By Eva Rosenberg
Every year, TaxMama and staff make the pilgrimage to the IRS Nationwide Tax Forum in Las Vegas. We have a party for staff, clients, friends, students, etc., toward the beginning of the event. That way, people who've only met each other online have someone to keep them company as they take classes, explore the exhibits, and participate in networking opportunities at the Tax Forums.
This also is an excellent opportunity for new and aspiring Enrolled Agents to make IRS and association contacts, learn more about how the whole tax system works, and perhaps reduce your anxiety level about audits and collections.
What is the event like? Since we only visit Las Vegas, let me tell you about that venue.
OK, I got that out of my system.
Las Vegas is one of the most crowded of the Tax Forum locations. Typically, there are about 5,000 people in attendance. Getting between sessions, if you don't plan your movements well, is like fighting your way through a tightly-packed herd of cattle, all going in the opposite direction - or being pulled along by the herd, whether you want to go that way or not.
The Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino is huge! Even if you manage to snag a room at the hotel itself, expect to walk about a mile or more (literally) just to get to the conference facilities and your classroom. Bring a hiking stick. You will need it. From your room, the direction is uphill.
Do the organizers realize that many of the attendees are more than 60 years old? Well, they seem to have figured it out. If you look at the hotel information at each venue this year, there is information about renting scooters. For some, that's the only way to survive the distances. Honestly. They are vast.
In some locations, you have a choice of vendors. In others, only one. The Mandalay Bay seems to be the only hotel providing its own scooters - and will bend over backward to make one available most conveniently. Beware though; at New York you will need a motorcycle license to rent a scooter! Huh?
Seriously, if possible, get the schedule and location of classes and try to stay in the same room for two sessions at a time. Trust me. It will make your life easier
Why bother going?
If it's such a mess, who needs it? Well, it's still a pretty good experience:
- Naturally, you can get 24 hours worth of CPE credits all in one place, all at one time.
- You can cover your annual ethics credits.
- You can meet key IRS staff, often the managers or executives in charge of specific areas. Make a point of meeting the speakers after their sessions and exchanging business cards. (Note: Don't tarry too long if you need CE credits - CPE scanners only operate for approximately 10 minutes after a session starts.)
- Get into a focus group. There are several with IRS, TAS, TIGTA, and other key agencies. You will learn what new things are coming up and be able to give your opinion on how to improve the system.
- Tax resolutions - There is a problem resolution room. You can bring your toughest unresolved cases. Be sure to bring a current (spelled newly signed) POA along with your case files (bring copies only). Contact the IRS in advance to let them know you're bringing the case, just to be safe.
- E-filing and other IRS services - You can learn more about e-services, and the Acceptance Agent program and sign up, right on the spot. Be sure to have all forms of current ID, including drivers license, EA, CPA, and attorney card, if applicable. Passport or green card, if you are a resident alien.
- Vendors, writers, publishers, and speakers - Meet the vendors. If you're smart, you will visit them during class sessions when they are not mobbed.
- And you get to meet the most interesting people! Make great contacts with peers, potential referral sources, new friends...and perhaps even meet the Tax Santa!
Visiting vendors, participating in focus groups, spending time in Problem Resolution, etc. do not provide CE credits. But...do you really need the CE credits? You can get them locally at home, at your professional meetings, or on the free IRS tele-seminars. Besides, you should be getting year-end CPE with updates of all the tax law changes anyway.
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 the EA Exam Review Course at IRSExams.com.