Tax stories can be relevant year-round

With April 15 on the horizon, consumers are seeing a flurry of income-tax-related news, filled with tips on how to save money while paying Uncle Sam his share.

With April 15 on the horizon, consumers are seeing a flurry of income-tax-related news, filled with tips on how to save money while paying Uncle Sam his share.

Public interest in tax-themed media drops after the deadline, but mainstream media tax coverage is a year-round story because it plays a large role in business, government, and public policy, explains Bill Carlino, editor-in-chief of Accounting Today.

"Taxes are kind of like the law - they're tied into everything, so there are lots of angles," he says. "Taxes are going to get a lot more play this year because of the 2008 presidential elections and issues such as tax reform and getting rid of the alternative minimum tax."

Reporters and editors at tax magazines and newsletters also must write for people who are worried about paying their own taxes, not just those who are hired to help others. Carlino says that journalists in the mainstream press appreciate efforts to translate the complexity of the tax code into layman's terms.

"We cover taxes a little differently, focusing on things like technology and the latest tax-preparation software," he adds. "But even though I have people smarter than me that I can turn to, I always like it when someone takes the trouble to break things down."

Newspapers and other mainstream media outlets will run tax-related stories even when it's not near the deadline, because taxes have such a wide influence.

"We're relatively successful with 'off-season' pitches," adds Nancy Kuenster, marketing and communications coordinator for the National Association of Tax Professionals. "There are so many life occurrences with tax implications, such as planning for college. And anything the IRS does has a trickle-down impact on tax professionals and the public."

Most of the tax-related coverage in the consumer press is done by personal-finance reporters, and tend to follow similar themes. But Samantha Rider, PR director for tax and financial-planning firm Gilman Ciocia, says there are new angles to these stories every year.

"Last year, we targeted media by letting them know that you could get a tax credit for a hybrid car," she adds. "And when the economic stimulus package passed recently, we issued a release reminding people that they had to fill out a tax return in order to get that rebate."

Although tax-related stories seem to be everywhere, it's important to remember that not every journalist is well-versed on the latest issues, Kuenster adds.

"Last year we had a sports reporter who called wanting to know the tax implications for the person who caught Barry Bonds' record-breaking home-run ball," she says. "So you do have to be ready for... reporter education."

Pitching... tax-themed media

  • Leverage the seemingly never-ending coverage of local, state, and federal tax debates by positioning clients as experts who can say how those issues will impact local businesses and consumers
  • Stress to journalists that tax paying may be a seasonal issue, but tax planning should be a full-year story
  • Even taxes are a Web phenomenon, so reach out to key blogs, such as Tax Mama and The Wandering Tax Pro, with wealth-preservation and other story ideas

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