While their primary responsibility is to maintain accurate records and ensure compliance with tax regulations, a truly exceptional accountant goes beyond their conventional duties.
They embrace the role of an advocate, fighting fiercely for their clients' interests and helping them navigate change and the complexities of the financial world.
Here are some ways you and your team can become passionate advocates for your clients.
The role of advocacy in accounting
Advocacy, in the context of accounting, refers to actively representing and defending clients' financial interests. It involves going beyond the surface-level tasks and engaging in strategic discussions, providing valuable insights and proactively identifying opportunities or challenges that may affect a client's financial well-being.
With the exception of auditors, who are required to be independent from a business, accountants are in an ideal position to advocate for clients because they have an intimate understanding of their clients' financial affairs.
Leveraging this knowledge as an accountant, you can significantly contribute to the success of a business by guiding financial decision-making, preventing mistakes, and identifying new opportunities.
Jody Grunden, CPA, Partner at Summit CPA (Division of Anders CPAs), believes that advocacy goes beyond helping existing clients:
“We need to advocate and help businesses even if they’re not our clients. Thought leadership is obtained when you speak for those who can’t or won’t. As trusted professionals we have a platform and a podium to do just that. Use it!”
By embracing the role of an advocate, you can foster stronger relationships, empower clients and business owners, and drive mutual success. Your professional relationships become stronger when you fight for what your clients believe in. If they thrive, you thrive!
How to empower clients through advocacy
Accountants are well-positioned to act as true business partners, and there are many ways you can advocate for your clients throughout their financial journeys.
1. Be a trusted advisor to your clients
There are plenty of accountants who provide bookkeeping and tax services. But business owners recognize and appreciate accountants who go beyond the transactional relationship.
Michelle Coates-Mathers, award-winning public affairs leader, believes "the key to advocating on behalf of your clients or organization is to understand the motivations of the stakeholders you are trying to influence. Figure out their priorities and how you can help them achieve their desired goals."
Take the time to build more meaningful connections with current and potential clients by understanding and supporting their goals, values, and beliefs.
In 2023, Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) employees went on strike, resulting in a lack of support for Canadians filing their personal taxes. Zenbooks, our Canadian online accounting firm, started a petition to extend the tax deadline in an effort to ensure Canadians, especially those with lower incomes, had access to the resources and accountants they needed.
2. Help clients navigate complex regulations
In an era of increasing regulatory scrutiny, businesses often find themselves overwhelmed by tax and legal compliance requirements.
Accountants who actively advocate for their clients can serve as a guiding light—not only ensuring adherence to regulations but advocating for regulation removal or improvement.
In fact, tax agencies often consult with practitioners and industry professionals to better understand proposed legislation. You can take part in the process and help shape the changes your clients want.
In March 2020, during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, we advocated for our clients by writing an open letter to allow electronic signatures rather than wet signatures for tax forms in Canada. The House of Commons has since amended the Income Tax Act to allow for this!
3. Unveil opportunities for growth
Accountants who advocate for their clients go beyond crunching numbers; they offer invaluable strategic insights and help drive growth.
By closely monitoring financial performance, identifying trends, and highlighting potential opportunities, you can help your clients seize the moment and unlock their business’ full potential.
Whether it's optimizing cash flow, identifying cost-saving measures, or capitalizing on emerging market trends, an accountant who embraces advocacy can be the catalyst for success.
Become the trusted partner
In an increasingly complex financial world, accountants need to transcend their traditional roles and become advocates for their clients.
Accounting firm owners should encourage and empower their accountants to embrace advocacy, recognizing that it is a catalyst for fostering stronger client relationships and driving business growth.
By actively engaging in strategic discussions, offering valuable insights, and proactively identifying opportunities and challenges, accountants can transform themselves into trusted partners.