Wednesday, September 9, 2015


I had planned to attend the National Association of Tax Professionals’ National Conference in New Orleans this past July – but a health issue caused me to cancel.  So I was looking forward to the NATP Tax Forum and Expo, held this year for the first time in Philadelphia (a Forum is also held each year in Las Vegas).

{As an FYI - when I was registering for the Forum on the first morning I was recognized as "The Wandering Tax Pro" by the NATP staffer who signed me in.  It seems my reputation preceded me.}

The reason for the two NATP Tax Forum and Expo offerings is because the IRS has moved the northeast location for its annual Nationwide Tax Forum from New York City (and previously Atlantic City) to National Harbor in Maryland, outside of Washington DC, and its west coast location from Las Vegas to San Diego.  The NYC and LV offerings were always among the most attended of the IRS Forums.

The one thing that is missing from the NATP Tax Forum offering is the IRS perspective.  While several of the sessions at the IRS Forum are taught by tax professionals from NATP, NAEA, NSTP, and NSA, many are presented by IRS speakers.  National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olsen usually makes a presentation, and there is a “keynote” presentation by a top level IRS official.  While I have never taken advantage of the service, the IRS Forums also provide an opportunity for tax professionals to bring their toughest unresolved IRS cases to review one-on-one with IRS representatives via the Case Resolution Program.

I do not oppose National Harbor as a location – and may attend an IRS Forum there one year – but when I checked it when the location first changed it was difficult to get to via public transportation and the hotel was expensive.

The sessions at the IRS Forums are all 50-minute hours.  This was one of my complaints about the IRS offering – as 50 minutes is not always enough to cover the topic properly and allow for questions.  The NATP sessions were each 100 minutes – twice as long (2 CPE hours each) – which was “more better”.  The only NATP session that had to stretch to fill the 100 minutes was the “Current Developments” class – since other than the inflation adjustments there is really nothing new in 1040 tax for 2015. 

The NATP Philadelphia offering was held at the Marriott Philadelphia Downtown.  The location was excellent – a few blocks from the architecturally unique City Hall, across from the Convention Center, and a block from the Reading Terminal Market.  The “Avenue of the Arts” was within walking distance.  It was easily accessible via train to 30th Street Station and SEPTA (a major SEPTA station was across the street) - although I took a taxi from the station to the hotel and back).    And for the most part the host venue was a good one – large classrooms (with two exceptions) allowing for table seating (another of my complaints about the IRS offering). 

The one downside - lodging was too expensive.  The “conference rate” at the Marriott was $179 + 15.5% state and local tax per night.  This was not the lowest available rate for the Marriott – a NJ-NATP member found the AAA discounted rate was lower.  I saved $20 + tax per night by staying across the street at the equally luxurious Loews Philadelphia Hotel (I had a room on the 23rd floor with a nice view). 

Dining in either hotel was expensive, especially for breakfast, but there were “cheaper” alternatives close-by - a Maggiano’s Italian Restaurant, which I liked very much, a Panera Bread, and multiple options in the Reading Terminal Market.

Because of the excessive cost of lodging I would not return to the NATP Tax Forum and Expo if held in Philadelphia again in the future.  It does not make financial sense for me to spend $700+ for travel and lodging for 16 hours of CPE – in my case not required and most only a review and nothing really new learned.  The IRS northeast offering was held in Atlantic City last year – a much more “cost appropriate” location. 

What about Cape May or Ocean City in New Jersey, or the Pocono or Catskills areas?

In Part II I will review some of the “stuff” discussed in the education sessions.


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