IRS announcement creates massive market opportunity

One of the things I try to impress upon readers requires a slight mental shift. Namely, I encourage you to view any governmental policy or tax law change with a slightly different eye. You’re reading IRS e-News anyway, so read it with an eye for uncovering new marketing opportunities.

In case you missed IR-2013-72 last Thursday, the IRS is now going to treat all same-sex couples that were legally married in a jurisdiction where the marriage was lawful as married for all federal tax purposes, regardless of where that couple now resides.

This recognition, in response to the Supreme Court case in which certain provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act were struck down, even applies to same-sex marriages performed in foreign countries.

Now I realize that you may have a very strong personal belief about the same-sex marriage issue. Heck, I’m sure more than one person has already quit reading in disgust, and that’s their perogative. But if you’re still reading, this is something you can possibly capitalize on in your practice.

In terms of policy changes or tax law changes over the course of the past two years, I consider this to be only the third seriously significant, massive marketing opportunity that such changes have created. Last year, of course, came the Fresh Start initiative and the associated changes to Streamline Installment Agreements and the calculation of RCP on Offers in Compromise. The start of 2013 brought us the Fiscal Cliff situation and resulting legislation. The marketing opportunity created by this latest policy change is just as profound.

Finding data on the number of legally married same-sex couples in America was actually difficult. Reuters reports a number of about 130,000, and CNN gives us a 150,000 figure. More states have recently legalized this, and it is quite likely that more states will also do so in the coming years. Add in the unknown number of foreign same-sex marriages, particularly Americans that have visited Canada for this purpose, and the number becomes quite large, and will continue to grow.

Regardless of your own orientation, there is a huge market opportunity here, particularly for folks in either large cities or much more politically liberal cities. I imagine that any community large enough to have a local LGBT publication or business directory is going to be big enough for a tax practitioner to capitalize on the IRS same-sex marriage decision.

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Practitioners that choose to do so can create for themselves a nice little niche of serving the new tax needs of same-sex couples. I really see two areas of immediate need for these taxpayers. First is obviously tax preparation, since they will ALL be new to the joint vs. separate filing decision. Second will be tax consulting for those couples that are not yet married, but are contemplating marriage. Since it’s new, such couples can be expected to require more education on the tax implications of marriage — something they’ve probably never taken into consideration before.

As already mentioned, most cities with a large LGBT community will have some sort of dedicated weekly or monthly publication (often referred to as the local “alt weekly”) aimed at LGBT folks, and there may be a local LGBT business directory to advertise in as well.

In some cities, a tax professional could quite possibly build an entire practice focused solely on gay marriage tax planning. Attorneys could create entire new revenue streams focusing on estate planning issues for same-sex couples.

If I were living on the other side of the water, in Seattle proper, and I had a local tax practice, I can guarantee you I’d rent out executive office space somewhere, such as the Fremont District or Ballard area, as a satellite office specifically to address the tax planning needs of the large LGBT community in that particular area. I’m not going to do this, so if you’re in Seattle, feel free to run with that idea.

Keep an eye on those IRS policy changes, and always be thinking about how you can use those in your marketing. Even little things give you something of value to communicate to your clients and prospects. For example, do you receive the Treasury property auction emails? If not, you should. That’s a perfect item to announce to your prospect and client mail and email lists as something that may be of interest to them. If your house list consists primarily of businesses, and big auction of seized office equipment and furniture comes up in your area, that’s worth notifying your clients and prospects about.

I’m curious what your thoughts are on the same-sex marriage policy change. Send me a quick comment about it, I’d love to hear your opinion on this sensitive issue.