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Tax Preparers Thrive Year Round Serving Hispanic Immigrants

There are ten million eligible Hispanics who have never filed taxes in the U.S. This is due insufficient knowledge about the U.S tax system, fear of immigration and sometimes the lack of a Social Security Number. Tax preparation in America is a bewildering system to immigrants. In Latin America there are no refunds, people are jailed for owing money and there is no April 15th deadline. Hispanic immigrants file taxes when they learn the details of U.S tax preparation from a trustworthy source. When their fears and concerns are addressed, they no longer feel intimidated and are willing to file taxes. The acculturation learning curve can occur at any time during the year, not just tax season. And usually by the time this takes place, Hispanics have multiple years of taxes to file.

This phenomenon represents a unique opportunity for tax preparers trying to survive economic storm clouds in already seasonal market. Since most tax offices are closed after the season ends, Hispanics who become acculturated in U.S tax topics are often stuck waiting until tax season begins before they can get assistance. Tax preparers willing to open their doors off season find themselves quickly overwhelmed helping this tremendously underserved market. Tax offices focused on serving the Hispanic community complete an average of 250 tax returns per month after April 15th. This windfall is not limited to California and New York. In fact, those areas often have many bilingual tax preparers and the market is cluttered. In new immigrant destination states such as Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia, there is a desperate need for tax preparers trained to overcome the cultural and language barriers inherent with immigrant clients. But it’s not a matter of simply hiring a bilingual and hanging a sign in the window that says “SE HABLA ESPANOL.

The good news is winning big with this niche market isn’t expensive. It is however, different and requires a time investment and paradigm shift.

1. Since immigrants are unfamiliar with U.S tax law, simply translating your traditional marketing messages into Spanish simply will not work. Those messages are geared for Americans already familiar with our system. The barrier for Hispanic immigrants isn't just language, it's also culture. Marketing messages must be culturally sensitive and education based.

2.Many tax preparers have not been trained to handle issues common for immigrants such as filing taxes without a Social Security Number, ITINS and dependents in other countries. Tax preparers must update their education to become specialists in these topics. Become an Authorized Acceptance Agent through the IRS so that you can process ITIN applications more efficiently without the submission of identification documents.

3.Community outreach is key. Tax preparers must establish trust and relationships in the Hispanic community and focus on education rather than sales. Learn how to reach out to your local immigrants in a respectful and culturally appropriate way. Due to the differences between American and Latin American cultures, it can be easy for you to accidentally cause offense without intending to do so. You must also learn what behaviors show respect so that your client feels comfortable and valued.

4.Conducting business in broken English or Spanish is absolutely not okay. Not only is liability an issue but customers need to feel that there is absolutely no misunderstanding when it comes to such an important issue as tax preparation. Ensure that you have a qualified interpreter available to assist you with all client interactions. Do not allow children or other client family members to interpret for you. Interpreting is a skill and must be done by a non-biased person. You may end up with a family member who tells the client their opinion rather than what you are actually saying. Children do not possess enough vocabulary or topic understanding to properly discuss tax preparation issues.

5.Since many tax offices are closed off season or open only one day a week, Hispanics who learn about tax preparation are often stuck waiting until tax season to get assistance. Ensure that your office is open at least four days a week after April 15th. Evening and weekend hours are often preferred by immigrants who work full time during the day.

The immigrant Hispanic consumer segment is a large, lucrative, untapped market and growing all the time. Tax preparers are willing to go the extra mile to overcome the cultural and language barriers to reach and serve Hispanic immigrants will thrive all year round.

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