Beyond the Basics: Why Young Professionals Need More Than Online Tax Services and How CPAs Can Help

Yesterday was tax day. How did you file this year?

Based on trends seen in the MRI-Simmons USA Winter 2023 study, 18- to 34-year-olds are 30% more likely to use an online tax preparation service (37%; 130) compared to all taxpayers within the last 12 months, but those 55+ will be consulting their Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or going on-site to a tax professional (40%; 122). Only 25% of young professionals use a CPA or on-site preparer, but that number grows to 30% for 35- to 54-year-olds, and up to 40% of people aged 55+ prefer to file with a professional on-site.

Certified Public Accountants are licensed professional accountants that are trusted sources for planning and achieving financial goals. As young professionals see their wealth grow, adding a CPA or other tax professionals to their financial repertoire would help manage the increasing complexity of growing finances.

What’s Driving the Trend?

Most young people are digitally based, preferring to use online platforms for their tax preparations and media consumption alike. 8 in 10 taxpayers 18 to 34 years old use online banking services, and they generally know how much they have in their bank accounts.

While most taxpaying young professionals (83%) believe investing in their future is very important, only 59% feel financially secure (87). Additionally, 59% feel like they won’t be able to retire when they want to and are 46% more likely to feel overwhelmed by financial burdens than taxpayers in other age brackets (35-54 and 55+).

However, as they begin to acquire mortgages, investment accounts, and actively plan for retirement as they age, their finances will become increasingly complicated. Having access to a CPA early on in their financial journey could help them feel more in control of their financial futures.


It's important to keep in mind that younger professionals are also highly skeptical of advertising. According to the same Winter 2023 study, 8 in 10 taxpayers find advertising annoying and manipulative, believing that too many products do not perform as well as the ads claim. These attitudes are consistent across all ages in the taxpaying population, but younger people (18-34-year-olds) are more willing to engage with ads that feature culturally diverse and authentic values.

To reach this demographic effectively, CPAs and professional tax preparers need to focus on building trust and establishing themselves as credible sources of financial advice. Since the younger generation is 13% less likely to go in-person for financial services, CPAs and tax professionals need to meet them in the digital realm.

The study also found that 86% of 18-34-year-olds watch tv programs on online streaming platforms, and 51% prefer to read online magazines. These young professionals over-index on all online publications for magazines, but under-index on print magazines, even though 49% still read magazine printed editions.

So how can CPAs and professional tax preparers reach this audience effectively? Here are a few strategies to consider:

1. Offer Online Tax Services

Since younger professionals prefer online services, providing an online alternative to on-site assistance is an excellent way to reach this demographic. Services like TurboTax Live alleviate the friction of this demographic's reluctance to come in person for services, but they can still take advantage of professional expertise. The self-guided online tax preparation and live assistance from a certified tax professional increases the convenience and flexibility for busy young professionals.

Online professional help can not only make it easier for your younger clients to file their taxes but also provide a more efficient and informative experience. This could even lead to repeat business and positive word of mouth as 61% of young taxpayers 18 to 34 (117) will recommend a service to people they know if they like it.

2. Leverage Social Media Platforms

Establishing a relatable social media presence is crucial to engage with younger professionals and prospective clients. By creating content that resonates with their interests and addressing their unique financial concerns, CPAs and professional tax preparers can establish themselves as trusted advisors in the eyes of younger professionals.

Building a loyal following on social media platforms can lead to lasting relationships with prospective clients, ultimately leading to new business opportunities. By consistently providing valuable insights and engaging with younger professionals online, CPAs can position themselves as thought leaders in their field, further establishing their credibility and expertise.

3. Create Educational Content

Creating compelling educational content on online platforms is an effective way to connect directly with younger professionals. This approach helps establish trust in financial professionals and fosters a culture of financial curiosity, motivating them to seek professional advice. Whether it's sharing tax-saving strategies, offering career advice, or even sharing financial planning memes, by presenting engaging and relatable information, you can help spread the message that financial security is attainable at any age or career level.

As the world becomes more technologically advanced, it's becoming increasingly important for Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) and professional tax preparers to adapt their strategies and reach younger professionals 18-34 years old. As they grow their wealth and careers, their tax situations become more complex, making them potential clients for professional tax preparation or CPA services. Connecting with them early on can help them gain confidence in their financial security. To reach this demographic effectively, CPAs and professional tax preparers need to build trust and establish themselves as credible sources of financial advice through culturally diverse advertising, online-based services, educational content, and social media engagement.

To learn more about reaching these 18- to 34-year-olds -- or other groups of US consumers, contact us.

Teigen Young
Teigen Young
Teigen Young is the Market Research Intern at MRI-Simmons with a background in psychology, research, project management, and marketing. Teigen enjoys uncovering stories within data and turning them into actionable insights.