Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Today is the last day I will be working on 2008 1040 GDEs for a while (one left - in the "need more info" file)! To celebrate I bring you a non-1040 post.

Americans, or at least most of us (myself certainly included), are fascinated with acronyms – “a word formed from the initial letter or letters of each of the successive parts or major parts of a compound term”. Like FYI for For Your Information.

The world of emails and text messaging has created a whole new appreciation for and vocabulary of acronyms – BTW (By The Way), LOL (Laughing Out Loud), MIRL (Meet In Real Life), TFB (guess). I found an online Internet Acronyms Dictionary and discovered that AAAAA was not a group for drunk drivers but the American Association Against Acronym Abuse.

Government, at all levels, has always been famous for its acronyms. We all know what the FBI, the CIA, and the DMV are. And, thanks to television, we are also aware of SWAT, JAG, CSI and NCIS. The military is especially enamored of the practice. A PFC could be promoted to become a CPO. In military speak PABST does not refer to Blue Ribbon Beer but to Primary Adhesive Bonded Structure Technology. And let’s not forget the infamous WMDs – Weapons of Mass Destruction.
A lonely SSM (Single Straight Male) might place a personal ad for a SWF (Single White Female. Or he might surf the “escort” sites to look for a BBW (Big Beautiful Woman) who provides a GFE (Girl Friend Experience).

Some acronyms have become actual words. A classic example is “snafu”, a military acronym for Situation Normal, All Fouled (not the original word) Up. The word “radar” is actually an acronym for RAdio Detection And Ranging, as the word “laser” is for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation.

I was told many years ago by, I think, a teacher that the “n” word for persons of Puerto Rican extraction came from a US Immigration category stamped on the papers of certain individuals arriving on Ellis Island – Spanish, Portuguese, Indian and Colored - although I cannot find any real documentation of this online. I do know for a fact that I am a WASP (While Anglo Saxon Protestant).

It is, however, an “urban legend” that the “n” word for Italians came from the fact that, as illegal aliens in the 30s and 40s, they were With Out Papers, or With Out Passport. The real derivation of “wop”, according to Wikepedia, “is the Neapolitan ‘guappo’, meaning dude or thug. The word defines those who belong to the Guapperia o ‘Camorra’, a criminal organization similar to the Sicilian Mafia located mostly in the province of Campania.”

Acronyms are certainly in frequent use in my profession – taxes. The AGI (Adjusted Gross Income) has been around for at least as long as I have been in the business, and is now paired with the non-gift bearing MAGI (Modified Adjusted Gross Income). We have all become familiar with the dreaded AMT (Alternative Minimum Tax) lately.

TRA 86 (the Tax Reform Act of 1986) created a whole new set of acronyms. Under TRA 86 a PAL (Passive Activity Loss) needs a PIG (Positive Income Generator). There is ACRS (Accelerated Cost Recovery System) and MACRS (Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System), both the result of FACRS (Foolhardy Acts of Congress under the Ruse of Simplification).
Many taxpayers save for retirement with either an IRA (Individual Retirement Account), a SEP (Simplified Employee Pension plan) or a SIMPLE (Savings Incentive Match PLan for Employees). One of the more complicated areas of the Tax Code concerns the NOL (Net Operating Loss).

As I have said before at THE WANDERING TAX PRO, I have often found errors in tax returns prepared by a CPA.

I belong to the NATP (National Association of Tax Professionals) and the NSTP (National Society of Tax Professionals) – as well as AAA (Automobile Association of America) and AARP (American Association of Retired Persons). Over the years I have also briefly belonged to the ASTP (American Society of Tax Professionals) and the NSA (National Society of Accountants). I have often attended tax seminars sponsored by the CSEA (California Society of Enrolled Agents).

I have been having fun with acronyms for years. During my 20+ years as the accountant for the NJ Center for Visual Arts in Summit (formerly the Summit Art Center, and now the Center for Visual Arts of New Jersey) I used them on checks, memos and cards to colleagues. It all started when a payday happened to fall on February 14th and I wrote “HVD” on the memo line of the employees’ checks. It took them a while to realize that I was saying “Happy Valentine’s Day”. If payday fell on an employee’s birthday I would write “HASB” (Have A Successful Birthday) or something to that effect on the check. It got to a point that we would send each other messages in only initials and the fun was trying to figure out what was being said.

Back before my mentor Jim Gill retired and handed me his tax practice he had given me a return to work on. Included with the client’s “stuff” was a listing of deductions on which there was one item whose nature I was unsure of. So I wrote “WTF?” next to it and put it in the “Need More Information” box. A few days later Jim said that the client had been in and they were not sure what I had meant – but thought it might be “What’s This For?”. I told him he was close, but it actually stood for “What The F***?”

I use certain specific acronyms in my blog postings. Those of you who read THE WANDERING TAX PRO are aware that I hate GD extensions. A client asked what the GD stood for and I told him “exactly what you think it stands for!” It is not Government Deferred or anything like that. I often speak ill of the DFB’s in Trenton or Washington, a reference to our federal and state elected representatives, and provide the “clean” version as Damned Fool Bureaucrats, although that is not really what it stands for. When I discuss a FU you could interpret this as a Foul Up, but you would be wrong. Again, it is exactly what you think it stands for. FFR is For Future Reference and SGTM is Sounds Good To Me.

Depending on which blog of mine you are visiting, I end each day’s postings with either TTFN (Ta Ta For Now – THE WANDERING TAX PRO) or TAFN (That’s All For Now – NJ TAX PRACTICE BLOG).

FYI, you can find out what any acronym, abbreviation, or initialism stands for at Acronym Finder or Abbreviations.com.



Monica Lawver said...

My husband and I often debate which of us deals with the most acronyms. He's got both military and medical acronyms, so he might have me beat, but the jury is still out.

What is the difference between all of those tax professional organizations you mentioned?

NATP (National Association of Tax Professionals)
NSTP (National Society of Tax Professionals)
ASTP (American Society of Tax Professionals)

Seems like they could be more effective if they joined into one group. Or am I just silly?

Robert D Flach said...


NATP has always been the biggest and best of the lot.

NSTP has had some internal problems in the past year or so. Its primary benefit in the past had been its Executive Director - former EDs were Wash DC/IRS insiders with unique perspectives. It has never been as large or as comprehensive in member benefits as NATP. It does provide good continuing education. I no longer belong.

ASTP was a very small organization with very limited benefits. I doubt if it is still in existence.