July 7th, 2017 Sir-Tax is Back with Tales of Real American Heroes -By David H. Lichtenstein, CPA, MST In the spirit of Fourth of July Week, let’s talk about Real American Heroes. We have celebrated them throughout the course of our American history. Those brave souls. In the face of injustice and inequality, they fought for what was right. Yet, they were outnumbered. They were not given proper provisions and resources. They were not outfitted with the latest technology with which to separate the good from the bad, and thereby adequately protect the interests of our nation. Of course, I’m talking about IRS and State Revenue Agents. What? I am I alone on this one? Believe it or not, the poor public perception of IRS and State Revenue Agents (Let’s collectively call them “IRSSRA’s”) may be heavily misplaced. Admittedly, I can’t resist scrolling through the infamous internet comment sections. And I am appalled by the number of people who think that the IRS writes tax law, or that State Revenue Agents are out to get them, or that pizza with anything other than sauce, cheese (and maybe pepperoni) can still be considered pizza. People, it’s time to take a step back and gain an appreciation for what IRSSRA’s do for our country, and the fierce obstacles that they face every day when they come to work. Their job is to enforce the Federal and State tax laws, and collect the fair share of taxes from the public. These taxes pave the way (literally when those taxes are used to fix our roads) for our government to provide essential services to the public. And what are they provided with in order to do their jobs? Fax machines, bureaucracy, annually shrinking resource budgets, fraudulent tax returns, and extremely complex and confusing tax laws, just to name a few. Is this specifically the fault of the IRSSRA’s? No. IRSSRA’s are doing the best that they can, given the obstacles listed above, and they operate in an environment where the words “thank you” are rarely heard. This past tax season, I have experienced some of the worst conditions and burdens that our Federal and State tax systems have placed on both taxpayers and tax practitioners. (This is why you haven’t heard from me in a while!). However, my faith in humanity was restored after making contact with several dedicated, friendly, and helpful IRSSRA’s. There are three in particular that stand out: The first one was an IRS collections agent. That’s right, a collections agent! I had a client who could not pay his 2016 tax bill and was potentially facing an annual game of “tax-catchup” (i.e. kicking the can down the road). So, with time running out, I took a chance and left a voicemail for a local IRS collections agent. The agent called me right back, provided me with crucial advice on the proper approach to take, and then offered to monitor the taxpayer’s situation as things unfolded. Now, the taxpayer is on a clear financial path to tax recovery, and I have made an IRS contact for life! The second one was a State revenue agent. One of my clients had hit a bureaucratic roadblock with the State on an imminent sale of their business. And the agent (even though this was not his “department”) offered to take on the case and direct it towards someone within the State that could expedite things. The sale took place on time, and everything worked out. The third one was a member of the Taxpayer Advocate Service (“TAS”) within the Internal Revenue Service office. Most taxpayers don’t even know about this service. The TAS is an independent organization within the IRS. They are mainly tasked with assisting taxpayers who cannot seem to get their issues resolved or addressed via the normal channels within the IRS. I have used the TAS many times over the years, and this year was no exception. In one 45 minute phone call, the TAS agent was able to quickly resolve an issue that my client had been personally dealing with for over two years. And these are just a few examples of the many experiences I have had this past tax season where an IRSSRA went above and beyond what was expected, and delivered exceptional customer (i.e. taxpayer) service. After years of cultivating relationships with IRSSRA’s, I have found that most of them are good people who genuinely want to help the taxpayer. You’re now probably saying to yourself, “Sir-Tax just got lucky”. But I don’t think it is luck – there are plenty of gems out there. If you want to find them, ditch the contempt and follow two of Sir-Tax’s favorite maxims: Sir-Tax’s Golden Rule: Treat IRSSRA’s (and I guess regular folk too) how you would like to be treated. Sir-Tax’s Ode to a Simpler Time: Email’s a distraction to human interaction A phone call can be better than writing a letter Anyway, it’s been real, but I’ve got to get back to my other job: Reducing your taxes and boosting the economy. I can’t promise that I will write every week (I know, I know, this is way overdue!) but if you keep reading, I’ll keep writing. My goal is to keep you, the taxpayer, informed on tax issues that matter to you, your family, or your business. And if there’s a tax issue out there that you’d like to know more about, or if you have questions about a recent post, feel free to comment on my blog: Sir-Tax, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I may just pick your issue for my next post.