Client alerts are opportunities for you to show your value and stand out from the competition. But, as I pointed out in an earlier post, that doesn’t mean you should show off how much you know. Instead, demonstrate that you understand your clients’ needs by offering concise, useful information.

To help you do that, I’ve created a five-step template that will help you write effective client alerts.

The problem with many client alerts is that they spend too much time describing what happened. Clients don’t need the entire history of a case or every small detail about a new development. They need to know two things: Why they should care about what happened and what they should do about it.

Let’s say the IRS has announced that it will let small businesses file a shortened EZ tax form. 

Here’s the wrong approach to writing an alert:

On July 1, 2018, the Internal Revenue Service’s Office of the Commissioner (“IRSOOTC”) issued Bulletin 2018-A16-587GHT, entitled “Modification of Rule 168-A-9 Concerning the Filing Status of Certain Businesses Based in the United States of America and its Possessions and Territories.”

The Bulletin was issued under the IRSOOTC’s authority under Section 17-Q of the Treasury Regulations, which provides that IRSOOTC may promulgate any rules deemed necessary to make the filing process more efficient, with the exception that the Congress of the United States (“Congress”) retains has the authority to determine all tax policy powers reserved to it under the United States Constitution (“the Constitution”).

Do you see what I mean? You’ve probably lost your reader by now. 

Here’s my five-step process for writing a better alert. (And notice that I never use stuffy “defined terms,” such as “the Constitution.”)

STEP 1

Summarize in one sentence the significance of what has happened, signaling if this event is a good or bad development for your readers. 

For example:

In a development that will make it easier for many businesses to file their taxes, the IRS announced on July 1 that it will allow smaller companies to file a one-page EZ form. 

STEP 2

Identify who is affected by this development.

This new rule applies to any U.S.-based company with less than $10 million in annual revenue. Companies may start using the shortened form next year.

STEP 3

Tell clients what they should do.

Discuss with your tax adviser whether your company may benefit from using this form. Some businesses with deductions that exceed 75 percent of their revenue may want to continue using the standard form. 

If you want to use this form next year, your company must first get the IRS’s permission by filing Form EZCorpPlease by December 31 of this year.

STEP 4

Briefly summarize the case or the events leading to the development.

This change was prompted by a campaign by the Small Business Forum. The Forum argued that small businesses spend $100 billion a year preparing complex tax forms, and that they would better spend that money growing their businesses. 

STEP 5

Describe any major exceptions or questions remaining.

The IRS won’t release the new Form EZCorp for 90 days, so it’s not clear which companies will benefit from using the shortened form. It’s also not clear if partnerships can use this new form. We’ll give you updates as soon as we have more information.

When you assemble these pieces into one message, you get this 233-word alert.

IRS Offers Easier Filing Option for Small Businesses

In a development that will make it easier for many businesses to file their taxes, the IRS has announced that it will allow smaller companies to file a one-page EZCorp form. 

This new rule applies to any U.S.-based company with less than $10 million in annual revenue and will go into effect next year.

Discuss with your tax adviser whether your company may benefit from using this form. Some companies with deductions that exceed 75 percent of their revenue may want to continue filing the standard form. 

If you want to use this form next year, your company must first get the IRS’s permission by filing Form EZCorpPlease by December 31 of this year.

This change was prompted by a campaign by the Small Business Forum to make it easier for small companies to file their taxes. The Forum argued that small businesses spend $100 billion a year preparing complex tax forms, and that they could better use that money to grow their businesses. 

The IRS won’t release the new Form EZCorp for 90 days, so it’s not clear which companies will benefit from it. It’s also not clear if partnerships can use this new form. We’ll update you as soon as we have more information.

If you have any questions, please contact us.