It seems that classes on Depreciation and Passive Activities are on the list every year – as well they should be for new preparers. There are sessions on ethics – and until I am forced to do so I am not going to waste my time on these. I have no desire to represent taxpayers before the IRS, other than to assist existing clients with audits of returns I have prepared (which is why I have not become an Enrolled Agent) – so sessions on representation are of no value to me. I no longer accept corporate or partnership clients – so sessions on issues related to these returns do not interest me.
Each year the conference evaluation asks what topics participants would like to see presented in the future. I answer this question each year, often in detail, but my suggestions have rarely, if ever, been offered. I continually ask NATP to either go north or schedule the conference in the fall – but, as I said Sunday, they always seem to book in the hottest place they can find at the height of summer.
I always attend the “Current Developments” session at conference – but to be honest this topic is covered in more depth, and more completely, in the annual year-end “update” seminar offered locally by NATP each year. This seminar has always been for me, and now with the new CPE requirements even more so, a must attend. And, also to be honest, with the internet, and especially with my blog-inspired wanderings and research, I am constantly learning of “current developments” throughout the year as they happen. As long as I am being honest – this year’s Current Developments offering was somewhat disappointing.
I do not participate in the “social” activities of the conference – so that aspect of attendance is not an issue.
Is the annual NATP conference done well? Certainly yes! Do I learn anything new at conference? Yes – I do at just about any CPE seminar or workshop I attend, although admittedly not a lot. But do I learn anything that I will actually use in my practice to benefit my clients and/or increase my income - enough to justify the cost of attending conference? That is the real question.
And another factor that applies to me specifically is one that can be described by quoting one of the instructors of the Current Developments session. He and his co-instructor were discussing the new wrinkles to the Form 941 that resulted from the HIRE Act. He ended the topic by asking, “Now how many tax preparers will decide to stop preparing payroll tax returns?”
I truly do believe that one can teach an old dog new tricks. But I have also come to a point in my practice where I do not necessarily want to learn new tricks. Of course some new tricks must be learned because they affect a large number of my existing 1040 clients. But since I am no longer accepting new clients, I can simply say when faced with a more specialized new trick, “I just won’t accept any clients, or do any returns for taxpayers, who have that situation”.
In the future I will be more careful in evaluating whether I attend the NATP conference, as I have been the past few years. My decision will certainly be affected by the classes being offered, by any special scheduled speakers, by the state of the tax profession, and by the location. While attending the conference creates a tax-deductible vacation – the value only exists if the location is either new to me and of interest, or one to which I want to return.
I will return to San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, or Washington DC as often as I can – but would not go back to Minneapolis or Corpus Christi or Orlando or Atlanta or Austin unless the content truly made it financially worthwhile.
The last word - I do highly recommend attending the NATP annual conference to those who are new to the profession, and those who want to expand and grow their practice.