Click Here To Listen To The Retirement Tax Services Podcast


What You'll Learn In Today's Episode
  • As financial advisors, you should always know who your clients work with. During the onboarding process, collect and record this information about their CPAs, attorneys and other COIs in your CRM.
  • Develop a system that helps you build relationships with your client’s COIs over time. Matt Jarvis shared a great system that he has developed in the previous podcast episode, so make sure to check that out.
  • Make sure this system you ideate or adapt is valuable and easily replicable so it can serve you for different clients and the different professionals they work with. It always helps to write down the steps involved.
  • Ensure that you are always up to date with your clients and prospects' tax returns. Knowing what’s going on in your client's financial life helps to reduce the likelihood of there being factors you haven't considered when making tax paying recommendations such as a Roth conversion
  • In case of a conflict with a COI, try to solve it amicably without going on the defensive.
Resources In Today’s Episode:

Executive Summary:

Welcome to the Retirement Tax Services Podcast! In this episode, Steven looks at interactions between financial planners and other centers of influence (COIs).

Everyone hopes for things to go well when dealing with a client’s CPA. However, that’s not guaranteed. For instance, what happens if you advise a client to do something and then it accidentally creates a headache for another COI?

Michael, a successful financial planner could tell you: it will be awkward, at best and if you handle it poorly, it can negatively impact your relationships with both your client and that accountant.

You Can Survive Worst-Case Scenarios

Michael recently got a call from a tax preparer. They berated him for helping one of their mutual clients do a Roth conversion without consulting the tax preparer first. To make matters worse, they had the client on the line; hearing every word.

It was an unpleasant surprise, but Michael knew his response was crucial. That is to say, some centers of influence would immediately snap to their own defense. However, this could never add value to the client.

In contrast, experience had taught him to be careful. Justified or not, hostility would assure a disastrous outcome.

Instead, he chose to take ownership of the situation. He apologized for not notifying the COI of what he and their client were planning to do in advance. Next, he politely explained what his approach was and why he believed it had made sense for the client.

Later he sent an apologetic handwritten note to the preparer. To clarify, he didn’t apologize for his recommendation. He simply made it clear that he was sorry how things had unfolded.

COIs: Consider Their Side

Michael followed up his note with an email (and included the client): He offered to pay the tax preparer for an hour of his time to discuss tax-planning and compare strategies.

Within 10 minutes of sending the email, the tax preparer called back. He apologized for his tone on the call and for having their client on the line at the time. They talked tax-planning, agreeing to proactively notify each other in the future.

Meanwhile, Steven explains the CPAs’ and tax preparers’ side of things: They inevitably end up being the bearer of bad news to the client. For instance as an advisor, you get to work regularly with a client on planning throughout the year. However, when it’s time for your client to write a huge check to the IRS—as part of the advised plan—that client will vent at the CPA.

Don’t Burn Bridges With COIs; Win Allies

On the other hand, the ideal scenario happens if an advisor collaborates upfront. When you explicitly notify the preparer and client(s) of any potential bills in advance, the result is a win-win.

Utilize opportunities to build bridges with your clients’ COIs. When a prospect signs on as a client, note their tax preparer or CPA in your CRM.

That can be the start of a list you build relationships with. From there, as you get to know them individually, you’ll grow resources for referring clients. Matthew Jarvis discusses encouraging centers of influence to generate referrals here.

Steven has lots more in this edition of the Retirement Tax Services Podcast. If you enjoy it, please feel free to subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts or wherever you’re listening from.

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


Hello everyone, welcome to the Retirement Tax Podcast, I’m your host Steven Jarvis and on today’s episode we’re going to talk about how advisors can deliver more value to their clients through working proactively with centers of influence or COI’s; and because of my background as a CPA, we’re going to focus primarily on working with CPA’s, as centers of influence but this is going to apply [really] regardless of the professional service that we’re talking about.

If you missed our last episode, I had a great conversation with Matt Jarvis who’s an advisor in our retirement tax services community, he’s also the cofounder of, and Matt has found a ton of success in getting referrals from centers of influence, and the episode that I did with Matt, he goes step by step through his process with centers of influence and why his approach has landed him such great results when it comes to referrals. Make sure you take a chance to go back and listen to the episode if you haven’t already. For today’s episode, we’re going to keep talking about centers of influence, but we’re going to shift focus to something that I’m sure all advisors can relate to, whether you prospect for new clients from COI’s or not.

Michael Shares A Story About His Experience With A Client’s COI [1:37]

So to really kick things off, we’re going to start with a story: it comes from Michael, a great advisor who is kind enough to share an experience that happens to advisors all the time. Michael, you are far from alone in having this experience. So Michael recently got a call from one of his clients, tax repairers in his words, berating him for helping his client do Roth conversion without consulting the tax repairer first.

This of course is a conversation that is zero fun for any professional but what made the situation all the more uncomfortable for Michael was that the tax repairer had the client on the line for the call, to just imagine getting a call you’re not expecting and it’s another service professional and your client, and the immediate tone is “Hey Michael you screwed something up”. So some of you are going to be all relate to this from firsthand experience, but whether you’ve had this experience or not I’m sure we can all sympathize with Michael’s situation. I know personally I can certainly relate to this even though I’m not a financial advisor, as a CPA, my clients are always working with other financial professionals, and there’s that overlap that creates these situations. So if this hasn’t happened to you yet just wait, it will. Hopefully what I’m sharing today will help you feel prepared when this inevitably happens to you with one of your clients. Okay so Michael’s in this really uncomfortable situation, but before we get to how Michael responded, let’s talk for a minute about why these types of calls happen to begin with.

Why Michael’s Story Is A Common Issue Faced By Many Advisors [3:02]

As an advisor you typically aren’t a competitor with a tax repairer, you serve the same clients, just in different ways. So why do I hear from so many advisors who have stories similar to Michael’s? Among the various reasons the one that stands out the most is that CPAs and tax repairers inevitably end up being the bearer of bad news to the client, and guess what, they don’t like it, nobody likes being the one who has to bring up the bad news. As the advisor you get to work with your clients throughout the year and all these exciting planning steps, as you prepare them for retirement and then at the end of the year the CPA at times is left sorting out the details and potentially telling the client that they have to write a cheque to the IRS. Now we all know that money is emotional and tax is even more so. So here’s what the situation looks like from the CPA standpoint – so Mr & Mrs financial advisors sits down with their clients, says “okay Kathy client it looks like we have a great opportunity this year to do a Roth conversion that will potentially save you money in taxes over your lifetime and help eliminate uncertainty related to taxes in future years. Now Kathy client does that sound like something you would be interested in?” And of course the client is most likely going to be interested especially if the advisor has done their homework and has good tax projections to make sure this makes sense for the client. They’ve done a good job explaining how it fits for the clients and if it is a good fit, a lot of clients receive yeah that sounds great “let’s go ahead and do that”. So for the advisor, this is potentially a great value add for the clients and we’ll do another episode on how to evaluate whether a Roth conversion is a good fit for a client; but even if it’s not or the clients are interested in the client’s hesitant, worst case scenario for the advisor is that the client decides not to move forward but feels like they’re working with an advisor who’s looking out for them and taking care of them. So that’s the worst case for the advisor.

Now it’s completely different from the CPA side because from the CPA side, if they’re really lucky their client has an advisor who collaborated with them up front so that both the CPA and the clients are very aware of what the plan is and what any extra tax bill from this Roth conversion might look like. So best case scenario for the CPA – they’ve got a little bit of extra work to do come tax time to make sure this is properly accounted for in the tax return, but ultimately the client is still excited about what the advisor did for them and the CPA just has some extra steps to deal. That’s best case scenario, worst case scenario for the CPA puts them right in the middle of a mess that they weren’t the ones who started. So worst case scenario something like this: the advisor recommends a Roth conversion early in the year to the client and doesn’t tell the CPA and doesn’t do a good job explaining to the client this is going to be something they should collaborate with their tax repairer CPA on, and so then the end of the year comes around and any number of the following things has happened. The client forgot that the Roth conversion is going to increase their tax bill for the year leading the CPA to explain “Hey here’s a cheque you have to write”, maybe the advisor didn’t realize that the conversion pushed the adjusted gross income of the client high enough that there’s other considerations such as, how much of social security is taxable or other phase outs and limitations in the tax code related to AGI, maybe the advisor did realize that but the clients had other activities during the year like, selling a property or a business or getting a large bonus, other things that might affect both marginal tax rate and AGI, that that Roth conversion now complicates the situation and the advisor just wasn’t aware of it and there can be any other number of circumstances that might come up any one or combination of these creates a potentially very messy situation for the CPA to sort out during tax time.

So at this point the CPA is the one left telling the client that they have to write this cheque to the IRS, so here’s this deduction you don’t get now because it was phased out by your AGI getting too high. And the CPS one sitting there with a client explaining these bad things right, or maybe they’re not even bad things, maybe the Roth conversion still makes sense but the CPA’s the one left, ultimately asking them to write a cheque to the IRA. That’s a situation none of us want to be in and so just, human nature, that CPA and many of us would take the same approach is going to respond in a defensive way, in a way that doesn’t lay the blame on themselves because that’s what most of us do. And so the CPA which is what happened in Michael’s situation the CPA is gonna say “oh well you know Kathy client your financial advisor recommended this terrible strategy, this resulted in you paying extra taxes, we better call and tell them what a bad job they did”, and this is literally what happened to Michael.

How Michael Handled This Awkward, Potentially Hostile Situation with the COI [8:47]

So, when this situation happens there’s a small piece of the CPA’s response that honestly is totally justified, because the advisor, even if this was a great recommendation, the advisor, should take ownership for the whole thing because recommending the Roth conversion was their idea to begin with, and as the advisor it’s on you to proactively work with the clients on all of the elements that are impacted by this strategy. Now taking ownership can be really hard to do especially with the CPA calls you and has the client on the phone right, it’s really easy and natural for us to want to defend ourselves, to want to argue with the CPA, but that doesn’t help add value to the client. Okay so we can hope that the CPA is going to play nice and call us and sort it all out but realistically this situation does happen to advisors over and over again. And regardless of what approach the CPA takes if your priority is delivering value to your client you have to start with taking ownership of the situation and that’s what Michael did in his situation.

So Michael story goes on and as he gets this phone call and is put in this awkward situation, he immediately starts with saying “okay Mr. Tax Repairer, I really screwed up here, I should have let you know what we were planning to do, I should’ve talked with you proactively about this.” Now Michael goes on to explain as politely as he can to this CPA or the tax repairer what his approach was, what his thought process was and why he thought this made sense for the client. So the conversation wraps up. I wasn’t there for it, I’m hearing Michael’s side of it but as he left the conversation he still felt like this was a little bit unresolved, he wanted to do more because Michael’s a great advisor and he’s always looking for ways to improve. So Michael went to a network of advisors that he has that he can work with, that he can share ideas with. As a quick side note here, if you don’t have a network of advisors of your peers, a mastermind, term we use for it sometimes, if you don’t have that, I really recommend that you find it. Being able to work with other people who are doing the same thing you are, gives you the opportunity to make sure you’re learning what works in practice. With anything we do we really want to focus on the element of what works and who is actually doing this. So here at Retirement Tax Services, we are creating a community of advisors who are focused on adding value through tax planning, but there are other great communities out there like the Backstage Pass Program, through, so if you don’t have a community like that, please go find one. So thankfully for Michael, he has a community he’s a part of and he was able to get some great advice. So he ended up sending a handwritten note to the tax repairer after this call, once again apologizing for the situation not apologizing for his recommendation, just apologizing that this is how it all unfolded. So he followed up the note with an email to the tax repairer that he included the client on offering to pay for an hour of the tax repairer’s time to discuss tax planning strategies with the tax repair specific to the client. Within 10 minutes of sending that email Michael actually got a call from the tax repairer who apologized for his tone on the call and especially for having the client on the call when he made it. So Michael and the client’s tax repairer were able to have a great conversation about tax planning, and both agreed to be more proactive about working together in the future. So I really want to congratulate Michael for how he handled that situation and for taking ownership, and recommend the other advisors use this as a template or a reference for what to do if the situation comes up for you in your practice. Just like you have clients that work with a variety of CPA’s and tax repairers, those CPA’s in tax repairs have clients that work with even more financial advisors, which should reinforce why you need to constantly ask yourself “what am I doing to set myself apart from the rest of the pack?”

The Importance of Building Relationships With COIs [11:31]

Well Michael is able to resolve his situation with a good outcome for the client and build a better relationship with this tax repairer along the way. Imagine how the situation could have played out differently. A key reason the tax repairer was so quick to throw Michael under the bus, is that he had no idea who Michael was. Think about this in your own life, how much more likely are you to blame another professional if you have never met them, never talked to them and never seen how they deliver value to their clients? Many of us assume good intent as a starting point but that goes out the window pretty quickly, when we are left cleaning up a messy situation that from our perspective was caused by someone else. And oh by the way we don’t know anything about that someone else. If a tax repairer or a CPA already has a relationship with their clients advisor and the situation comes up, human nature is gonna push them towards a response of “okay Mrs client I’m not sure this approach entirely make sense but I’ve worked with your advisor in the past and know that they do good work. Would it be alright if we all got on the phone to make sure I understand the thought process behind this?”

Right so if you have a relationship already with these centers of influence, they’re going to give you more benefit of the doubt and they’re gonna work more proactively with you. And oh by the way, this is exactly how you should respond if a client comes to you with a potential problem, started by another professional, whether you know that professional or not. We want to hold ourselves to a higher standard, we want to always take that extreme ownership to make sure we are serving the client as best we can because if we leave the story behind for a minute that Michael brought to us and flip it around, we’ve already been discussing how you as a professional service provider should respond. When inevitably a client comes to you telling you all about a recommendation from their CPA, that you think is a terrible idea, you have to start with assuming positive intent and letting the client know that is where you’re starting from whether you know the CPA or not. It would be great if everyone followed this approach but let’s take extreme ownership and focus on what we can control ourselves, beyond this being a matter of taking ownership, let’s also look at how this works from the standpoint of delivering value to the client, even if you have a client who comes to you with a strategy that under no circumstances you feel could be a good idea, for example, the client comes in and says “so Mr. Advisor, I was talking to my CPA and they said that I should liquidate all my assets and buy only gold.” What value are you providing as the advisor? If you respond with, “wow that’s a terrible idea! Your CPA must be an idiot.” Now you might feel that way, it might be true, I’m not here to debate the merits of the recommendation; and if you’d rather insert another example that resonates with you like “my CPA has the opportunity for me to buy a rental property in Hawaii that is guaranteed to cash flow for life”, feel free. Whatever resonates with experiences that you’ve had. Whatever the example, the point is that they chose to work with the CPA and if your response is to highlight how crazy the idea is in your mind, you are going to either make your client feel stupid for picking that CPA or make them very defensive – that’s not how we add value. If instead you say something like “Mr. & Mrs. Client, I would love to learn more about why your CPA recommended that, that’s not usually a recommendation we make. Could we find a time to all discuss this together?” Now don’t immediately pick up the phone and call the CPA with your client the room, like from our earlier story. Send the CPA an email with the same tone of – “I’d really like to learn more.” Start with that inquisitive position, and then in the email list some of the questions you’d like answered, so they have a chance to prepare for the conversation and are not immediately put on the spot with the client, which will inevitably put them on the defensive. If you call them with the client on the line they’re not trying to come up with the best solution, they’re trying to justify their actions to the client just like you most likely would.

So I’m not giving a blanket free passes to CPA’s and assume that all of their ideas are pure gold, but starting with well they must be an idiot is not providing value to your client. You may have that meeting and still feel like it’s a terrible recommendation but from my own experience and talking to advisors currently practicing in the industry, usually when a client brings you a terrible idea from another financial professional, there has been some kind of misunderstanding that you can clear up if you proactively work together. Approaching the situation this way gives you an opportunity to not only provide value to the client but to build a stronger relationship with a center of influence that you know already serves similar clients because they’re serving one of your clients.

All right, I’ve been focused on the more extreme negative examples of what can happen in practice with centers of influence, but this is where the pain comes from and areas where as professionals we miss out on delivering value to our clients. So as advisors you should be proactively working with the professionals who serve your clients whether they’ve come to your attention for good reasons or bad reasons. To do this you have to know who your clients are working with. Part of your on boarding process should be collecting this information and recording it in your CRM. This lets you better serve individual clients and is a great starting point for building a list of COI’s that you might want to build relationships with so that you have resources for referring your clients as well as potentially developing referrals for yourself. And this will be a great list to have in mind as you go back and listen to the episode with Matt, about using centers of influence to generate referrals.

Steven’s Actionable Advice For Advisors Looking To Avoid Michael’s Situation [16:33]

All right so stories are great but let’s wrap up, I talk about action you can take on this topic. The first thing I would recommend is that you adjust your on-boarding process to make sure you’re capturing information about what other professionals your client is working with and record them in your CRM. CPA’s, attorneys, whoever it might be that your client is also being served by. The next action step is to develop a system for building relationships with those other professionals that your clients are working with, you already know these are steel lines that work with clients that you also want to serve, so whether you take that’s approached from earlier episode or come up with a system that works for you, make sure it’s a system that you can use repeatedly, make sure you write it down. The last action step I’m gonna recommend is one you will hear me constantly talk about, and that is to make sure that you are getting your clients and prospects tax returns, that might seem like a hard left turn from what I’ve been talking about today but I really feel like this is always relevant. For today’s purpose this is a really easy way to add your clients tax repairer to your CRM since the 1040 list to prepare the tax return and it helps give you context for other things going on in your client’s financial life to help reduce the likelihood that there are factors you haven’t considered when making tax paying recommendations such as a Roth conversion. All right thanks for listening today, if you’d like to learn more please look for the Retirement Tax Podcast wherever you find your podcasts. or visit our website at If you have experienced something similar to Michael and need help on what to do or have a story you’d like to hear shared on a podcast, feel free to email us at Yes, .tax is a domain name and once again that’s Thanks again for listening and until next time let’s all tip our servers 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.

Contact Us