How Registered Investment Advisors Are Prospects to Buy Tax Only CPA Firms

by | Oct 5, 2017 | News

How Registered Investment Advisors Are Prospects to Buy Tax Only CPA Firms

You have a heavy tax practice with a lot of 1040 clients. I hate to break the bad news, but most CPA firms do not want that practice. The exception will be very high end 1040 fee clients, but even then, unless the firm has a wealth management practice, it is much less attractive. The good news is RIAs are interested in these types of practices.

Why does an RIA want a tax heavy accounting practice?

They want to mine the individuals for potential wealth management opportunities. It makes sense. Take a practice doing 1,000 1040’s. Assume 900 of them are not good fits for wealth management. If 10% have the potential of $1M to $5M in assets to manage that converts to 100 wealth clients. Get a little more conservative. Estimate only 25% of the 100 can be converted with an average balance of $2M of assets to manage. 25 clients times $2M is $50M at 1% is $500,000 of annuity wealth management income.

Break these numbers down a little further.

  1. The example assumed only a 2.5% conversion of the 1040’s. Do 97.5% of the tax clients have no measurable retirement accounts or other assets to manage? If so, you might want to pass on that firm, but the odds are there is more potential than 2.5% of the clients.
  2. It also assumes a $2M average balance. Is that too high or too low? Keep in mind when you add in retirement accounts that have accumulated over thirty or forty years, outside investments, real estate, inheritances or potential inheritances, cash in banks, etc. it does add up. Then, if a few of them sell businesses they own the average net worth goes up significantly. Most likely the numbers being used are conservative examples of the potential.
  3. In this example, there are no “big-fish” included. Every firm has a few high net worth clients. A few at $10M each can add a few hundred thousand dollars more. Just two of them at $10M each is another $200,000 in investment income.
  4. Who do these clients know? Image the whale who also has whale-sized friends or family with similar wealth positions. Why do the tax return for free for these clients? Because it is an incentive for them to talk to you and it is a feel-good type of item. If a whale brings $10M in assets to the table, and you make $100,000 managing it at the cost of a $1,500 1040 fee, that is a good outcome. In 10 years, assuming no-growth in the asset base to be conservative, you would have made $1M less $15,000 in tax return fees.

What is a bad fit for an RIA?

They can hire personnel to do the tax work. Many do it for free for their clients to retain the wealth management. That’s where the money is to them. A bad fit is assurance work. Unless the owner is a CPA, audits and reviews are an automatic out. Compiled financial statements are a bit of a gray area, but that might vary state by state. The reason is compiled financial statements can be used for

They can hire personnel to do the tax work. Many do it for free for their clients to retain the wealth management. That’s where the money is to them. A bad fit is assurance work. Unless the owner is a CPA, audits and reviews are an automatic out. Compiled financial statements are a bit of a gray area, but that might vary state by state. The reason is compiled financial statements can be used for line of credit borrowing. In addition to the legal and technical issues of an RIA doing assurance work, the bigger question is why would they do that unless they already are in a CPA firm? Stay focused on wealth management and use the tax returns to fuel that growth.

To talk further, please contact Bob Lewis.

Bob is the President of The Visionary Group & CPA Growth and can be reached at 800.995.9186 or blewis@ThinkVisionary.com. Visionary provides growth services and customized merger and acquisition searches for the CPA profession.

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