My wife and business partner, Belsis, has the patience of a saint with me. Tax season has just started, and she is already listening to me complain. I honestly think she tunes me out, which I would do as well. But guys, please stick with me here.
First of all, I’ve been practicing since 1994, and there are some things that I honestly miss about the good ol’ days, There are just too many ways to contact me: email, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn. The one thing I am very protective of is my cell phone number. Very few clients have it for this very reason, but I do give my cell to big clients.
That brings me to Super Bowl Sunday, which is pretty much a national holiday, especially in Florida where football is everything. However, during the Super Bowl this year, as I am trying to enjoy the game with my family and eat some wings, I literally have a client texting me about things that can wait until Monday. This is a new big client, and I have to answer him. And my family gets annoyed with me because, instead of enjoying the game, I am answering nonsensical questions. I mean, people are so rude that they think I should be answering them right away on a Sunday, at 9 p.m. Forget the game is on. So, there’s the lesson: Be protective of your cell phone number.
Secondly, I have a lot of clients, and I have to keep records of things like IRS letters and important things. Why is it acceptable to snap a picture of a important notice, that is so blurry that I can’t read it, and send it to me as a message on Facebook? I nicely ask the client to email the notice to me as a pdf, so that I can read it, and in response, I get attitude. Do you want me to read this notice, explain it to you, and discuss the correct course of action? That’s not to mention having a record of it in your file so that I can come back to it a month later if I have to reference it.
Thirdly, I have a client who goes to another accountant and asks me to send copies of their tax returns to that accountant. I have them fill out a consent form and then send the accountant the copies. Now, do I really have to do that? No. I have fulfilled my obligation under Circular 230 when I did the return, by giving the client a copy of the return. I am simply being nice by sending these forms. I receive a return email from the new accountant asking for schedules that aren’t required and a breakdown of where I am getting the income figures from. They ask me to go back to the tax program and reprint the returns so that they can have this information that they don’t need.
Now my wife is copied on the email and is so sweet, but she hasn’t been in this business as long as I have, and my feelings are, I did a favor by sending the returns. It’s tax season for this preparer, just like it is for me. So, I’m going to spend my time doing billable work and not be part of this preparer’s fishing expedition. My wife — God, love her — has this argument with me to just send what this person wants. I calmly explain why I’m not going to send it, and my wife exits the room stating how bad of a person I am.
Finally, I have the state of Florida harassing a client of mine. I have a Power of Attorney (POA), and yet this agent for the Florida Department of Revenue (FDR), decides that she is going to ignore this POA and go directly to my client. This client is very cool, and I have an extremely tight relationship with them. I’ve been doing this for 24 years and have represented thousands of clients before the FDR, but apparently, this agent has determined that my POA is no good because I didn’t fill it out correctly.
So for the first time in all of these years I didn’t fill out a form correctly, something which I have filled out at least a thousand times. This agent, who I am going to guess is new, then sends me an email. The FDR can send emails, and their responses are secure after the initial email. I reply to this lady and explain that I have filed the form that they are asking for, at three different times. How does this agent react? She calls my client again and tells him that if his CPA talks to her in that way one more time, the rest doesn’t matter. So my client calls me and tells me all of this. Here is the issue that set me off so badly, that had I talked to that agent right then, I would have lost my license. This agent attempts to intimidate my client by calling them to tell them that they are not in compliance and complaining about something I said in an email.
I need to calm down, so I casually take a walk around the block to collect my thoughts. First of all, I am HUGE on taxpayer rights. This agent has stepped all over my client’s rights in an effort to intimidate them, to get them to comply with a nonsensical request. Now, this agent responds to my email with a secure message. I fill out again the POA because, according to this agent, the POA I had filled out was invalid due to — get this — the POA covering two years. I put on the POA “2015, 2016”. The issue is I cannot use a comma to separate the years, that I have to put the word “and” between the years.
Now, you have got to be kidding me. My client is being intimidated and harassed over a stupid comma? Again, I determine this agent has got to be new, so I waste my time, fill out a new POA, put the word and in all caps, and send to my client to execute. The client signs the new POA, returns it to me. About an hour and a half has passed. I’m not as upset as I was, but I am still fuming a little. I reply to the secure emails log in and read this really nice and sweet email from this agent. I’m thinking to myself, do you not think my client and I have chatted since your intimidating phone call? I hit reply and carefully craft my response. In representing someone, you are being hired to protect their rights.
I start my email addressing this agent by her first name. I always start off respectfully with Mr. or Ms. I tell her the POA is attached. I state to her in no uncertain terms that if she has a problem with something that I say, she needs to speak to me, and not contact my client in a manner in which is meant to intimidate him. I end the email telling this agent that my direct line is on the POA. The taxpayer has a Bill of Rights, and I suggest her to read them before she calls me.
Had she been nice, I would have just simply complied. However, the issue is that the client has a C Corporation in Nevada. It earns all of its money and has all of its expenses in Nevada. It is not registered as a foreign corporation in Florida, because it transacts no business here. The only tie to Florida is that the owner is a Florida resident and takes a salary. Instead of simply complying, I am going to force this agent to point me to the actual State Statute that says a nexus has been created, and argue the facts. I am NOT making this easy for this agent.
This all transacted in one day. You know it’s a bad day when you come home, get in your recliner and just turn on Tom and Jerry, because you simply don’t care nor want to think anymore. Only three more months of this, and I swear I am taking my wife to the most expensive bed and breakfast in Vermont, where we can only take one device other than a cell phone, and have our first out-of-state vacation where it has NOTHING to do with business. And I’ll write it off as mental health.
About Craig W. Smalley, EA
Craig W. Smalley, MST, EA, has been in practice for almost 23 years. He has been admitted to practice before the IRS as an enrolled agent and has a master's in taxation. He is well-versed in US tax law and US Tax Court cases. He specializes in taxation, entity structuring and restructuring, corporations, partnerships, and individual taxation, as well as representation before the IRS regarding negotiations, audits, and appeals. In his many years of practice, he has been exposed to a variety of businesses and has an excellent knowledge of most industries. He is the CEO and co-founder of CWSEAPA PLLC and Tax Crisis Center LLC; both business have locations in Florida, Delaware, and Nevada. Craig is the current Google small business accounting advisor for the Google Small Business Community. He is a contributor to AccountingWEB and Accounting Today, and has had 12 books published on various topics in taxation. His articles have also been featured in the Chicago Tribune, New York Times, Yahoo Finance, Nasdaq, and several other newspapers, periodicals, and magazines. He has been interviewed and been a featured guest on many radio shows and podcasts. Finally, he is the co-host of Tax Avoidance is Legal, which is a nationally broadcast weekly Internet radio show.