Becoming an Expert in IRS Collections

Young businessman in office on phoneThe takeaway? Don't say no to new types of business.

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.

MORE: How I Got a Mercedes as a Fee | Mendlowitz: How I Owned a Printing Company and Restaurant | Am I Happy? | My Boss Hated the Client | Fired from My First Job | Staffers Need to Speak Up with Clients | Bored by CPE? You’re Missing Out! | Clients Buy Solutions, Not Hours | Roger Is My Only Client
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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.
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How I Got a Mercedes as a Fee

Car driving on road on pillars through Swiss mountainsA true tale of the IRS being helpful.

By Ed Mendlowitz
Call Me Before You Do Anything: The Art of Accounting

At one point we had a client that was going out of business and they asked us to negotiate a final settlement with the IRS in which the two partners could walk away broke but without being in debt to the IRS for unpaid withholding taxes.

MORE: How I Owned a Printing Company and Restaurant | High CPA Fees Should Be a Client’s Goal | How Hidden Bias Taints Results | When to Keep Some Plans to Yourself | Employees Have Better Memories than Bosses | When Writeups Went Extinct
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Neither my two partners nor I had experience at that time in this.
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Mendlowitz: How I Owned a Printing Company and Restaurant

Hand watering small plant in pot shaped like upward arrowAnd 3 lessons I learned.

By Ed Mendlowitz
Call Me Before You Do Anything: The Art of Accounting

My childhood dream had two parts. One was to have my own CPA practice and the other was to own a bunch of businesses.

MORE: High CPA Fees Should Be a Client’s Goal | Hot Shot Sales Manager Is Not Such a Hot Shot | You Must Push the Pencil | The Art of the Deal: Starts with Listening | Working for a Jerk
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The CPA part worked out great. The businesses part did not.
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High CPA Fees Should Be a Client’s Goal

Businessman sitting on scales with stack of coins in other trayThey don't want their accountant doing as little as possible.

By Ed Mendlowitz
Call Me Before You Do Anything: The Art of Accounting

One time I had three clients who were on the board of directors of the same NYSE-listed company. Two of them questioned every bill and every hour spent, and their fees were fairly low for people of that caliber. The third person did not seem to care what he paid, and his fees were quite high. Let me call him Jack.

MORE: Hot Shot Sales Manager Is Not Such a Hot Shot | Am I Happy? | My Boss Hated the Client | Fired from My First Job | Staffers Need to Speak Up with Clients | Bored by CPE? You’re Missing Out!
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Jack also wanted to have lunch with me about twice a year. There was no special agenda. He just wanted to talk about how he could get richer and whether I could come up with anything that might help his company. We ate in the company’s private dining room – just him and me and three people waiting on us. The only thing I remember about the food was that at the beginning of the lunch we were served a wheel of brie cheese measuring 10 or 12 inches in diameter, and he proceeded to eat almost all of it.
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Hot Shot Sales Manager Is Not Such a Hot Shot

Businessman holding a printed red "down" arrowSometimes people reveal more than intended.

By Ed Mendlowitz
Call Me Before You Do Anything: The Art of Accounting

A client decided that to grow her business she needed a top-tier sales manager and recruited someone from a much larger competitor.

MORE: Am I Happy? | How Hidden Bias Taints Results | When to Keep Some Plans to Yourself | Employees Have Better Memories than Bosses | When Writeups Went Extinct
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Am I Happy?

Life is short, you know.

By Ed Mendlowitz
Call Me Before You Do Anything: The Art of Accounting

My father was dying – too young and too soon. He succumbed over a nine-month period to coronary heart disease. Today his life could have been extended, but not in 1976.

MORE: How Hidden Bias Taints Results | You Must Push the Pencil | The Art of the Deal: Starts with Listening | Working for a Jerk | The ‘Wrong’ CPE | Be a Sounding Board to Your Clients
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I would visit him and see his strength waning to the point that he could barely lift his head or talk and even then it was in a hoarse whisper. One of the last things he said to me was, “Are you happy?” I answered quickly, “Yes.”
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How Hidden Bias Taints Results

Statue of scales of justiceDon't make your job harder.

By Ed Mendlowitz
Call Me Before You Do Anything: The Art of Accounting

It is very hard to avoid injecting bias in investigatory forensic work, but essential if you want to be successful. I had a great experience to illustrate this.

MORE: You Must Push the Pencil | My Boss Hated the Client | Fired from My First Job | Staffers Need to Speak Up with Clients | Bored by CPE? You’re Missing Out! | Clients Buy Solutions, Not Hours | Roger Is My Only Client
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First, very few people do things that are completely unbiased. Most everyone starts with some sort of preconceived idea and, whether consciously or subconsciously, they lean toward that. Maybe I should have said unconsciously. So many people do things without a clue, but that is a different story.
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You Must Push the Pencil

Woman's hand using a pencil on notepadSometimes the conventional is not wisdom.

By Ed Mendlowitz
Call Me Before You Do Anything: The Art of Accounting

Tax rules continuously change, but the specific tax matter here is not what’s important. What is important is the process.

MORE: When to Keep Some Plans to Yourself | Employees Have Better Memories than Bosses | When Writeups Went Extinct | Kennedy’s Acceptance Speech
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In the 1970s the tax law provided for a penalty for certain family corporations retaining “excess” earnings and not paying dividends. For the record the individual tax rate on dividends then was 70 percent, so forcing the payment of dividends would give the government that much more tax – on some level you can say that it almost was a confiscatory tax.
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My Boss Hated the Client

Drawing of unhappy face and arrow pointing from it to happy face"His remarks were like a kiss of death."

By Ed Mendlowitz
Call Me Before You Do Anything: The Art of Accounting

Early on, my boss took me to a client I was to work on. He started to explain what needed to be done and what the client did, but then he said, “I hate this client – everything is always messed up and nothing ever makes sense.”

MORE: When to Keep Some Plans to Yourself | The Art of the Deal: Starts with Listening | Working for a Jerk | The ‘Wrong’ CPE | Be a Sounding Board to Your Clients | Make Obsessed Leadership Work for You
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He also told me my work area was in the factory. I would probably have to move a chair next to a carton that would serve as a desk, and he warned me the lighting wasn’t too good.
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When to Keep Some Plans to Yourself

Smiling woman meeting with man in officeLeave room to be surprised.

By Ed Mendlowitz
Call Me Before You Do Anything: The Art of Accounting

Planning is a trait of most accountants, including me. Maybe that is one reason we become accountants. I always seemed to write out plans – for myself, partners, staff and sometimes personal activities.

MORE: The Art of the Deal: Starts with Listening | Fired from My First Job | Staffers Need to Speak Up with Clients | Bored by CPE? You’re Missing Out! | Clients Buy Solutions, Not Hours | Roger Is My Only Client | Blown Loan Covenants and How to Recover from Them | Beyond the Numbers: Be a Friend | Perception Becomes Reality
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One time I had a plan for a new staff person who became our tax manager and eventually ran our firm’s tax department.

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The Art of the Deal: Starts with Listening

Be all ears. Talk less. Listen more.

By Ed Mendlowitz
Call Me Before You Do Anything: The Art of Accounting

A client wanted to buy a business in Birmingham, Ala., and I went there with the company’s CFO to review the books, do some due diligence, kick the tires and negotiate a deal.

MORE: Fired from My First Job | Employees Have Better Memories than Bosses | When Writeups Went Extinct | Kennedy’s Acceptance Speech | What Consulting Is | Mendlowitz: Why My Firm Merged with WS+B
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The business was on the cusp of super success, but they ran out of money and my client was going to buy the company, provide working capital and retain the owner to run the business.
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Fired from My First Job

What I learned the hard way. So you don't have to.

By Ed Mendlowitz
Call Me Before You Do Anything: The Art of Accounting

My first job was with a sole practitioner friend of my father’s and lasted seven weeks.

MORE: Employees Have Better Memories than Bosses | Working for a Jerk | The ‘Wrong’ CPE | Be a Sounding Board to Your Clients | Make Obsessed Leadership Work for You | Client Checklist: Top 10 Issues for Real Estate Investors | Working Hard? Or Hardly Working?
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I was fired because I was terrible. I couldn't do anything right!

Here's what I've learned.
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Employees Have Better Memories than Bosses

Two businessmen talking across a deskWhat can forgetting cost you?

By Ed Mendlowitz
Call Me Before You Do Anything: The Art of Accounting

I was lucky to get my second job in accounting, but I received a salary that was $5 lower than my first job (which I had been fired from), so I took the job.

MORE: Working for a Jerk | Staffers Need to Speak Up with Clients | Bored by CPE? You’re Missing Out! | Clients Buy Solutions, Not Hours | Roger Is My Only Client | Blown Loan Covenants and How to Recover from Them
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I asked for $90 a week. My boss said he would give me the extra $10 in six months after seeing how I worked out, so my starting salary was $80 per week. Also, he said I did not have to work any overtime. If I did, they would pay me at straight time rates, but there was no overtime.
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