By Ed Mendlowitz
Call Me Before You Do Anything: The Art of Accounting
After I received a Mercedes as a fee to help a pair of businessmen resolve their tax withholding problems with the Internal Revenue Service, I soon became an expert in IRS collection matters.
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After that job was completed, their attorney recommended a few other clients and I became quite active with collections. Each time I got a new client, I took giant steps in learning how to handle these matters. I also got to know many IRS revenue officers, at least one in almost every IRS office in New York City, Long Island and New Jersey. While I was learning, it seemed as if everything built on what I had previously learned, and I was becoming an expert in settling tax delinquencies.
I also started getting a reputation as a straight talker, and my word became as good as gold. I was able to give as references other revenue officers I worked with. I also learned that if I couldn’t deliver something I said I would do, or had to miss a deadline, I would call early to explain why and either make new arrangements or set a new due date.
Word seemed to get around and many lawyers we did not know asked us to assist their clients. I also got involved in bankruptcy matters and this expanded the referral sources. My partner, Sy Siegel, was selling this like crazy, causing our revenue from this area to grow substantially. There were no courses or CPE training on this, but I joined the New Jersey State Society of CPAs’ Cooperation with IRS Committee, where one of the major things we dealt with was interactions with revenue officers and their supervisors. Through this committee, other CPAs started calling me for assistance.
I enjoyed my “status” of helping other CPAs and found an unintended consequence – they started referring cases to me they thought were beyond their scope of expertise. Note: This eventually led to the formation of today’s almost 2,500-CPA WS+B Partners’ Network.
Because of this I was asked to write and deliver a speech on “Managing Your Tax Season,” which I have presented 50 times to over 10,000 CPAs. I have also written a book, now in its third edition, for the AICPA with that title, along with other books on selected areas in tax compliance, including the bestselling "How to Review Tax Returns" (published by CPA Trendlines) with my son Andrew.
As this part of the practice grew, we added a tax manager, Randy Bruce Blaustein, who wrote three books on dealing with the IRS and now has his own practice in Manhattan specializing in tax controversies. When Peter Weitsen and I became partners in Mendlowitz Weitsen LLP, which later merged into WithumSmith+Brown, Peter stepped up to this area and is the WS+B go-to person with IRS collection and controversy matters. He also has written many articles and has given an IRS update speech twice a year for the last 25 years.
Collections are not looked down upon by us as a business model. Indeed, it is very satisfying when you can help a client in ways that others cannot. I also learned not to say no to new types of business.