when not to charge for an initial consultation

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by ed mendlowitz
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q: i was wondering what your thoughts are regarding initial consultation fees. currently, i do not charge a fee for an initial consultation, and it seems that most cpas do not charge either (at least not the sole practitioners that i know).

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would the fee deter new clients or actually weed out the ones who are most likely not going to become clients anyway? if a fee is charged, then how much, and how long should the consultation last? should the fee be applied to any work that i am eventually engaged to do?

a: there seems to be a toss-up between two different philosophies: