TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Sunday, December 31, 2017

WSJ: The Most Popular People At New Year's Eve Parties? Tax Accountants

Happy New YearWall Street Journal, Who’s the Center of Attention at Holiday Parties? Your Tax Accountant:

When Mark Astrinos is asked what he does, the response is typically muted. “I’ll just say, ‘I’m a CPA,’ and the conversation will end,” said the certified public accountant and financial planner with Libra Wealth in San Francisco.

Not lately, though. Thanks to the sweeping tax-overhaul bill passed by Congress and signed this month by President Donald Trump, people now “light up and they’re so intrigued and they want to know how they’ll be affected,” he said.

In part because of the attention, Mr. Astrinos said, “It’s never been a better time to be a CPA.”

Tax professionals suddenly have found themselves at the center of the cultural conversation. Fine points of pass-through business income and the state-and-local-tax deduction are now the stuff of everyday small talk.

“You realize how relevant it is, and you realize how important it is to helping your clients,” said Adam Katz, a PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP tax partner specializing in international taxes. “You find yourself at the center of a lot of very important discussions.”

But CPAs are paying a price for that cachet: 16-hour days, carry-in pizza for every meal, and postponed or canceled time off for the holidays. They have had to scramble to bone up on each complex, shifting version of the tax overhaul and field waves of inquiries from anxious clients.

“I’ve been in every morning about 6:30, go home to eat around 6, back online, check out around 9:30,” said Jeff Watkins, a tax attorney and CPA who works with wealthy clients at EKS&H LLLP in Denver. “I sent an email yesterday to a bunch of clients saying I’ll work through the weekend trying to figure things out.” ...

It hasn’t been easy for tax experts—even if the measure’s complexity makes it likely to prove lucrative for them.

“I chuckle in one breath and start sweating in the other,” said Michael Eisenberg, a principal with Squar Milner Financial Services LLC in Encino, Calif.

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