The Licensing Model with John Briggs
On episode 99 of The Unique CPA, Randy is joined by John Briggs, the Founder and CEO of Incite Tax. John has created a very unique model through Incite, whereby accountants may enter a licensing agreement with Incite, which handles the backend systems and lead generation, while allowing the accountants to have their own lucrative practices without working 60 or 70 hours a week. He explains his idea and his passion for bettering the accounting community, preventing the dehumanizations of its members, and improving mental health for all.
Today, our guest is John Briggs. John is founder and CEO of Incite Tax out of Utah, although we don’t want to pigeonhole him into Utah, because I know they work with clients around the country. But that’s just where he is located. And John has a kind of a unique spin on building and running the accounting practice, and so we’ll talk about that today. But before we do that, John, welcome to The Unique CPA.
Randy, thanks for having me.
Yeah! So without getting into this unique practice and everything, want to give us—I gave you like a ten second intro, you want to give us a little more than that? Or we can jump into it wherever you want to go.
Sure. We have a team here now about 50 team members. And I’m one of those products of I had to create my business in order to put food on my table, and I was stuck in a bad situation with a traditional firm, and it just—it was a lot of nepotism. Family-owned.
I’ve been through that. Yep.
Family promoted. And because of all the family they hired, they couldn’t afford to pay those of us who were doing all the work who were not family.
That’s not a good situation.
No, it wasn’t super great. And I didn’t realize at the time, but apparently, I had become pretty grumpy, and I remember the day I came home and I told my wife, I said, “I think I just have to leave that firm. Like I feel, I don’t want to be disloyal to them, but I think I just, I could be better off doing this on my own.” And she basically was like, “Well, it’s about freaking time you realize that!”
So she knew before you did, I guess.
Alright. And so that’s when you started Incite Tax then is after that experience, and so I think I read that was 13 years ago. Is that correct?
Okay. And so let’s jump into it. Because I want to talk about a few things today. One, you have some unique or actually key philosophies you follow in business as well—but in general, let’s talk about the model that you use for Incite. So I hate might have this wrong, correct me but you have Incite that you are managing, I assume.
But then you have like, what did you call it, not a subscription model? But do you have a—what kind of model?
Licensees. So are you licensing the name and site to others? Or just your knowledge and experience?
Okay, so why don’t you fill us in on that? What is this licensing model you’re using?
Yeah, so the way we’re structured, we obviously have W-2 team members, and, you know, we have anywhere from intern level to first year to experienced. We have that whole scale of W-2 team members. But the ultimate position for the accountant within our firm is this licensee position. Once we feel like they’re able to handle the client relationship, stay organized without dropping the ball, and they know enough knowledge so they can sign on the tax returns, we give them this opportunity where we actually create a separate entity that Incite Tax owns part of, and the accountant owns part of. And so now they become independent contractors. It’s their own business. And it’s that relationship.
So they set their own schedule, they determine the type of work they want to do. And then what we do at Incite tax is they use our brand, and then we have all the backend systems so that we really kind of say it in a way of, “enjoy the benefits of being a business owner without the headaches.” Because on our backend, our part of the relationship that we handle, kind of the annoying business side that a lot of tax people realize exists when they start their own practice. So that’s kind of the overview of what we—how it works.
So I’m just gonna get this straight my mind. So Incite: Do you have a firm that personally, that does tax and accounting—you do—and then you hire in people that then have an opportunity once they get comfortable with the processes and the clients and the procedures and the technology and the knowledge base and all this, they can carve out their portion of the Incite that they’ve been working out with you and just kind of start running their own practice?
That’s right. They become owners in their own book of business that we help them grow because they start with basically no clients, and then with our marketing team—and we have a sales guy who closes the clients, they do all that work, and so the accountant will just have a new client show up on their schedule, and then their job is to confirm that the salesperson signed them up for the right services and start, you know, just wowing the client from that regard.
I will add, though, we do add licensees directly. So sometimes we find solopreneurs, or people with like, one or two team members. And we have an application process, obviously, but we will bring people on directly into that position.
Okay, so they can basically use your back end support to help them run their business that already exists out there.
Okay. And so how many of these licensees are there out there now?
So we currently have five, and we have three new ones starting next year, and we are currently working through. We have a solopreneur that has recently applied, so we’re working through his application process.
And then the setup, then, is this ownership is, you know, Incite owns now part of it, the independent contractor now owns part of it. Is there a management fee to Incite or is it—how’s that relationship work?
Yeah, so the compensation is based on—it’s a percentage of collections. And so that percentage, it’s kind of tier-based. So like, for example, the first 200,000 they collect, they get 50% of that. And then it goes from 50 to 55, all the way up to 90% that they can make off of their book.
I set it up in that way because we obviously as a firm managing the backend, have costs. But there does reach a point where we’ve effectively hit all the fixed costs, and we just use that last 10% for the minor variable expenses that might happen. And that way, their growth—we basically pass on the benefit of being a business owner. It’s like, “Oh, now that all my fixed costs are covered, I basically get to keep almost every new dollar that I bring in past a certain point.”
And that helps them risk-wise too—they’re not investing in things that they don’t know if they’re going to need in the future because you’ve already got them. And that brings up a question, then. What about tax software? Is this one licensed software that everybody uses? Or is there each Incite office licensing their own software? How’s that work?
Yeah, so right now we’re using the one firm software we pay for the users. But yeah, we handle all that as part of what we as a firm cover with the percentage we take.
Okay, so they’re not paying that. So their cost out of pocket, the licensees, is, well, how about rent? I mean, they rent their own spot, I am guessing, right?
Most of our licensees are remote.
If they want a space here in our office, then yes, they would pay for that office.
Okay, so would that be in the 50%, trickling down to 10% at some point?
Okay. So most of their costs are covered then.
You’re selling for them. Tell me how that works. Because you said you have a sales team, or at least a salesperson. So you’re the one generating business. So one, how are you doing that? And then two, how do you decide who gets this new business?
Yeah, we’ve created what I would call a lot of digital real estate. And so we try to have articles and blog posts and lead magnets that are out there, as what people are searching for. And so that does give us a nice amount of organic leads every year. And then, so number-wise, we’re probably about 1,500 leads that we receive a year—30% of those are client referrals. The other 70% are from this organic aspect of people googling for it, or I do a lot of podcasts, I have a book written for gym owners related to cash flow management—we get leads that way as well—and of course, just good relationships with referral partners.
So we get the leads in, and when they get in, our salesperson—not the accountant—the salesperson meets with them, finds out what their problems are, what they’re looking for, he signs them up. And anyway, so yeah, it works out really great, because then they just show up on the accountant’s schedule.
And I’ll tell you this, too, because when I first started, we had the accountant taking the leads, because when I was owning the business and working in every aspect of it myself, that’s what I did, and that’s how I created the relationship with them, right? You know, with the accounting, the firm name is nice, but the relationship was with the professional.
And so we always wanted that to be as strong as possible, so I was really hesitant for years, like “No, no, I don’t know if they’re gonna be able to create a good relationship, if they’re not the ones who sell them on it.”
Well, you know, everyone’s a bleeding heart right? “I’m gonna work with them and I can see their situation, I’m just going to discount our fees a little bit.” And that discounting their fees a little bit happened like 80% of the time.
That doesn’t happen with a salesperson. So we get to charge our fair rates. It shows the via the professionals offering the professional not put in a situation where they feel like they have to discount anything. So it’s worked out really well. You might have asked him a question, but that answers how we do the marketing.
And then how do you determine which licensee it goes to?
It’s a combo of them telling us how much they want in new business.
And then having basically like a round-robin list, you know, we just try to be fair for all the licensees who are taking new clients. You know, we rotate, but then as their book gets fuller—so we have three of the licensees who don’t want new business.
They’re like, “I’m full, I’m good.” And then if they end up losing someone, they’ll just say, “Hey, I’ll take one more.” And so we’ll put them in, give them the one more, and then we’ll rotate them out and just keep those who want the new clients rotating in.
Alright, so you said you had three that are full up right now and not taking any more, but have the opportunity, which is great. I mean, if you lose a client, or you get rid of a client—probably even more importantly, sometimes, a lot of times—
But hopefully, with the sales process, you weed out the C and D clients a little bit before you even get them on board. Is that something you tried to do, I’m guessing?
Yeah, we try to read weed out the C and D clients. Occasionally they slip through the cracks. And sometimes you have someone who’s willing to pay the rates, but they’re still C and D clients, and those behavioral things are a little bit harder to track. I mean, there’s only so much babysitting we can do for our clients.
And we do a lot—we try as hard as we can. But ultimately, if you’re not getting your stuff, or getting us the information for us to even do the work you’re paying for, we’re just basically just, we tell you like, “When you’re ready, let us know. But we’re gonna stop harassing you.”
Right. I have somebody that I’m on, I think we’re on the Tax Council together. And she says what she does is, with their C and D clients, or people that are in that situation, they’re just not getting the data, she “invites them to be successful elsewhere.” So I think that’s the terminology she uses, which I agree. And I think she actually will, and I’m guessing, you know, potentially you do as well, will help them find the next place too.
Alright, so let’s talk about billing, then. I’m gonna go to a few different things, but you are not discounting the prices because the salesperson is doing it. From a billing standpoint, though, are you setting up three tier prices? Do you have fixed fees? Do you have subscription pricing? Do you have time? I mean, what methods are you using, or all of the above?
Yeah. In general, it’s flat pricing—it’s kind of like we have an idea of here’s the base dollar amount, and then based on complexity, or number of returns, or, you know, the services they want, we’ll increase that fee. So right now, on some level could be considered pretty customized per client. But I think if you look at it on the surface, 90% are falling into the basic structure, and then 10% have some things that are outside—a little bit more work and things like that.
So I’m assuming you define the scope of everything with each client, and is that pretty much standard, then? Is that that 90% falls in or it’s just 90%, we define a scope individually each time?
No, I think 90% are probably falling into our base level. And it is just definitely defined in the agreement, which we’ve had to reference occasionally, when clients are like, “Well, I don’t understand why you would say I need to pay extra for this.” “Well, as you can see, in the agreement you signed that we talked about.” ‘Cause obviously, you know, accountants, we can really let scope creep happen without any thought, because clients are just gonna keep asking, and we’re the ones who have to stand our ground. We can’t expect the client to really know what’s allowed and not allowed.
Yeah, I’m pretty fortunate I get to go out and I have a presentation on, well, I call it mental health. But it’s stress, it’s burnout, it’s God forbid, you know, mental illness, but all equating to the profession. And part of the thing I say there is as CPAs, as tax professionals, as accountants, we just always want to help everybody, and we have this mindset. I don’t know what it is. It’s just ingrained in us. It must come with the knowledge that we have—we want to help everybody.
So someone asks a simple question and we think it’s a simple answer, we don’t think that we should be billing extra for that. A simple question can be you know, or a simple not even a question, you could be doing the tax return and you can see that very simple in our minds, someone put $10,000 in their 401(k) and they’re whatever, fifty plus, and they could have put whatever the numbers are now—$37,500 maybe this past year—and you indicate that to them, and then they go and do it next year. And now they just say five grand on next year’s taxes. That was a simple thing. There’s a huge value to what we just gave to them, and we just gave that away for nothing.
I get worked up on that, because we undervalue ourselves way too much. And hopefully, part of what you’re doing with setting those expectations upfront is you are valuing the service that you’re giving.
We are surely trying. And it doesn’t mean we don’t remind our team every week, like “stop answering emails for free.”
Yep, for sure. Now, but if we do have a fixed fee, how do you get out of it? I mean, because we’re setting a fixed fee. And so for answering these emails for free, do we have to then go to the contract and say, “Hey, this is out of the scope of what we signed up with.”
So it’s almost kind of the insurance idea. We’ve figured on average, a client asks X amount of questions per year, and so we include in the fixed price our assumption that they will ask their average questions—knowing that some are gonna ask a little bit more, some don’t ask anything at all. So we do build that value into the price already, but we limit it to email questions. If they want to have a phone call, you explain to them like, “Look, the phone call’s a meeting. And you can either ask the question by email, or if you really want, we’re happy to have the extra meeting.” You know, some of them based on their package, maybe only have one meeting a year, so they want an additional one. So we invoice them, and we let them know, before we do the work, obviously.
Okay. And then let’s talk about the licensees in general then. Because they can decide when they, where they’re gonna stop, and how much business they want, but do we have like an average of, you know, this amount of revenue this month, this amount of profit that at the licensee level? And obviously, they can control that by saying, “Yes, give me more” or “No, give me less?”
Yeah, I mean, I’ll start with , we have one who’s basically part time, she hasn’t done any work full time. Her book of business is in the high twos, not quite $300,000 yet, and collections. And then the other ones are all full time. And their average is anywhere from $500 to $700,000 of collections. And so their take home, like even the part time person, you know, she’ll take home $160, $170,000. And the other ones are anywhere from $250 to, like $380.
Okay, that’s nice. And you’re doing the pain-in-the-butt stuff behind the scenes with all the business development and processes out. I’m assuming we have standard processes in place. How about onboarding?
Yeah, we’re not a perfect company.
But we’re trying for sure to have standardization across the board.
Right. Now I’m building you up high, you know? I’m going for perfect here.
Hey, so let’s let’s compare this, because do you know if this model exists, or did you create it?
So I was introduced to a similar idea when I worked at a traditional firm.
I was on my own at the time, and then no one had told me, but passing the CPA exam isn’t the only requirement. And then I was filling out the application, I’m like, “What is this 2,000 hours? What? Like, you’re kidding me.” And so I needed to join another firm so I could get someone to supervise my 2,000 hours. So I joined this firm, but because I was already established, I was my own business, they had thought, “Okay, this is something we could try.”
And their model was super greedy, and they didn’t provide any support. And so it was good for me to work through that, because then I could see, you know, there’s a lot of value here that licensed people like me would like, but there’s a couple of big holes that are really big turn-offs that I think I can fix.
And so we’ve since tweaked it, and we currently, the very first person I had in this model, we have since separated. It was very lucrative for him—not for us. And so when I realized, I’m like, “We need to basically change this, or you kind of just need to buy me out of your book of business.” He wanted to buy me out of the book of business.
Alright. Well, at least you just didn’t let it keep going and riding into the sunset with a losing proposition.
No, and that’s one of the beauties of the licensee model. We’ve had, so him and one other, kind of established licensee where the contract shows like, if it doesn’t work out, it’s fine. We’re agreeing from day one this is how we would separate, so that it doesn’t have to be—there doesn’t need to be any animosity involved. Like, you really want to do your own thing? That’s fine. Like, here’s how we separate, and let’s both go on our separate ways, and we’ll stay cordial and professional.
Right, so you have the—why’s my mind blank? The prenuptial agreement all set so you figure it out.
Alright. Got it. So I do know of, and I may have this wrong—I do know of, like, a franchise model. Isn’t Padgett like a franchise model? Are you familiar with Padgett?
I’ve met Scott—he talked about it a little bit. He said it was similar. But he was asking me the questions on his podcast, so I’m not familiar.
Okay, oh that’s right—I forgot Scott Scarano introduced you to me, and so in fact, I was just texting with Scott right before we got on, and I didn’t even tell him that you and I were talking today. I should have! Okay. So that’s how I know Padgett, is through Scott. And then the other one, and I don’t know much about it, but what does Dark Horse do? Do you know anything about their model?
Other than seeing, I think it might be Chase?
Yes, that’s his name.
I’m not super familiar with his model either.
Okay, I’ll have to look at that. Alright, so I’m gonna go with, you created this model, it’s a very unique model. You do say on your website, or on your LinkedIn somewhere that the traditional CPA firm is broken. I think you use the word “sucks.” I’m gonna say broken. I don’t disagree with that—that’s talked about a lot on here, is the partnership model, should not be used? Should we do something else? Should we do it ESOP? Should we just be a CEO and people working for the firm? What’s your opinion why the traditional model is broken?
It doesn’t treat the people who are doing most of the work like human beings. I think ultimately, any element of dehumanizing somebody will always lead to something really bad, and what we have going on in the industry—we can even see this trend now, especially after COVID happened—the attrition rate of accountants leaving the industry has been—is exactly the same: three to five years, within three to five years, 60% leave.
But we also can now see a massive decline in enrollment for new students wanting to have an accounting degree. Because of social media, the Big Four, for example, which is really what all these traditional firms are just copying, like, “Oh, if it works for them.” Like, you guys, they’re billion dollar companies, with a massive footprint, with hundreds of services you don’t even know that they’re offering, but you’re gonna copy their model?—which of itself is bad—but then you’re gonna copy it to the small business person.
So you can’t hide people are commenting like, “Oh, man, it’s really hard working here, they really, you know, hold you to the hours, minimum 55.” So minimum 55, which means, if I want to keep my job, I gotta hit 55.
Just to keep my job, let alone being promoted. So yeah, if you want to be promoted and move in a career path in those big four, like you’re putting in 70 hours a week, and “Oh it’s fine, I’ll put in my 10 to 15 years and then I’ll become partner.” Guess what, when you become partner, your hours are still there!
Yeah, it’s crazy.
So it’s not sustainable. And we see that because 60% are leaving within three to five years. And my “bold” idea, and maybe bold is not the right word, but I believe, if we don’t fix this, as an industry, our economy is going to suffer—because our economy in the U.S., 95% is small business. Well, small businesses are the ones who need accountants more than anything, and as we continue with this thing, especially with inflation going on with wages, with accountants, at some point, the firm has to raise their prices to be able to afford the people that are gonna help them do the work—which means then we’re at some point going to price ourselves out of small business owners being able to use us, which means some other sort of solution has to come to the marketplace. It isn’t going to be by someone as skilled as the accountant.
And you know, we all know that our small business clients need us because you talk to them, and you’re like, “How do you not know these things?” Well, because they didn’t go to school to become an accountant. They have passion about their business, not being an accountant. And so if we continue with this trend, I fear—so that’s why I’m trying to come up with these models and let people know about it so that we can keep accountants in the industry.
Yep, I like that. And I can see that. I never thought about that to that level before, but I’ve always thought, “Okay, if everybody’s dropping their C and D clients who’s picking them up?” and at some point in time, there’s nobody picking them up. Not that you want the C or D client—but to keep the economy going strong, somebody has to be helping all these businesses. And if there’s no one to do it, I can definitely see that. I like your insights on that. See, that’s what the show does. We bring your insights to the audience. So thank you, I appreciate that.
There has to be changes. And I talked about this in my mental health presentation—is that we have to figure out a way to one, change the perception of the industry, which is somewhat there because of the like, the Big Four, you were saying. And so there’s a perception, but there’s reality too.
Because the reality is there. But I think it’s a combination of both. I think, as a combination, “I don’t want to go into accounting because they work too hard.” Well, yes, they do. And there are too many hours, normally, in general. But some of that is perception, because I know plenty of firms now that have, instead of doing the, “you have to work a minimum 55 hours,” I know a firm that’s installing this tax season, maximum 45 hours. And I think that’s not the norm, but I think it’ll become more the norm going forward. How about you guys with hours? I mean, one, do even track hours? Because you’re probably not billing by the hour, I’m guessing. But two, do you have a limitation on number of hours you can work?
Yeah, so lots of thoughts there.
Yes! It was a long question!
Yes, we have to—we track hours, because you have to be able to run your own metrics to know how profitable a customer is.
Right? So we do track our hours.
Industry standard, like Big Four usually based their salary off of 2,800 hours worked in a year.
I’m not doing it.
Crazy, right? We base our salary off of 2,080, which is the 40 hours a week calculation. And so then what we do, so we give company holidays and PTO—everyone gets the same company holidays, PTO is based on tenure. In addition to that, though, if they do work more than 40 hours in a week, that time is put into their PTO bucket.
So that by the end of the year, they would have been able to take off as much time as they worked overtime—therefore, we stay as close to that 2,080 hours for every W-2 team member as possible. Because we don’t necessarily have the licensees track their time, because they are their own business—we give them access to the time tracking, and we encourage them to understand the profitability of their customers. But it is up to them ultimately.
And I have some who probably do work about 50 hours a week during tax season. And those same ones also take off like four months outside of tax season. They’re balancing themselves out in a way that works for them. Our team, we averaged 42.6 hours a week last year during tax season, and we do that PTO thing I was describing. If they hit 55, we do not give them any more additional hours. So we give them no incentive to work more than 15 overtime hours in a week. But again, we were able—we want to be closer to 40, and we were at 42 last year.
Alright. Well, that’s good. So the 45 I just said you guys even beat that, which is nice.
We’re trying, but I love that though, because that’s a step in the right direction, right? I mean, you have that, and then sometimes, I’ll talk to business owners like “Oh, yeah, my team doesn’t work more than 40.” “Oh, interesting.” “How many hours do you work?” “Oh, 90?”
“Okay. I wonder if they may be willing to work a few extra hours a week so that maybe you only have to work 70?” Like, let’s try to work everyone towards 40—not just your team, like you have to also take care of yourself.
And that’s the thing. It’s so often people don’t think that it’s like, “Well, I’m going to help everybody, like we were saying before, I’m going to help everybody. And if it’s my employees I’m helping, well, I’m gonna take that burden on.” No, it’s important, you got to take care of yourself—you’re gonna be a much better leader if you’re refreshed and rejuvenated and working, whatever it is, if it’s 55 hours, whatever, than if you put the 70 hours in.
And then the other thing is that you’re modeling behavior that people think they need to live up to then, too. So even if they’re not, they see that—“Oh, to get ahead, this is what I have to do. I have to put in 70 hours,” which I think then goes back to this whole, you know, we’re gonna lose people, and then we’re not going to be able to sustain our industry.
Alright. So let’s talk about that a little bit. Because I know you have a passion on a lot of topics, and we just talked about that overworking. And so part of why I’m sure you’re doing it is to—we already know—attract people, keep people, but what’s your thoughts on stress / burnout / mental health issues in our industry? I assume that’s part of what you’re trying to address.
Yeah, I mean, there’s just so much data out there that shows if you’re overworked—feel like you’re overworked—that stress then makes that other part of your mind weaker, which then can lead you to, if someone has a genetic disposition for mental health issues, you’ve made it worse. And if you don’t, you’re still adding into this scenario where you are putting yourself in a situation where mental health issues are the natural byproduct of the bad model.
And so just the world’s a better place, if everyone is able to overcome those. I mean, there’s just so much heartache that goes with it. We refer to it as “deep and dark times,” because rightly so—it comes with it, a very heavy emotion. And so yeah, absolutely. We’re hoping that we can keep people mentally healthy, because guess what—that whole work-life balance thing that people talk about? I mean, I saw a TEDx Talk on this, and he did some demonstrations, but ultimately, the gist is, you can’t separate it. If work is stressing you out, that carries over to your personal life. If you have stress going on in your personal life, that carries over to how you show up at work, and how you handle customers and all that stuff. Like, they’re inseparably connected. And therefore you can’t balance something if it’s one thing to balance requires at least two items.
And so I think people are becoming more aware of, “Wow, this stress is actually negatively affecting every aspect of my life.” Let’s just, you know, let’s raise the tide for all the boats. Let’s allow us to all be happier in every aspect of our life.
And I think that that leads into somebody that I seem to mention on every single one of these podcasts, but John Garrett—are you familiar with John Garrett, What’s Your “And?”
You should go look at it. John Garrett talks about—anyone who’s listened to this podcast before has probably heard me talk about John a lot—but John wrote this book called What’s Your “And?” John’s a CPA, but he calls himself recovering CPA—but he’s not in practice anymore. He’s more out just talking about his his goal of allowing everybody to bring their outside of work passions into work. You know, you aren’t the accountant, you aren’t the auditor, you’re the mountain biker, you’re the hiker, you’re the craft beer enthusiast, you’re this, and this is your passion outside of work, and if you can share your passions inside of work, overall, everything’s better.
So that alone is going to help with stress levels, and with burnouts and everything, if you could be yourself at work. So I think you would love John’s message.
I love that, yeah.
When we’re done here, I’ll send you a link to his book and everything. But it’s great. He’s a great guy, and I’m very fortunate to know him.
Alright, so I’m going to segue here. Probably not a great segue, but I’m going to segue into you know, we talked about your inside salesperson you have already. And I’m going to ask one other question before that, then, because it sounds like you have a pretty decent overall marketing plan or program in place. Is this one individual? Or is there someone else that’s also part of marketing?
Yeah, so we have four team members on our marketing team, and they help with content creation and distribution of that content. And we currently have one salesperson. If our leads ever increased more, we obviously would just add more sales reps, but half hour phone calls, and he doesn’t have to do a whole lot of like, finding leads himself, because we have the database—they’re coming to him. I mean, he could ultimately handle 16 calls a day. It wouldn’t be a very fun day, but theoretically, he has the capacity to do that. And so until he’s taking, you know, 50 calls in a week, we’re probably do we just need the one right now.
So does your salesperson then have incentives on bringing in business? Or is it street salaries or commission? Or how’s that work?
Yep, he gets a small base, and then he gets a commission on people closed. He gets a commission on the first 12 months of collections.
Okay. Alright. Nice. And then from a marketing standpoint, I know you have a few slogans out there. I see you’re wearing one on the shirt today. It says “Will give tax advice for tacos.” I assume that your marketing department came up with that?
We do like creating our own shirts to kind of show that we are a little bit anti-traditional, more laid back than maybe a typical firm.
And, here comes—I’m gonna have to ask you, and I mentioned this to you before. I’m not sure I’m a huge fan of this slogan—I’m sure it brings it business. But yeah, I’ve seen you all wearing shirts in the past saying “IRS sucks.”
And that’s a marketing department item there?
I mean, that was more my brainchild, because it’s a marketing message that sticks. Yeah, we don’t think very highly of them based on our interactions with them.
I give them the benefit of the doubt—I understand. I think they’re, well, one, who’s gonna go work there? I mean, I wouldn’t want to work at the IRS. And they have some great people for sure. But they’re also hamstrung with what Congress gives them. And they, what, their systems are out of date. They have a lot—but I’m not defending them. But you live by the motto “IRS sucks,” huh?
We do. I mean, because ultimately our interactions with them—we don’t feel like behaviorally, that the IRS agents we’ve had to deal with honor the IRS stated mission, and ultimately kind of feels like they’re out to get you, as opposed to really approaching it with integrity and fairness.
And so that’s—yeah, I’m not—as human beings, I’m sure they’re great people, but our interaction with them, defending our clients, has usually been a scenario where we’ve had to explain tax law to them, we usually have to get their supervisors involved him to show them, like, what the IRS has said about some of these things in the past, because they didn’t want to take the time to do that. They just, they were happy trying to assess the additional tax without doing the work.
Okay. And I don’t disagree with that. We often have to educate on the correct way, and I’m sure a part of it is like, they’re not trying to figure out the tax law to minimize your clients taxes, but that’s what you guys are doing. So when you’re doing that—but yeah, we’ve done a lot of Employee Retention Credit the last couple of years, and that’s been a pretty big issue of dealing with them on that, to the standpoint where we just got notified from them in a conversation last week that they are not going to give out any more information on when the ERC claims are going to be processed. If we call them now, they’re just gonna say “Yes, we’re looking at it, and check back in 30 days.” So but I understand on their end, it’s got to be frustrating with well, with the ERC too, there’s so much misinformation and bad claims being put on them that they’re probably getting frustrated, as well. ‘Cause I’m frustrated.
Alright, so before we wrap up, and this has been fun. Even with the “IRS sucks” logo, it’s still been fun. I can’t help it, I have to give you a hard time.
I know, I know.
But before we close out everything, I’m gonna give you a chance to wrap up—but I want to ask you one question, and this is a question I asked everybody even before I knew John Garrett: When you’re not working, when you’re keeping your hours to a minimum, and you’ve got things to do outside of work, what are your passions? What are your fun things? What’s your “And?” John Garrett, I just stole your phrase, don’t sue me. What is your “And?” What is your outside-of-work fun?
You know, my preference would be to get lost in a good fantasy book. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Brandon Sanderson, but I think he’s one of the most prolific fiction authors out there.
Really good stuff. I love getting wrapped up in a good story.
And then I mean, I have kids, and I’m one of those guys, that I’m just honest about it: Sometimes they just drive me insane. And so when my wife proposes a family trip, always my initial reaction is like, “I really don’t want to do that.” Thankfully, my wife ignores me being a grumpy old man, and, you know, family trips are really fun.
And so that’s probably, between family trips and reading, getting caught in a really nice story, that’s what I like to do.
Alright, and then, before I ask you to give your contact information out any final thoughts you want to throw in here?
No, I just, I appreciate you having me on. We have a really unique model, and we’ve done it long enough now that we’ve been able to tweak a lot of things. So it’s a really good, fair relationship for both parties. And I hope if other accounting practice owners are listening to this, that maybe there’s some sort of idea of—even if they don’t want to go the full route of licensing contracts and things like that—hopefully, there’s something there where all of us can move towards being a profitable business while still not needing to work crazy hours for our team or ourselves. Because ultimately, I truly believe the economy needs us, and if we’re working too many hours, we’re just putting ourselves at risk to hit that wall of burnout at some point.
I agree completely. I think that’s great advice. And then if somebody wants to find out more about you, or Incite, or the licensee model, or how bad the IRS sucks, or anything else, how do they get ahold of you?
Yeah, they can just email me directly. John@InciteTax.com. It is a purposeful, aggressive word.
I knew that!
It does mean to cause to action, but it’s good because what we want our clients to do is actually take proactive action. But yeah, John@InciteTax.com.
Alright. Well, well, thank you, John, and I think being an innovator, being a trailblazer of a new method of a new way of going into business and staying in this business, and the hours and everything. I think that’s great. I really appreciate you sharing your information today. And hopefully, you continue down this road and make some changes in our profession.
About the Guest
John Briggs is the Founder and CEO of Incite Tax, which provides tax services with a market focus on small business owners, investors, and 1099 recipients. A self-described “ANTI-Traditional Accounting Firm,” Incite offers the opportunity for its accountants to license its resources while they build their book of business.
When John started working as an accountant, he got a taste of a licensing arrangement, but felt that it was stacked against him as the licensee, so he’s had first-hand experience in order to tune the relationship to be beneficial to all involved.
John earned his Bachelor’s in Accounting and Masters in Tax at Brigham Young University in 2005 and 2007, respectively.
Meet the Host
Randy Crabtree, CPA
Randy Crabtree, co-founder and partner of Tri-Merit Specialty Tax Professionals, is a widely followed author, lecturer and podcast host for the accounting profession.
Since 2019, he has hosted the bi-weekly “The Unique CPA,” podcast, which ranks among the world’s 5% most popular programs (Source: Listen Score). You can find articles from Randy in Accounting Today’s Voices column, the AICPA Tax Adviser (Tax-saving opportunities for the housing and construction industries) and he is a regular presenter at conferences and virtual training events hosted by CPAmerica, Prime Global, Leading Edge Alliance (LEA), Allinial Global and several state CPA societies. Crabtree also provides continuing professional education to top 100 CPA firms across the country.
Schaumberg, Illinois-based Tri-Merit is a niche professional services firm that specializes in helping CPAs and their clients benefit from R&D tax credits, cost segregation, the energy efficient commercial buildings deduction (179D), the energy efficient home credit (45L) and the employee retention credit (ERC).
Prior to joining Tri-Merit, Crabtree was managing partner of a CPA firm in the greater Chicago area. He has more than 30 years of public accounting and tax consulting experience in a wide variety of industries, and has worked closely with top executives to help them optimize their tax planning strategies.