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Why tax is the least exciting thing about tax content

Sep 22, 2016

Tax

There’s no escaping the fact that taxation is a big part of accounting. Helping your small business clients to understand the impact of tax on their finances – and most importantly, how much they have to pay, and when – is something that’s a vital part of your advisory service. And that means that there will be occasions where you have to talk or write about tax.

But, as any business owner will tell you, they often find the details of tax issues a deathly dull topic (no, really!).

That creates a problem for you: how do you talk about tax without boring the pants off people? And how do you write tax content that’s not going to cause your readers to doze off into their coffee halfway through?

As you know, there are things your clients need to know about tax. They even want to know it! …but it’s still deathly dull to read about. They want to try and make sense of tax tables. Or to work out which tax calculator they’re meant to use etc.

The answer to making this tax content interesting – counter-intuitive as it may seem – is to not talk about tax…

Your clients care about tax: but not the way you care

Here’s the problem with tax content – no-one, other than tax specialists, really cares about the details of tax. What they care about is:

  • How much they have to pay
  • When they have to pay it
  • Whether they have the funds to pay it

Sometimes, now and then, a business owner will want to know why they have to pay this level of tax. (But not all of them even want to know this.)

You’re the expert: you can look at the tax table or list of requirements and know what the implications are. You’ll realise that your freelancer, who’s about to become a limited company, is going to have to pay twice as much in tax if he/she makes this decision rather than that one. But your clients don’t make that assumption: which is why they have you to help them!

Getting people to care about tax legislation and regulations is what you might call an uphill struggle, at best…and an impossibility, at worst.

Why do business owners find detailed tax information boring?

Here’s why it’s boring for your clients to read the latest tax content:

  • The UK tax rules are highly technical and (some would say) unnecessarily complicated – so people find tax daunting.
  • That complexity makes tax impenetrable to all but the most experienced tax practitioners – so it’s challenging to  make sense of it.
  • Most tax calculations require a lot of messing around with formulas, rates and percentages – and (shock, horror) that sounds like hard work to most people.
  • Most importantly, understanding these detailed tax regulations is what they pay you for: so your clients don’t want to read the latest on tax. They just need to know how it affects them (or if it does)

So your challenge is to make an inherently ‘boring’ topic sound exciting, engaging and – most importantly – relevant to your client’s business!

How do you do that?

Stop talking about the tax rules, and talk about how they affect your clients

The most important thing is to talk a little as possible about the tax rules, and as much as possible about the benefits of great tax planning and management.

Business owners and MDs are interested in:

  • Paying less tax and reducing their costs
  • Claiming tax back and making more profit
  • Dealing as little as possible with anything related to tax

It’s vital that you don’t sit down with a busy owner manager and explain to them, in minute detail, the rules, rates and requirements of corporation tax, or VAT or any of the other myriad business taxes. No-one wants a meeting with ‘Professor Tax’, believe us.

What they want to hear is how you can help them achieve their goals, through better tax management, smaller tax costs and bigger profits.

Now, most of you are aware of this. When your client comes in, you talk to them about tax in a way they can (and want to) understand, which is different for every client.

But this applies to all the marketing or content that you deliver in advance of that meeting. What if the client never comes in? Never asks for a meeting? Doesn’t realise how it affects them?

If you’re going to share the newest tax regulations, don’t share the tax regulations.

Share what it means, who it’s for and, in the clearest language possible, what it means for them.

When the new tax regulations come out, don’t talk about the tax regulations

If you’re sitting down to draft an idea for a tax blog, or looking at a blank PowerPoint template waiting for some inspiration for your next tax event, bear the following in mind…

“Tell me how you can help my business, don’t bore me with tax regulations”

You might even want to use that as your new mission or vision statement. Don’t bore them, help them!

If there are new tax elements in the Budget, for example, don’t just broadly send that out to every client. Hack the Budget up into parts and send the relevant information to each niche, or segment or industry. Make it all about them.

Here are a few ways you can do this:

  • Identify which niche or industry areas it affects – When you identify the latest tax laws, and how they’ll affect creatives, property owners, architects, or owners of limited companies etc, it makes your marketing easier. But most importantly, you make it relevant and helpful to your clients.
  • Outline the impact of tax changes – tell me how changes in taxation will affect me, and the impact on my business plan and end profits.
  • Give solutions that minimise that impact – explain how you can reduce these effects, and give money back to my business.
  • Talk about how you can improve profit – give me the lowdown on how cutting those tax costs will improve my overall profitability.
  • Explain how tax planning is vital for financial stability – show me how planning my tax across the year makes the business financially successful.
  • Don’t answer the tax question immediately – as with many high-level business decisions, just because it’s an easy answer for you doesn’t mean you want to give it away (particularly if your client isn’t paying for that advice). Admit it’s a problem, promise to look into it, and then come back to them with an offer to meet or discuss it – with enough information that they know this is relevant (and could save them money).

Your clients will listen to you: tell them what they care about

You’re a trusted adviser to your small business clients. They know you’re an expert, they’re comfortable with your working relationship and – crucially – they listen to what you tell them.

So when you’re getting ready to talk about tax, make sure you’re giving them solid, practical advice – actions they can take, solutions you can help put in place…and not the minutiae of the UK tax code (however interesting you personally may find that).

Your plumber doesn’t explain what gauge copper piping they’re going to use, or the exact kind of plastic washers needed to mend your plumbing issue. (Well, they might, but most of us would just nod and smile and have no idea what they’re talking about.) They tell you just what you need and want to know – and for most of us, that’s 1) where the leak is, 2) when it will be fixed and 3) how much it will cost.

Here are a few things to be alert to in your own marketing:

  • Tax tables and calculators on your site: Most people don’t look at or use them. Find out if your clients actually care. If they don’t, remove them and replace with a video, a really interesting and relevant blog, an infographic or something much more fascinating.
  • Loooooong boring tax articles or posts: If you’re taking tax content delivered to you by some governing body, such as the HMRC or IRS or similar, and putting it directly on your website or in articles you send out to clients, it’s time to hack that content apart. Cut out about 90% of it, get to the point and show who it relates to. 
  • Budget updates: Again, most of your clients don’t care about the Budget itself. What they do care about is the impact it will have on them. As much as possible, adapt your Budget updates to categories or types of people or businesses. Your clients will thank you for it.
  • Tax events: If you invite the local tax expert, who might have a tendency to rattle on about tax regulations and percentages and numbers, be careful. Invite them – have them in the room to answer key questions – but develop a presentation and an approach which is helpful, not dry.

Do remember, as well, that you don’t want to treat your clients as though they are too stupid to understand tax. That’s not the problem here. Make sure you clarify that your clients are smart, educated (whether formally or informally) and completely able to understand all these regulations, if they took the time.

But who has that kind of time?

Nobody. We just call our accountants if we want to know.

So give them just what they need to know, and talk to them about it.