Last week, all my tax staff and I took our annual trip to the IRS Tax Forum.
When these forums first started out many years ago, the fee was $25 for three days of education provided by IRS staff and a variety of tax professionals from sponsor associations. It was an amazing value – especially since you could fulfill your entire annual continuing education requirement in one shot – for $25. Wow! OK, so the material was a little basic, with IRS devoting time to propagandize about their service…but still, the contacts you made were excellent. And you did get some insight into the way IRS operates.
A decade or so later, the fee has risen to $206 ($335 if registering late). Still a pretty decent value for three days of classes. Yet Walter J Matisewski, CPA from Rhode Island tells me these fees are not high enough. At a recent NATP conference, Walter heard Karen Hawkins, the Director of IRS’ Office of Profesional Responsibility indicat (or hint) that the IRS is going to be looking at the tax forums in the next couple of years to determine if they should be continued due to the excess cost and time it takes.
Hawkins is right. It’s time to re-evaluate the events. They have become bloated, out of all proportion. This year, there were over 6,000 people at the Las Vegas venue. Picture this. About 1,00 people sitting in a room, on those metal frame banquet room chairs, linked to each other in batches of 20 or 30. All these people squashed together, no room for their books or materials. Struggling to take notes, elbow poked into someone’s ribs. Nary a writing surface in sight.
Thank goodness for the two tall screens, one on either side of the podium, that show you the slides being presented. Unfortunately (since notes are so hard to take), the information on the slides is often not the same as the copies of the slides published in the conference syllabus. Some of the changes are significant – and it would be really good to be able to make note – but the presentations move pretty quickly and people miss some crucial details.
Moving between classes is like facing a stampede. Neither the conference administrators, nor the hotel (who surely must do this regularly, since they have these facilities for thousands of attendees) have worked out a way to get people smoothly into and out of the rooms. In fact, even if you get wise and stay in the same room for two or three classes, you have to fight against the tide of the stampede to get your registration card scanned so you can get continuing education credit for being present. (Has anyone thought of putting scanners in the front of the room, near the stage, instead of just at the entrance, in the back of the room?)
And the distance to conference facility! Whoowee! More people than ever rented those senior-mobiles to get around. One woman told me that she was stuck in the elevator for nearly half an hour trying to back her senior-mobile out before the doors closed. And just wait until you try to use the only two elevators in the facility – filled with two senior-mobiles side-by-side. Anyway, they solved that problem. They won’t be using the Mandalay Bay Hotel next year. They are moving to Cesear’s Palace, where the distances are not nearly as bad.
OK, enough about logistics. What about the services?