This guy really chaps my hide…

My favorite Forbes contributor is at again.

For the past year and a half, Forbes blogger Stephen Dunn and I have been having a “spirited discussion” regarding the content of some of the tax resolution articles that he posts on the site.

Stephen is an experienced tax litigation attorney, and writes about tax law matters for Forbes. Every six months or so, he’ll write a fairly scathing commentary on the subject of tax resolution.

On the surface, Stephen’s pieces are consumer warnings about the flagrant tax resolution con artists that exist. His observations about that unruly sector are warranted, but his articles on the subject always take a sharp turn that really rub me the wrong way.

This article that he posted a few days ago is his most egregious yet — they keep getting worse.

Instead of just delivering a necessary consumer warning regarding due diligence, Stephen tends to veer off and attack the competency of CPAs and Enrolled Agents in regards to IRS collections matters. The fact that he does this in such a frequently read location is what makes me feel compelled to correct him.

I think it’s one thing to educate consumers, but it’s a whole other thing to misinform consumers for the sake of spreading an “attorney only” agenda. It’s also just not cool to openly disparage his professional colleagues (CPAs and EAs). You can read my lengthy comment to him at the bottom of his article, so I won’t rehash the whole thing here. But more than anything, it’s the smug sense of superiority that comes across in his writing that really gets my goat.

Fortunately, not all attorneys are like Mr. Dunn. All of the attorneys that I’ve trained in IRS collections representation over the past few years have actually been a pleasure to work with — every single one of them. I’m not trying to toot my own horn, but the fact that so many attorneys have come to somebody like me to obtain tax resolution training is a testament to the fact that the financial and tax procedure aspects of tax resolution are significantly outside the normal realm of “litigation” as to require specialized training. Even NTPI and ASTPS workshops have plenty of attorneys in attendance.

IRS collections representation is extremely multi-disciplinary. It seldom requires interpretation of law, almost always requires financial analysis, and always requires good communication and negotiation skills. All practitioners, regardless of background, must cross a skill set bridge in order to competently deliver collections representation services.

What do you think? Am I being overly defensive of CPAs and EAs? Am I misinterpreting his words? I’d love to hear what you think, either in the comments of this post on my blog or in the comments at the Forbes article.

Comments on This guy really chaps my hide…

  1. Jassen,

    I could not agree with you more!

    I have several Attorney’s who are in fact clients of mine. I do consider myself an expect in the field of IRS collections because of the many skill sets I have perfected and is required as you mentioned in your statement. Attorney’s may be good at what they do and kudos’s to them for what they do in their profession and field of expertise.

    However, while I agree with the “Consumer Beware” in the Tax Resolution Industry, I, personally push it hard! it is unacceptable and unprofessional to publish an uneducated bashing of CPA’s and EA’s that misinforms the consumer if one’s intent is to educate, not mislead. It is obvious that Stephen Dunn is pushing his own agenda and you hit the nail on the head as far as I am concerned.

    As with any industry, including Attorney’s, the consumer needs to be aware! There is good and bad everywhere! Know who you are doing business with! Ask for and call references! Not everything you read on the internet is truth, however, there is a lot of truth out there!

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and allowing me to share mine!

  2. John Walters says:

    As with any profession there are good and bad apples in the barrel but does that mean you throw away the whole barrel…I think not. Yes consumers need to do their homework and really understand who they are hiring and for what job. Every tax does not take an Attorney to resolve and quite frankly an EA or CPA as a United States Tax Court Practioner can handle about 99% of tax cases since most are pushed back done to administrative levels anyway. I have worked many cases that could be resolved without litigation if the client just cooperated and produced documents timely. For a case that either the state or IRS CID arrives at my door then it is time for the attorney since there seems to be more going on than what appears on the surface. Many times clients to us after they receive wage levies or someone else caused them other issues so we fix them. This attorney trumpets his own horn and that is fine to promote your business and expertise but at the disparage of other competent professionals is as low as the semi annual vetting and mudslinging rhetoric that we hear from political foes. Maybe he should run for office then he can pass legislation to allow only attorneys to practice tax problem resolution, maybe only himself!

  3. As an EA who is very proud of my tax expertise and continually working to increase my knowledge I was horribly offended by his article. It implies in many cases EAs are even less qualified to help people with tax issues than CPAs. It all depends what skill set you bring to the table, there are many types of EAs, CPAs and attorneys. His broad brush characterizations is really insulting.

    I don’t at this time do tax resolution beyond the obvious early phone calls, because I don’t have the training in that field. But that doesn’t apply to all EAs, I know some are highly skilled in resolution. And just like most attorneys aren’t spending their time being Perry Mason, skillfully arguing in front of a jury, I think most tax resolution has little to do with courtroom skills.

    I also have attorney’s as clients, they know their skill set, I know mine, and we don’t feel a need to fling mud at other folks. Jeesh, I can see why you are annoyed!

  4. Wow – what a smug dip_ _ _ _! He obviously believes the JD behind his name gives him the right to declare that he knows more than any one else who does not have a JD behind theirs. I notices he never addressed your point that 99.9% of tax resolution cases do not involve any litigation. He just jumped right back into – how his legal expertise was needed. I can see exactly why he chaps your hide! I very much dislike the attitude of these so-called experts who try to lump everyone into one category or another. He fits the true definition of prejudice – something this so-called lawyer would deny left and right, but definitely fits the bill.

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