Catch Levy & Associates on the radio Saturdays on Big Talk 850 AM WFTL Southeast Florida hosted by Levy Tax Help’s Lawrence Levy.
Introductory audio: Liens, levies, wage garnishments, back tax debts of all kinds. If you’re facing any of these tax debt problems, stay tuned for the next 30 minutes. This is the Levy Tax Help Show presented by Levy and Associates of Delray Beach, tax resolution specialists. Call Levy and Associates 24-hours a day, seven days a week with all of your civil tax questions, 1-800-TAX-LEVY, that’s 1-800-829-5389. Now, the Levy Tax Help Show.
Lawrence: Good morning, South Florida, and welcome once again to the Levy Tax Help Show. We hope that everyone, including Broward County, is back to school. We hope that it has given, at least a little bit of time for the parents that listen to the show to focus on what counts. That’s not right, what counts should be your family, but you have also got to focus if you have got IRS problems too. Your family, your loved ones, your friends and your business is what counts.
If you have IRS problems you also have to face that eventually, and you want to do it before my last name is used, which is Levy by the way. Yes, Levy really is my last name. You want to avoid a bank levy, you want to avoid a wage levy. You want to avoid those things, and as we always say, “Don’t fear a levy, hire a Levy”.
Today, once again, we have Greg McCaffrey who used to work at the IRS for over thirty years, and with us he is now on the Levy team and has been for quite a while. He is now advocating for tax payers and today we have got a pretty good show to talk about some success stories, some bizarre success stories to say the least.
Greg, good morning, how are you?
Greg: I am bright-eyed and bushy tailed and here at work again, working for our clients.
Lawrence: That is a good thing. I am going to start off the show with a certain story. I am going to start with this one as it just blows my mind. This is not and IRS case, it is a State matter. In a particular State, there was a debt owed. It was about $28,000. The $28,000 dollars that was owed was about $10,900 in tax and the remaining was in penalties, and there may have been a little bit of interest. So, in this particular case, the tax payer, the client’s former CPA was elderly. I think, in his seventies or eighties, if it is okay to say ‘elderly’ at that age. He was not in good health and eventually passed away. He ended up going to a new CPA who referred the client to us. Well, the first name of the new CPA is ‘George’. George refers clients to us from time to time because as a CPA he does not specialize in IRS tax problems or State tax problems. In this case it was a State issue that he had going on.
We get involved. We find out that when the client was getting letters from the IRS and from the State, and whomever, he would call up his now deceased CPA and say, “Hey, what is going on, can I fax it or email it?”. This gentleman was old school in the true sense. He didn’t have email and would say, “Hey, let me meet you for a cup of coffee, let me meet you for breakfast, you can give me the notice”. They would meet for a coffee because the client, whose business has been around for forty years and it was the gentleman’s father who started the company, and he would say, “Here is the notice, it is from the State”. The CPA said, “Don’t worry about it, I will handle it. Don’t worry about it, we will figure it out come the end of the year”. So, the client is an electrical contractor and is great at what he does, but doesn’t know anything about taxes and that is why he had a CPA.
To cut a long story short, the gentleman dies. As it turns out the CPA who passed away did absolutely nothing. He didn’t call the State. This case was an unemployment issue for unemployment taxes that was owed. He didn’t do anything and was apparently sticking these away in a file and telling the clients, ‘Oh, don’t worry’. Maybe, it was because he didn’t know what to do, but we will never know because this gentleman is no longer living, God rest his soul.
So, the client comes across George, the new CPA, here is the mess that you are in and says, “Go see the Levy Office”. So, we get involved and I am on the phone literally earlier this week, and by the way we had already submitted a request for penalty abatement. We sent a copy of the obituary. We sent a copy of a very well-written letter from the client, a copy of a very well-written letter from the existing new CPA, George. We sent our cover letter with it, and we also requested penalty abatement based upon the fact that the tax payer didn’t do it intentionally, they were around for forty years and never had a problem until recently, apparently the gentleman was sick and passed away. Can you give him a break on the penalties, and they will pay the tax, in a sense, $10,890 in tax?
On the phone, on Wednesday, we had a scheduled call at 4.45 PM on Wednesday, 23 August. I get done early. Sometimes I do some of the State work, not the IRS. I enjoy it and I am happy to deal with that from time to time. I called the collections manager and said, “I am a little bit early, are you okay to talk at 3.30?”, on voicemail. I called back at around 4.20 or 4.30, or something like that and I said, “Oh great, let’s talk now”. At the time, we were early, technically. It was about ten minutes before the 4.45 PM scheduled call and I said, “Did you have the chance to look at the information we submitted, and by the way we sent the 2016 tax returns that show that this company was in financial distress. They had very little in assets ($200). They don’t own a building, they don’t own land. The income was on the decline. They were operating at a loss and just barely making ends meet. Did you look at the info. we sent and the tax return?”.
She said, “Yes”.
I said, “Alright, do you see that they are in financial distress?”.
As opposed to answering the question, the representative responded by saying, “How is your client going to pay? We need to figure out how they are going to pay?”.
I said, “Wait a second, I just asked you a fair question. Did you look at the info. we sent, and did you believe and concur that they are in financial distress?”.
“I just said, Mr Levy, how is your client going to pay?”.
I said, “That is not the question. I asked you a question, can you at least have professional dialogue back and forth?”.
By the way, we were on speaker phone. Greg, you don’t know about this story yet, but she had one of her, what she called ‘Lead’ workers in her office with her. We said that it was no problem. Again, someone else heard the call, great. I was talking in this tone of voice. I was professional. I was polite.
I said, “Did you look?”. Again, she refused to answer the question.
I said, “We are talking about penalties, what would you like to do?”.
This is now about 4.45 PM on Wednesday of this week. She said something to the effect of, ‘Well, you know what, maybe we will do 50%’.
I said, “50%? How did you arrive at 50%? Why not 2%? Why not all of the penalties? How did you arrive at that?”.
She said, “I am done with this conversation”.
I said, “Wait a second, how did you arrive at 50%”.
Greg, by the way, are you in shock yet, or probably not yet, are you?
Greg: No, we are talking about States.
Lawrence: That is it, exactly.
Greg: We are not talking about logic. We are not talking about reason. We are talking about State. The chances are it has been contracted away to a private collection agency, anyway, that makes a profit.
Lawrence: Actually, this one is not, it is truly with the State. Needless to say, it was with State and not a collections agency. This was an unemployment debt. So, we keep on talking and I said, “Explain to me how you arrived at the 50% suggestion you just tossed out there, how did you come up with that? Do you remember in the 8th grade, when the 8th grade math teacher said, ‘Show me your work?’ We showed you all of our work. We showed you the tax return. We gave you the supporting evidence. We have letters from the client. We have letters from his current CPA. The obituary notice. What more would you want? If the client agrees to pay the full underlying tax, the penalties are literally more than the underlying tax was. The State is made whole, but how did you arrive at 50%?”.
She wouldn’t answer the question, she wouldn’t acknowledge that she even reviewed the information we sent thoroughly or at all. I’d bet everyone a quick cup of coffee that I don’t think she even looked at it, quite frankly, which is very frustrating. It was very unprofessional. It was disappointing. It was disheartening.
So, then I said, “Can you give me the name of your supervisor?”. I am going to make up a name she gives as ‘John Smith’.
She said, “John”.
I said, “What is his last name?”.
She tells me, “Smith”.
I said, “Okay, great. What is his phone number?”.
She said, “I am speaking on behalf of John Smith”.
I said, “I didn’t ask that. I asked for his phone number”.
She responded back, “Again, I am speaking on behalf of John Smith, I have to go.”.
I said, “Wait a second, it is about 4.50. We had a call scheduled for 4.45 so didn’t you allocate at least 20-minutes or half an hour of time?”.
She said she had to leave by 5 o’clock.
I said, “Well, I am sorry, lets finish another ten minutes or so and try and work through this. Again, I am politely and professionally asking for John’s phone number, and the answer is that you are going to refuse to give it, then that is fine. We will document that. We have asked, you refuse to give it, and eventually I am sure, we will find who your manager is, but why are you doing this? Why would you not explain how you arrived at 50%? Why can we not have professional, intelligent, substantive discussions about the tax financial condition, and also the basis for wiping out $14,000 of penalties?”.
She wouldn’t answer. She was unprofessional, in my opinion and quite frankly, rude is the easiest way to put it. I was just shocked. It was probably one of the worst experiences that I have seen in a long, long time.
I want to explain this to people because it shouldn’t happen. Tax payers oftentimes run into this when they are dealing with taxing authorities. They don’t know which way to turn. Sometimes representatives can be, what the tax payers will call ‘abrasive, aggressive, obnoxious, rude’, and we generally don’t find that. Once in a while, we find it, but it is not very often. So, this is an isolated experience that I want to share with everyone.
Now, when we hear this happen to us, it really reinforces what the clients tell us. Of course, sometimes we think clients will embellish, or they will exaggerate a little bit, but I will tell you that it was not. I had a gentleman from my office, whom we disclosed as on the call, Lance. He was taking notes and interacting in the calls, just like she had on her end which is normal. There is no problem with that, but when I mean the rude of the rudest, it was really unfortunate. So, that was that.
Then, I ended up having to say, “Look, we are not getting anywhere with this, have a nice night. I have got to go.” I am going to focus on (what was the evening agenda in the Levy house) getting some last-minute things for my son moving into college. I wasn’t in the mood to continue on, and it was going absolutely nowhere. So, it was almost as if you hit a brick wall.
We have, on our staff, a former assistant attorney general from a particular State that used to deal with State matters. So, it is seven o’clock at night, I am in the middle of my dorm room shopping, I call him on his cellphone, and I said, “Do you have anyone that you still know in the attorney generals’ office that would help to deal with these matters?”. They sort of tick over collections if collections can’t get anywhere. He said he would check and find that out. That was on Wednesday night. On my drive home at nine o’clock on Wednesday, I ended up having to call the client and explain this story. The client, the nicest of the nice, the most innocent, the most honest, the most sincere guy you would ever want to meet. He and his brother took over the business when their father passed away.
I said, “Can you give me anything? When you get these letters in the mail, did you email it?”.
He said, “Look, the guy doesn’t have email.”, and went through the whole thing again.
There is nothing that we can do, other than say, “You got a letter, you got multiple letters, you need to open them up and look at them, and call his CPA, who the family had, the business had, the Dad had for thirty years, and assumed it was being taken care of because the guy assured him of that.” I said that I just wanted him to understand what we are dealing with, but we will keep on going up the chain of command because the call that happened at 4.30 to 4.55 yesterday was very unprofessional, and I am being politically correct with my comment because it was really over the top. It was really uncalled for, quite frankly. It bothered me and usually I don’t get bothered by these things. It is unfortunate, because trying to have productive, reasonable dialogue to discuss a resolution, when someone is in authority and they just don’t want to listen, they just don’t care to listen.
Greg, do you remember that audit that you had to deal with, with Mark, where the exam agent of the IRS didn’t want to listen and eventually an appeal said to clean that up. It was a complete reversal of $300,000 of a liability, just because someone didn’t want to take fifteen minutes to listen. It turned into an absolute nightmare.
Let me take a break here. If anyone is facing frustration like this, whether it is with IRS situations, or a State, no matter where it is, Florida Department for Revenue, please call us.
The local number is – 561 865 7800.
As we are about half-way though the show today, I just wanted to say again that it doesn’t happen often, at least to us, ‘Thank God’. We have thick skins when it does happen. It usually doesn’t bother anyone, but his client is not a relative. Thank God, they are not my family member. They are not even a friend. They are just a referral from a CPA named George. We are trying to help him out as we would any client. So, that was Wednesday night and literally it bothered me. I am trying to focus on shopping for the dorm room, and I was distracted. It got to me, I will tell you, it did. The good news is, it means that I care about my clients. The bad news is, I let it get to me.
Let’s fast forward now. The next morning at nine o’clock, I called back.
I said, “Look, I talked to the client. I think we are going to be able to full pay. The call yesterday was awkward, it was uncomfortable. So, let’s ‘Take 2’ and try again. Could you look at the information?”.
She said, “Yes.”
I said, “If there is any one of our clients, in twenty years, with this particular unemployment matter, that should be entitled to plan a route, to plan some relief, it is this client.”
That call was another ten minutes, and this time she was a bit more pleasant. In that call, and Greg, you are going to fall off your chair with this one, she said, “I will tell you what, what if we did 10% of the penalties?”.
I am thinking to myself, wait a second, at 4.45 yesterday, just over 12 hours ago, seventeen hours to be quite specific, you are telling me 50%. How do you go from 4.45 at giving us break at penalties of 50%, to 09.00 a.m. on Thursday to 10%? How is that fair? How is that logical? How does that make any sense? Of course, we are not complaining, but how is that right and justified? It is the craziest thing to me. There is no arithmetic. There is no thought in it. There is nothing. It was just that yesterday it was 50%, the next morning it was 10%. How is that fair? It is so frustrating to me that this can occur and that there is that much discretion. So, what if we call back the next day, is it going to be 5%? If we call back the next day, do they say, ‘Okay, great’. How, or why is that? If you can hear it in my voice, and you don’t hear it very often, it is so frustrating because it appears and feels like no-one looked at this file. There was not an ounce of anyone, and she is actually a managers’ manager, to be specific, in this particular division. It was beyond frustrating, and then, can you imagine, Greg? A client said, “Greg, I want your boss’ name?”. Technically, that would be Randy in our office. He sits next door to you in the office, right, Greg? I want your boss’ name, imagine if you said his name is ‘Randy’. Imagine if we were a big business and you couldn’t get through to Randy. Imagine if that was said, how do you think that client would feel? Is that unbelievable when you could just say, “Randy’s direct dial is this, and here you go, right!”. Can you imagine how a client would feel with that, and how unprofessional it is? I couldn’t get the phone number of this gentleman if my life depended on it, but how wrong is that. It is almost newsworthy to me. It is shocking to me that this goes on in the bureaucratic taxing authority world. You used to work there for thirty years.
Greg: I call it ‘buck passing’. It is exactly what it is. It is passing the buck and wanting to do as little work as possible. That is what it comes right down to. I have seen it many times, and it used to really anger me beyond belief. If I heard it done by someone else in my office, I would say something to them. Maybe, that is why I never got into management, but that is besides’ the point. It is called ‘buck passing’.
Lawrence: Again, I am not even sure I agree with that. Buck passing, means you are passing the buck, as the saying goes to someone else and kicking the can down the road. This was stonewalling. That is what this was. It was completely inappropriate, unprofessional and for anyone listening out there, let’s be clear. It doesn’t happen all the time. Thank God, it doesn’t happen all the time, but ultimately, it is shocking to me that people get away with that. I am not the type of person that likes someone to get away with that. If we make a mistake, and ‘Thank God’ we don’t very often, but we apologize. We say that we are sorry, we will address it, we will fix it, and we will deal with it. Thank God, again, it doesn’t happen very often because you can’t really in our business, but we don’t pass the buck. We don’t kick the can down the road. We don’t stonewall. We fix things and we deal with them.
Unfortunately, when you are dealing with the governmental agencies, sometimes it is a municipality, a city. It is a property tax issue or a tangible tax, or what we would call ‘personal property tax’. Sometimes, at State where it could be a sales tax or holding tax, sometimes it is unemployment where it could be an employer who has not paid in their unemployment in Florida, their RT situation forms. Ultimately, it makes no sense to me, how people can treat a professional like that, or a tax payer like that. I just don’t get it, and I probably spent the majority of this show now talking about it, but I will tell you, it is very, very alarming to me. Ultimately, though, we have to keep our eye on the ball. The ball, in this case, is the client.
Personality disputes with personalities that don’t gel well with each other, is not our issue. We are not here to socialize. We are not here to be friends with people. We are here to do a job for the client, but how the heck, Greg, do you go from 4.45 at 50% in a penalty relief proposal, to 10% the next morning with a caveat of, ‘Oh, by the way, I also need to check with my manager on that’. Who, by the way, you won’t give me his phone number anyway, right? Not even to push it on the next morning, but it is so frustrating, and you worked there and you had to deal with management and upper-management. I am sure that working with the IRS sometimes is equally as frustrating because sometimes what is the practical or pragmatic approach doesn’t always get taken and your hands were often procedurally tied.
A Gentleman who used to work here, who you knew very well, Tony Siperonii. He was, in my opinion, just like you are, a very fair but tough revenue officer at the IRS, and you both in particular I remember were very reasonable. Your case approach was case resolution oriented. By the way, Tony worked here for about eight or nine years and unfortunately passed away a couple of years ago, God rest his soul too. You did things to make life easy. You didn’t do things to make life difficult, and lately, we have seen a bit of a trend where taking the easy path, even the logical and fair path is not being taken. It is the go down the most difficult road, to make life the most miserable to make everyone go berserk. Why? I just don’t know.
I will also tell you that this week, Danielle, one of the other POAs in our office, who has been here for seven or eight years, calls every single day to a revenue officer. Literally, all week. I didn’t look at Friday, but as for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, every single day, sometimes twice a day, and not one return phone call. Not one! The client is calling and texting, asking if we have heard about the bank levy. It didn’t capture a lot of money, Thank God, but it caused a bit of a headache with the bank…have you heard, have you heard. Not one phone call was returned to Danielle, despite at least four, if not eight attempts, plus e-faxes. Everyone has got e-faxes these days. Also, she is right up on her emails. I get my e-faxes right to my cellphone as it goes to the email. The voicemail doesn’t say, ‘Hi, my name is Jane Smith, or John Doe, and I am going to be out of the office, please call and speak to ‘so and so’ in my absence’. It doesn’t say that. So, now we have to start calling the manager. We have to start trying to get other people involved. It is just the amount of time that is wasted, literally thrown out of the window, it is astonishing to me. If anyone out there, and we have taken up a good part of the show talking about frustrations, but if anyone is facing this, or is frustrated with a lack of movement, we will know who to call, where to call, the forms to file so that we can get results. We want to be polite, so that’s why it is two or three days when it is not a ‘do or die’ emergency, but at some point in time, we then have to put on a different avenue to try and get in touch with the right people to get answers. It is unfortunate that, that happens.
Our local phone number is 561 865 7800.
Greg, not that you have the million-dollar answer, but maybe this is just one of these things that will never get solved, and it is just part of the bureaucracy and part of having to deal with the governmental agencies. Sometimes, when you deal with the department of motor vehicles, BMB in Michigan they are called Secretary of State, there is equal frustration. It just seems like that is the way of the world. To be honest with you, for everyone listening, it is no different than if you are at a hospital. One of the guys who has been on the show, Lance, his father was at the hospital over the weekend. He was waiting to get an MRI. It was crazy. His Dad was taken to the hospital. In the ER, they admitted him and when the admitted and now he is in the hospital, they said, “Look, all of the MRIs are being addressed by patient from the ER”. He said, “My Dad was just in ER two hours ago, why would he not have been on their priority list then?”. Now, he is admitted, it made no sense. The red tape, the lack of answers he was getting from the doctor and from the nurse. It happens in all walks.
I will give you one last thing, since I am on the frustration. Earlier that night, when I was out shopping with my son that week, on Wednesday. We went out to dinner. My eldest son went with his girlfriend, it was myself and my wife, and my eleven-year-old. We ordered three dishes at a Chinese restaurant. We ordered for my son, my wife and myself. All three dishes came out wrong. All three were completely wrong. Everything we ordered was wrong, the order was just wrong in general. The waitress came back, could not have been more apologetic, and handled it nicely. We will remake this, we will remake that, I am sorry. It was a frustrating ordeal, but the way in which they handled it was professional, polite, apologetic. ‘What can we do to make it right? Can we buy your son a desert? What can we do?’. It was a late meal we were eating.
IRS are not going to buy a desert, will they?
Greg: No. You will be lucky if you even get someone that will apologize, even when they admit that they screwed up, but it does happen.
Greg: When I was at the IRS, I am not inhuman, I would make a mistake on a rare occasion. When I did make a mistake, I would apologize for that, I would fix it, and people understand that. No-one is perfect.
Lawrence: We had it happen with a local revenue officer a couple of weeks ago on a file, where that revenue officer didn’t do something and the tax payer ended up having some negative effects on it. She basically said it was her fault and she apologized and was trying to fix it. Thank God, a very nice revenue officer, right her in the South-East Florida area. The client doesn’t see it like that, but she took responsibility for it and was trying to fix it. There is a bit of mess still to fix, still in process, by the way, but these are the things that you go through when you get into a taxing authority vortex (as I have been recently calling it). It is tough to get out of there.
Lastly, as we wind down the show. We had a client come in. He owed the IRS about $300,000. We fixed their problem about a year ago and because the IRS didn’t input the periods that were in the installment agreement, the system now just generated an attempt to default. The client said they had paid all of the months at $2800 per month, and it is not my fault. We said, “You are probably right from what we see.” Low and behold, we call the IRS and they said that the way it is being put into the system looks like it is not going against the installment agreement and that is why the computer misread it. Well, that whole solution to find that this week was a nightmare for Danielle to deal with. Now, we are hoping that they will reinstate it and fix it, but again, these frustrations, these things occur that are not always the fault of the client.
If you have an IRS issue, if you haven’t filed, if you are in the middle of an audit, if you owe the State, whatever it may be, you call the Levy Office. You will have very tenacious folk on my team that will sort through and navigate, and that is what we are here for. You should focus on your loved ones, you should focus on your business, you should focus on your health because that is what matters. I want to lastly, give a shout out to a few of our clients who are dealing with some severe medical issues, we want to keep them in our thoughts and prayers. Another one of our clients, his daughter had medical issues and had her first day at school this week, and unfortunately had a medical mishap and it was embarrassing. You just hear these stories that are so heart-wrenching. So, I want to keep her in our thoughts and prayers as well, as we wind out the last show of August.
Any frustrations with tax authorities, give us a call. We will help you to navigate through it. We are the best. We are local. We have been around for over twenty years now. Give us a call:
561 865 7800.
Signing off, for now from Levy Tax Help Show, you have got Greg [? 00:27:01], the former IRS revenue officer for over thirty years, with Lawrence Levy in the house. Enjoy the rest of the weekend, South Florida. We have got Labor Day coming up next weekend. We will talk to you before that Labor Day holiday. You take care.