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Improving People’s Lives

Government building

Improving People’s Lives

Many years ago I had a conversation with an experienced tax professional about taxes in the United States.  His company was in the middle of several tax audits – where state governments sent out auditors to review his company’s purchases and sales to see if his company made mistakes.

I remember him sharing his frustration over the differences of opinion on whether certain sales or purchases were taxable or not.  He was unhappy.  He felt like the whole process was sort of a “luck of the draw.”  In other words, would he get an auditor that understood his industry and the tax laws that applied to his company or would he have to educate/debate with them to “fight” for the way his company paid and charged sales tax.

He was frustrated.  I remember at that time saying to him, “Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone was on the same page?  What if we all had the same answers and knew them going in?  Wouldn’t that fix things for everyone?”  He sort of smiled and said, “Yeah, that would be nice, but it isn’t realistic.  This is just the way it is.”

I did not agree.  It was not logical.  

As a consultant, I experienced this first hand many times with dozens of companies over the years.  Situations where the company (taxpayer) and the state government were just not on the same page.  Confusion.  Lack of training.  Lack of information.  Different information.  Sometimes it even felt like there were “hidden rules” that no one knew about until it was too late.  It was frustrating for my clients and for the state governments that they were responsible for sending tax to.  I remember saying to my boss at the time, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we were all on the same page – had the same answers?”  He smiled and said, “But then we wouldn’t have a job.”

I did not agree.  There had to be a way to help others and in the end be rewarded for it.

I was fortunate to become the head of tax at a Fortune 500 company.  We were large enough that we had audits all over the country.  There too I experienced audits – and also situations where auditors had differences of opinion on what was taxable and why.  In working with auditors, I found ways to give them information that would help them understand our business and did my best to establish relationships to make life easier on the state government and on us as a company.  Over the years there, I met other professionals (like Brian Smith who now heads up our Government Relations at TTR) – they too shared the idea that there has to be a better way to do all this tax stuff with audits and state governments.

A little over 5 years ago, I was given an opportunity to do something kind – something that might open the door to help companies everywhere.  It was going to cost quite a bit of time and money and we were not going to get paid for it.  A large US state was looking for help.  They needed someone to go through and put together a 60+ location tax matrix for their local governments – they needed this for a report they were preparing for the State Government.  No one would help them out without charging money.  I got with Shahab and Ken Webster and Courtney Cherry and the research team and we decided to help them out – on our dollar.  It was the right thing to do.  Anything, I thought, to make this area easier and better for everyone.

For the first time I had professionals that agreed with me – that we could do something to improve things and that it was worth it.  I wasn’t alone. 

They were beside themselves – the state officials couldn’t believe we would do it and when we did – they couldn’t believe the quality of what we had done.  We really helped improve their lives that day. And some time later, we were asked to work with that state to help every company – everywhere – and the state and local governments – to come together to get on the same page on tax rules (what is taxable and not) and tax rates.  And we were getting paid for this – paid to help everyone.

Each of my employees wake up every morning and come to work for the benefit of others.  They care.  They make the time to get things right – no matter the time involved.  Sometimes they stay late.  Sometimes they come in early.  They do these things even sometimes without having met the people they help.  They do it selflessly.  They do it because they care. 

I am thankful for the opportunity we have to help millions of people and thousands of tax professionals.  I look around at the dedicated group of professionals that I have the honor of working with, and appreciate every one of them..  Together we get things done and continue to improve people’s lives.