You’re going to hate me for this. And you might even want to put up your fists. But before we fight, please hear me out.
During the first decade or two of my accounting and tax life, I always felt that everyone knew more than I did. I was always a bit intimidated by the depth of knowledge other CPAs, EAs and attorneys seemed to have – and prayed that I could know just a little more of what they knew.
Until the day I challenged the IRS to teach a course for me, answering questions they never answer. Steve Jensen, who was the Los Angeles District Director accepted the challenge. He took questions on 8 topics to his experts – and brought them to my Insider’s Workshop. We answered the tough questions on collections issues, audit problems, tax bankruptcy, and a variety of other IRS interaction problems I had come across.
That’s when shock set in. Many of the long-established CPAs came up to me afterwards and told me they never even knew they had the authority to do the things we presented. Most of the CPAs didn’t know how to handle large past-due tax debt. Didn’t know you could bankrupt tax debt (surprisingly, even today, many BK attorneys still don’t seem to know this). They didn’t know about the IRS’ Tax Pro Hotline (the Practitioner Priority Service) 866-860-4259.
Since then, I was able to put on another similar event with the IRS – and have been teaching these subjects online through CPE Link and elsewhere.
Over the years, CPAs, EAs, and even tax attorneys have come to me asking me to handle their audits or collections problems. Tax practitioners are still afraid of the IRS. You don’t need to be. All you need to do is – learn.
Devote some of your required CPE hours to learning about tax issues. Don’t just select courses you can snooze through, or whose exams you can breeze through. Find substantial courses that can teach you how to represent your clients before the IRS – and perhaps even before the Tax Court. Yes, believe it or not, there is a way we can do that – without sitting for the bi-annual Tax Court exam.
Some of the best courses to teach you about representation?
My CPE Link Tax Practice series will give you the fundamentals.
NAEA’s National Tax Practice Institute (NTPI) will give you more in-depth, hands-on training – it’s offered a couple of times a year. There are three levels to complete in order to become an accredited NTPI fellow.
If you don’t want to deal with all this, especially the responsibility of helping your clients with really high tax debts – just put an experienced Enrolled Agent on your staff. EAs are required to know how to do representation. We can’t renew our licenses without being up-to-date on the topics. (And current on our tax filings and payments.) Incidentally, did you know that even a brand new EA can be added to your IRS and state Power of Attorney forms – without a two-year apprenticeship? Yup – they can take over the onerous job of replying to all those pesky IRS notices and sitting on hold endlessly to reach the right person at the IRS.
Until more small CPA firms become more knowledgeable about tax representation issues, I will continue to say that if you have a tax problem – find an EA, not a CPA. Make me a liar. Please.
Eva Rosenberg, EA is the publisher of TaxMama.com®, where your tax questions are answered. Eva is the author of several books and ebooks, including Small Business Taxes Made Easy. Eva teaches a tax pro course at IRSExams.com and tax courses to help you deal with tax debt http://www.cpelink.com/teamtaxmama .