA and ask them how does this work? Is there anything I should be aware of in terms of this? Especially if you know you have a shared client.
Because I think the CPA one, everyone likes to be asked for help. We all do. It’s human nature. And if you are starting to ask those questions, then they’ll know, okay, you’re more interested in learning more and maybe they can learn more from you.
And it’s kind of a way to start building that relationship in a softer way and maybe you’ll know really quickly, “Oh, this is a person I want to continue to this relationship.” So, ask tax questions. We’re here to help too.
Steven Jarvis: Yeah. I love that recommendation. Well, a lot of times on the podcast, we talk about offering to pay for an hour of CPA’s time to get those questions answered, so you’re setting yourself apart. That you’re coming from that place of demonstrating respect, demonstrating professionalism.
But you’re absolutely right, we all like to feel like we’re an expert and whether you offer to pay for an hour of their time or not, even just starting from genuinely wanting to learn.
Because for most CPAs, and I’d be curious if your experience was different Johnna. A lot of the financial advisors that reach out are saying something along the lines of, “Well, I see we serve similar clients, I would love to talk about you sending me referrals.” And I don’t ever respond to those requests. You got to find a way to differentiate yourself.
Last action item that I’ll throw out, not surprising … I’m sure to anyone, but take a minute wherever you listen to your podcast, go ahead and give us a five-star review and leave a comment. We love hearing feedback, we love hearing that this is valuable for everyone. We want this podcast to keep growing so that we can keep sharing this message with more and more advisors.
We are already having thousands of downloads a month. We know that this is a growing topic, but there’s a lot of need for it. So, take a minute to do that for us. We really appreciate it.
Johnna, thanks so much for coming on the show today. It was a pleasure having you on.
Johnna Long: Thank you for having me. This was great. I will come back anytime.
Steven Jarvis: Perfect. We’d love to have you back on. For everyone listening, until next time, good luck out there. And remember to tip your server and not the IRS.
We’re not overpaying. No, we’re not overpaying. We’re not overpaying anymore. The tax code’s complicated, boring, and overrated. You don’t want that, you want a pro. One thing that you should know: this is a radio show. It’s not tax advice, don’t take it that way.
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.