By: Stan Hill
Our profession continues to be one of the most trusted in the world. For the past 25 years, my public accounting experience has presented me many opportunities with a varied list of clients, in many different situations. It has required me to maintain integrity and confidentiality while allowing me to listen and get to know my clients. In preparing clients’ income tax returns, you see on the surface how well someone may be doing or possibly not doing. But when you take the time to get to know them better and learn to ask the right questions, their secrets may be exposed and you learn how things really are in their financial world—not having enough cash to take care of car or house emergencies, make a dent in their credit card bills or mortgage, or even layoffs. When they let you in on their financial secrets, they are asking for help and putting trust and faith in you as a professional.
Each tax season I am reminded of the great service we can provide our clients when we do more than just crunch the numbers for a refund or an amount owed on their income tax returns. In the past few years with the suffering and the now slowly recovering economy, I have seen individual tax returns indicative of personal financial struggles and heard comments like “I wish I would have been better prepared,” and “it will take me forever to get out of this debt I am under.” What do they need? It’s simple—basic financial literacy.
For the past three years I have been fortunate enough to use my financial skills through coordinating and leading a financial literacy program at my church. I am always humbled when someone pulls me aside and tells me their financial concerns, but then asks for help and guidance. It’s never too late to introduce someone to better financial management. Sure, wouldn’t we all have been better off if we started a small IRA when we were earning money during our teenage years, and stayed away from those deceptive credit card offers in college! CPAs are perfectly positioned to help those in dire straits manage through difficult financial times and help them to realize there is hope for better financial security—whether they are clients, church members, etc., no matter their age.
For those of you in public practice, can you do more than just crunch numbers during the remainder of the 2014 tax season? Be a financial counselor, listen, and offer guidance in the area of financial literacy. Remember, we are the most trusted for financial secrets.
Stan Hill, CPA, is a partner with the public accounting firm Watts & Scobie in Raleigh, NC. He has been an active member of NCACPA since 1990. He has volunteered in many capacities including officer positions on the Triangle Chapter Board, former member of the Chapter Advisory Group, and currently a member of the Member Connections Committee and the CPA Day of Service Sub-Committee, and President of the NC CPA Foundation.