Aren’t you lucky – you get 2 posts here at TTP this week!
I have just finished the 2-day National Association of Tax Professionals’ Tax Forum at Harrah’s on the Marina in Atlantic City.
NATP created its Tax Forum, I believe, because of the change of location of the Northeast IRS Nationwide Tax Forum a few years ago from New York City (or occasionally Atlantic City) to the National Harbor in Maryland. The Northeast event had been one of most highly attended of the offerings, and the new National Harbor venue is expensive and inconvenient for many northeast tax pros.
While the individual educational sessions are up to NATP’s usual standards, certainly at least equal to the IRS sessions, the one aspect of the IRS Tax Forum that NATP obviously could not duplicate was the unique IRS perspective on the topics discussed, and the presence of a high-level IRS keynote speaker. I do miss the IRS Forum and wish it would return to the NY metropolitan area.
This NATP Tax Forum did, however, offer case consultations with a representative of the Taxpayer Advocate Service, something that is popular at and had been unique to the IRS Forums.
The complaints I had about the IRS Forum also apply to NATP’s offering –
* the sessions are all limited to a standard length - here each offering is I hour and 40 minutes – often either too long or too short for an adequate presentation of the particular topic (a similar complaint about the NATP National Conference sessions), and
* there are no tables in the “classrooms” – making taking notes difficult.
In hindsight my attendance at this year’s NATP Forum was not “cost effective”. The out of pocket was much more than the value of what I actually received (not the fault of NATP). I booked very early in the year, to take advantage of a discount, before the schedule of offerings were announced. I will certainly wait until the schedule is announced before deciding to attend next year.
One main reason for the lack of value is unique to this year. As with the National Conference (though not as much) the value of the event depends on the extent of “new developments” in the area of tax law, IRS regulations, and Tax Court decisions – with an emphasis on new tax law. While it was anticipated that there would be tax reform legislation passed in 2017, there was absolutely no new tax laws passed (actually not much, if any, new legislation passed on anything) yet. There still may be new tax law passed before the year-end, though, unfortunately, more likely than not just token legislation, which will make the annual NATP year-end update workshops more valuable.
The speakers had to really stretch to fill a 2-hour session on updates and developments at the National Conference, and nothing much of consequence has happened since August.
Another reason is unique to me. I am winding down my practice – I no longer accept any new clients and am actively working to “thin the herd”. I no longer need to learn specific areas of tax law with which I am not adequately experienced or knowledgeable because I may get a client in the future to whom these areas might apply. I know my clients and what will apply to them. If a unique new situation suddenly applies to a client I will either tell them to go elsewhere or consult NATP’s Research Department for instruction on the situation.
And, (1) having been a tax pro for 45 years and attending NATP and other organization conferences and workshops for 30+ years, how many times do you need a session on depreciation – and (2) I have absolutely no desire, or need, to sit through redundant ethics preaching.
There was, however, one unique event that made my attendance worthwhile. I was honored to be chosen to participate in a “Focus Group” on NATP membership value and benefits. It was good to be able to provide direct feedback to NATP and interesting to hear the thoughts and comments of fellow tax pros, a couple who were acquaintances of mine from the New Jersey chapter of NATP.
This was the first year that NATP held an event at “the Marina”. Last year, and past years’ year-end updates, were held at Bally’s on the Boardwalk.
Harrah’s was a large and extensive resort. As I told the NATP staff-person when I was signing in – I will certainly get my exercise at this event (long walk to the conference center). Three years ago I would have complained about this – but no longer.
The room was clean and comfortable, with an ocean view, and relatively reasonably priced. I had good experiences at the in-house restaurants – with the exception of seeing the total on the bill I received at the end of the meal. The food, in terms of quality and quantity, and service was excellent, albeit very expensive.
The problem with being at the Marina is that you are for all intents and purposes a “prisoner” of the resort – the other hotel/casinos are not next door or even conveniently nearby. And if you want more than a sandwich or pizza for dinner you need to spend $70+ - $100+ per person, as I did, for a complete dinner (on the 3rd night I limited dinner to soup and sandwich to try to balance the excessive spending of the first 2 nights). And the line at the $40+ buffet was humungous (I will no longer wait on line to give someone my money).
Because the event was Monday and Tuesday there were no shows or variety of evening entertainment options at Harrah’s, and, again, it was truly difficult getting to other venues. I do not gamble – I no longer even do my token $20 at the slots – so after dinner there is nothing to do except watch tv, and the channel availability is truly limited (I have found that the “cheaper” and less “glamorous” a lodging option the more channels there are on the in-room tv).
Thankfully there was free wi-fi in the room, so I could keep up with emails and news and do some writing.
I would prefer in the future the NATP Forum returns to Bally’s, or even Caesars, on the Boardwalk, where less expensive dining options, and things to do, were available both in-house and conveniently nearby. If NATP returns to Harrah’s next year I will not attend.
There is usually a “Part Two” to a review of CPE events, where I discuss tax items of interest that I learned or was reminded of at the education sessions. Not this time. I literally took only one note at the 5 sessions I attended.