Wednesday, August 16, 2017


Let me return to the 36th annual National Conference of the National Association of Tax Professionals at the Marriott Wardman Park in Washington DC, which I attended along with about 1000 colleagues (attendance was down from past NATP conferences I have been to) last week. 

As I said in Part 1, several of the sessions identified in the conference material caught my eye -

ü  Unusual Income Items
ü  Is It Above the Line, Below the Line or Not Deductible?
ü  Tax Stuff You Thought You Knew
ü  Special Occupations
ü  Every Choice Has a Consequence for Your Clients
ü  Panel Discussion

In addition to the above sessions I also attended classes on “Business use of Automobiles”, “Dealing With Divorce” (I had written on the tax issues of divorce in the latest issue of NATP’s TaxPro Journal and wanted to make sure I got it right), and “Casualty Losses and NOLs” (a topic that applied to a specific client’s 2016 situation).

I have been asking for a “Special Occupations” session on my conference evaluation forms for decades.  But just not necessarily the occupations this session addressed.  Discussed here were clergy, gamblers, teachers, and truck drivers.  I am more interested in police officers, firefighters, actors, and artists.  However I did attend this session.

NATP has not had a “panel discussion” session at a conference I have attended in many, many years.  I think the last time it was offered it was called “Ask the Experts”.  This conference session had 4 NATP instructors answering questions from the floor.  I would have preferred a more structured session – with maybe 1 or 2 more panel members and having questions submitted beforehand, either online prior to the conference or handed in at the Registration Desk during the conference (the panel discussion was the last session on the last day).  Questions from the floor could have been taken if there was time left after the previously submitted issues had been dealt with.

For those of you who also attended this session - my thoughts on the last question discussed were posted in “Silence is Golden” here at TWTP back in February.

One of the problems I have with the conference schedule – similar to my issue with the sessions at both the IRS and NATP Forums – is that each session was limited to 100 minutes, or 2 CPE hours.  This is not always enough time to properly cover a more involved topic.  I would prefer some extended sessions, similar to the schedule at the California Society of Enrolled Agents “Super Seminar” held each year in Vegas where there are some half-day sessions.  And some topics could be perhaps 75 minutes.

I did go to the annual “Tax Update” session, held in “general session” for all to attend at the same time (which I like, since almost everyone usually does attend).  However it was of no real value this year.  With no new tax laws and only minimal developments they had to really stretch to cover the 100 minutes.  The “tag team” of instructors filled some time by discussing “proposed” legislation.  I do not like this inclusion – I only want to hear about actual passed and signed tax law at this session so as not to cause confusion.  Perhaps there could be a separate session (here the shorter time frame would work) to discuss the various tax proposals with audience feed-back.

The keynote speaker at the conference this year was IRS Commissioner John Koskinen – appropriate since we were in Washington DC.  He opened his remarks by saying, “I’m going to read the fine print of the contract next time around to see what I am getting myself into.”

Koskinen was a good and humorous speaker.  He told us the recent 2017 tax filing season was the smoothest filing season in his tenure.  And he explained, as expected, that most of the IRS problems and deficiencies were due to underfunding by Congress and the continued adding of “unfunded” responsibilities related to the administration of government social benefit programs like the Affordable Care Act.  See the CCH news item “Koskinen Discusses Taxpayer Service, Return Preparers at NATP Event” for more on what he said in his prepared remarks.

He spoke for half of the 100 minutes and then opened the floor up for questions – telling us we could “ask anything and complain about anything”.

To be perfectly honest – I had a better opinion of the Commissioner after hearing him speak than I did before the session.

As is the case at most CPE events, most of what is discussed is basically a review and reminder of what I already knew, but I always learn some new things. 
I found one of the statements made by an instructor, new to me, to be verrrrry interesting (sorry – showing my age).  He said (in effect – I didn’t write down the exact quote) that if an answer to a tax question seems logical and reasonable and sounds right it is probably wrong.  Obviously our current Tax Code is rarely logical or reasonable.

As usual NATP did a good job of putting together an informative and entertaining conference, with excellent and knowledgeable instructors (many of whom were familiar to me) – and deserves kudos.  I was glad I attended.  I do believe I earned 22 CPE credits for the 4 days of classes.

I will not be attending next year’s conference in Anaheim – too hot, already been to Anaheim, not interested in Disney, overall will cost more than the value of the education received, and I don’t want to fly.  But I will be returning to Chicago for the 2019 conference.


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