The NATP National Conference in Baltimore has come to an end. In my 25-years as an NATP member (and 41 seasons as a paid preparer) I have attended probably 20 of these conferences. At this point I find that I really do not learn anything new of consequence at Conference - but I do pick up, or am reminded of, an occasional deduction, credit, loophole, technique, or strategy that would apply to a client.
However, despite my personal reaction, I do say to tax pros - like Iowa, “You Ought to Give the NATP National Conference a Try”!
And many did this year. I heard that this was the highest attendance in Conference history, with over 1300 attendees.
First and foremost - attending the annual NATP National Conference is an excellent way of taking a tax-deductible vacation (see my recent TWTP post). Over the years I have visited Anaheim, Atlanta, Arlington, Alexandria, Austin, Boston, Corpus Christi, Minneapolis, Orlando, Sans Antonio, Diego and Francisco, Washington DC, and other locations as a registrant at the NATP and other membership organization tax conferences.
You can arrange your schedule so as to have a full or half-day off for sightseeing. Here in Baltimore the conference was Monday through Thursday. I worked it so that I did not have any educational sessions on Tuesday. While I choose to “sleep in” and start my classes at 10AM and end after 4PM, I could have begun at 8AM and finished by 3PM. You also have the day before and the day after for local activities. And of course there is always the evening for dining, theatre, concerts, and the local nightlife.
The cost of a room is the same whether there is one person in the room or two – so you can bring your spouse and still deduct the full cost of the room. And, while on a vacation, your primary purpose for being where you are is attending the tax conference, so all of your travel is deductible.
If staying an overnight on a Saturday results in a reduced airfare an IRS ruling allows you to deduct all of your out-of-pocket costs of staying the extra day, even though there are no business activities on this additional day.
The tax savings from the deduction will usually cover at least the cost of the Conference fee, and often ends up providing “reimbursement” for some of the actual travel costs.
While Conference offers the opportunity to stay at a luxury hotel, often excellently located in downtown or waterfront areas, at a discount, sometimes a deep one, you do not have to stay at the host hotel. Here in Baltimore (on the waterfront) the Marriott room rate was $149 for conference attendees (actually over $170 per night after taxes and other charges). I stayed in the Mount Vernon Cultural District at a mid-level chain for just under $70 per night (total cost) and about $20 per day in taxis to and from Conference.
If I were in better shape/condition I could have taken a free bus from my hotel to the waterfront area and walked to the host hotel.
Now that the IRS requires RTRPs to maintain at least 15 hours of annual CPE in federal taxation, the Conference allows you to fill some, or all, of these credit hours. You can easily earn more than 15 hours of CPE at Conference. And the offerings include the required 3 hours of “updates” (I.e. Current Developments for both individual and business tax issues) and several hours of ethics preaching.
I am unique.
· I do not accept any new 1040 clients, and I do not do any partnership, sub-S corporation, or estate tax returns.
· I have no desire to represent taxpayers in dealings with the IRS (other than to attend the audit of a return I have prepared).
· While I do believe that you can teach an old dog new tricks, this old dog does not necessarily want to learn new tricks, especially when it may apply to only one or two, or none, of my current clients once or twice.
· Because I write extensively during the year on tax topics I must keep abreast of “current developments” as they happen via independent reading and research. And I always attend the NATP’s year-end “Famous 1040 Seminar” (or as it is now called “The Essential 1040”), which covers current developments through November.
So there are only so many sessions offered at Conference of interest, or actual value, to me.
However, for a younger preparer, or one wishing to develop or expand his/her practice, there is a multitude of sessions on a wide variety of tax preparation and planning and practice management topics taught by, in most cases, excellent speakers who are experts in their particular topic.
FYI – the 2013 conference is July 8 – 11 at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa in Phoenix, Arizona, and the 2014 conference is August 11 - 14 at the Marriott World Center in Orlando, Florida (again, extremely hot locations, weather-wise, at the hottest times of the year – my main complaint with NATP about the conferences).