One of the most fun things a tax professional can do is to meet and chat with people who understand our language, who know our pain, and with whom we can just be ourselves and vent. It's even better when we can get answers to questions about how to handle client issues that, inevitably confuse and confound us. Let's face it, the ever-changing Tax Code is like quicksilver. You simply cannot hold it all in your mind, Whenever you grab hold of a piece of it, it slithers away, elusive and different each time you touch it. It really helps to have friends - a group of peers who face the same issues and the same fears you do.
Admit it, you live in constant fear that you might be wrong. That you have made an error on a tax return, despite doing your utmost to stay well informed and educated on all tax issues. You also know that IRS rules about practitioner errors are getting ever tighter, like a noose around our necks. I don't know about you; but I do my best to be up-to-date and ethical in all my filings for my clients and myself.
But you wonder, how will someone (who is not you) look at a tax return you may have filed? What will think if they find an error you have made - especially if it turns out to be a big error? Or a keypunch error, where you may have omitted a digit and didn't catch it? These are nightmares I think all of us face. Of course, that never happens. but you worry. What if you ever do make an error like that? Uh oh!
So it's really nice to have a support group.
Several years back, in the mists of time, Mel Kreger, EA and attorney, and Doug Thorburn, EA started the CSEA San Fernando Valley Breakfast Meeting. It meets once a month year-round and twice a month during tax season. We have a small group of people who come - anywhere from about 15-50. It's informal, but CPE is provided through the chapter.
Except for a few moments of political sarcasm now and then, we pretty much stay on topic. Someone always has a question to bring up - sometimes several. Everyone in that room has their own particular area of expertise, so there's usually someone who can provide a productive answer.
Sometimes, it boils down to a matter of consensus. To "how would YOU handle this paricular situation?"
Even in between meetings, since we have the email list of all the members, we know when can tap into this mental treasure to get guidance and advice.
See about starting a group like this in your area. If you don't have a formal CPA, EA, tax or accounting organization nearby, just invite a few tax professionals you know to an informal breakfast meeting. Start with two or three people. Word will spread. You may start out at one table in the corner of a restaurant - but you'll grow to need their meeting room in short order.
Sure. You can do it online. And I do make this available to TaxMama's community with the monthly TaxMama Roundtable. But it's so much better in person. There are few if any technical difficulties (no microphone, mics that don't work, screeching mics, etc.) when you are face to face. (Perhaps a bad hair day...but that's the worst, right?)
Some topics we covered this past week include:
Client wants to sell half of one rental building to an investor - when the building is part of three buildings owned by a partnership.
Officer's CPA didn't file payroll taxes on his corporation for the last few years. No formal wages were taken, but draws were taken on a monthly basis. Should those draws be treated as payroll or IC compensation? Should payroll tax returns be filed quarterly, or just once a year, as the CPA had been doing in the past?
Directors fees - are they subject to SE taxes?
Lots more. There are always a lot of questions and not too much mockery in the answers.
It's truly fun - and oh so helpful!
PS - You can do this kind of thing with any organization or group of people. You don't have to limit the idea to tax professionals. And stay away from constricting rules (like leads groups that penalize you for not showing up).