Ask the Advocate September 2019 Tax News

2019 Advisory Board Meeting summary

Susan Maples, Taxpayers' Rights Advocate.

Susan Maples, CPA
Taxpayers’ Rights Advocate
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Last month, I mentioned that the summer time is when my staff and I prepare for our annual meetings. As I write this, we recently had the first of our four meetings: our Executive Officer’s Advisory Board which met here at FTB headquarters the first week of August.

The Advisory Board is made up of several representatives from industry, state and federal government, along with FTB staff. The Board provides our Executive Office and FTB staff with valuable insight about the many programs FTB administers. We also hear first-hand about challenges that exist when doing business with us. Hearing a non-FTB perspective is invaluable as it helps us better understand where things can be improved.

This year’s meeting provided attendees with updates on litigation and legislation, followed by a presentation on FTB’s efforts with the California Tax Education Council (CTEC) to combat “ghost tax preparers,” i.e., paid preparers who charge a fee to prepare a return but never sign it. Frequently, these preparers are unlicensed and do not have sufficient continuing professional education.  Ghost preparers as the name suggests, disappear after preparing the return, sometimes changing locations from year to year.  Taxpayers are often left with no one to turn to in the event that FTB or the IRS has questions about their return.  Preparing a return for compensation without signing the return as a paid preparer is not only against the law, it leaves these preparers open to substantial fines. Finally, whenever a taxpayer is victimized by an unscrupulous preparer, this has the potential to reflect poorly on our industry as a whole.

In addition to the updates, our Advisory Board members participated in two breakout sessions. The first session provided an overview of what a typical FTB audit looks like along with some alternative efforts undertaken to improve compliance.  The second session dealt with the changes to FTB’s website. We received many great questions from the attendees and some helpful feedback regarding how best to prioritize content on our new website.

With this year’s Advisory Board meeting now in the books, one of things I am looking forward is attending the annual IRS Tax Forum, which takes place this year in National Harbor (MD), Chicago, New Orleans, Orlando and San Diego. The first four dates have already taken place, with the last stop (San Diego) coming up September 17 to 19, which is where I plan to attend. If you are also planning on being there, I hope you will make it a point to stop by my table and say hi.

For those of you who have never attended, this 3-day event provides continuing professional education, networking opportunities, and access to exhibitors with products and services that may interest you. IRS specialists are also at the Tax Forum and are available to help you resolve a difficult case you may have for one of your clients. One of the other highlights of this year’s Tax Forum will be hearing from Charles Rettig, the new IRS Commissioner. He is the planned Keynote Address speaker at all locations and I look forward to hearing what he has to say.

In closing, I hope you had a great summer and were able to get some time away from the office doing something you enjoy.