Monday, December 19, 2011

THE NATP YEAR-END TAX UPDATE WORKSHOPS – PART I

As has been my custom the past few years I booked the annual NATP year-end tax update workshops in Atlantic City, part of the Association’s TAXPRO Symposium package offered each year at several “resort” locations.

The site of the workshops this year was the Sheraton (a hotel, but not a casino - there is no gaming at the Sheraton), across from (and connected to) the Atlantic City Convention Center, which is a serious hike from the Boardwalk.  In past years the symposium was held at a Boardwalk casino hotel.

If I were exhibiting or attending an event at the Convention Center this would be a perfect location.  But I cannot for the life of me understand why NATP would schedule an event in a casino town and then not book at, or near, a casino.

A poll of the “class” in the first session indicated that I was not alone in my dissatisfaction with the location.  Complaints, most of which I agreed with, included too far from the Boardwalk, no gambling (this did not make a difference to me – I do not come to Atlantic City to gamble), limited dining options (only one “in-house” option for lunch and dinner and only one very expensive option for breakfast – one participant told us that he had paid $50.00 for breakfast for two), and expensive parking ($10.70 per day as opposed to the $5.00 I paid last year for the entire stay).

I would add to the list the poor, poor, pitiful continental breakfast the hotel put out for us each day of class.  As a general rule I have found that, with a few exceptions, the more high-end the venue the stingier the breakfast.  

Surprisingly there was not a single piece of information on Atlantic City in the hotel.  No “This Week in Atlantic City” magazine in the room, nor any flyers or brochures on anything other than the Sheraton “frequent sleeper” program in the lobby.  So I did not know if I was missing anything.  And, for that matter, the “Hotel Info” channel on the tv did not give any information on the in-house activities, such as where the symposium was being held.

Let us hope NATP listens to the many complaints that will no doubt appear on the evaluation forms and return to a casino hotel for next year’s offering.  Hey – perhaps at the Marina (I have never visited there before).     

The Sheraton’s lone in-house dinner option was the “Tun Tavern Brewery and Restaurant”, named for a historic pub in Philadelphia that was one of the first brew houses in America and considered the birthplace of the US Marine Corps in 1775.  The food was good (especially the cream of crab soup and apple cobbler dessert), and I sampled some of its beers. Thankfully its prices and menu offerings were such as to allow multiple visits during the week.

Also thankfully, “The Walk”, advertised as a premier 310,000 square feet outdoor shopping and dining mall with over 80 stores, outlets, and restaurants, was located behind the hotel.  I am not one for shopping, especially at high-end venues (I prefer 99 Cent and Dollar stores), but it did provide some alternative dining choices (“Applebees” for dinner one night and “Cavo CafĂ©” for a ham, egg and cheese crepe breakfast on my day off).

I booked days 1, 3, and 4 of NATP’s 4-day TAXPRO Symposium package.  Day 1, Monday, covered the topics Social Security and Railroad Retirement Benefits and Beneficiary Reporting.

The attendance was surprisingly low.  I guess these were not “hot” topics, despite NATP seeing a need to include them in the Symposium package.  And then the required CPE for potential RTRPs does not kick in until 2012.

I did learn that the Internal Revenue Service now agrees that Medicare Parts B and D premiums, deducted from the Social Security or Railroad Retirement benefits of a self-employed taxpayer, are includible as “self-employed health insurance premiums” available for the “above the line” deduction on Page 1.  And I was reminded that long-term care insurance premiums can also be included.

On the beneficiary front, it was confirmed that when an elderly parent “gifts” the title of a personal residence to his/her children, but keeps a “life estate” (the ability to live in the home for as long as the parent is alive), this can be “assumed” and does not have to be in writing.

to be continued . . .

TTFN

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