COPE Education for Business/Tax Seminar Attracts Overflow Crowd
By: Frimet Blum
Few mail deliveries are as frightening as an envelope from the IRS – and most people have no clue what to do when an Internal Revenue Service notice arrives. On Tuesday, July 25, over two hundred CPAs, accountants and accounting students attended a professional seminar on how to respond when the dreaded audit envelope reaches a client. The seminar, “What to Do When Uncle Sam Comes Knocking ,” was hosted by COPE Education for Business, Agudath Israel’s acclaimed continuing education program and was partially sponsored by Riverside Abstract, a real estate and wealth management tax firm with offices in Brooklyn and Lakewood.
The presentation, which took place at the Ocean Terrace Hall in Brooklyn, was informative, intriguing and entertaining and touched on issues that are relevant to every member of the community, including business ethics, tax filing, and record keeping. This particular seminar was geared to professionals, with most of the attendees being former, or current COPE students. Many expressed appreciation to COPE, not only for providing them with an excellent education and an honorable parnassah, but also for offering training on this very important and timely topic.
The class was presented by Attorney Eric L. Green of Green & Sklarz LLC; a Fellow of the American College of Tax Counsel and past chair of the Connecticut Tax Bar Committee. As a tax attorney representing clients before the IRS, he walked seminar attendees through the process of dealing with the IRS, from the very first audit letter through resolution.
“As a CPA, your goal is compliant tax payers filing tax returns and paying taxes,” he said. Yet while one in fifteen Americans fails to file a tax return, even a compliant tax payer can be hit with an audit, or a Notice of Deficiency, where the IRS determines that they underpaid on their taxes. Generally, Attorney Green advocates for a win-win approach, where the person cooperates with the auditor, an amicable agreement is reached, and the case is resolved and closed to everyone’s satisfaction.
There are some common pitfalls that could arise. Mr. Green discussed the ins and outs of the audit and petition processes, including issues with deducting a home office (your home office can’t double as a bedroom!) and being on social media – a surprisingly incriminating source of information for the IRS and courts in general.
“They do check Facebook, Twitter and Instagram,” he warned. “There was a drunk driver who argued in court that her drinking was a one-time event,” he said. The prosecutor checked her social media accounts, and found photos on Instagram that she had posted, showing herself drinking at many different occasions. She lost the case. Attorney Green further discussed the filing requirements and practical details of dealing with the IRS, building on the extensive knowledge most of the attendees acquired through their education at COPE.
COPE Education for Business has been educating the Jewish community since 1977, when it was founded by Agudath Israel of America, under the leadership of Rabbi Moshe Sherer, zatz”l. Over the ensuing decades, COPE has become a leading force for professional education, with classes designed to cater to the needs of the Jewish community. Advantages such as evening and Sunday sessions, separate divisions for men and women, dedicated job placement, and a staff that has a vested interest in students’ success, make COPE the educational program of choice for many.
COPE’s men’s business, accounting and CPA classes are extremely popular with kollel yungerleit seeking to enter the business world to support their families. The women’s classes are popular with high school and seminary graduates who want to advance their studies in a supportive, frum environment, as well as with women seeking to join the workforce. The Business Essentials/Junior Accounting course is geared to people entering any field of business.
“Everyone in business needs to know business basics,” says Rabbi Daniel Baumann, director of COPE Education Services, “and this course sets people up for success. We’re getting excellent feedback. People tell us they can’t imagine how anyone would enter the business world without a course like this. COPE has become the community’s standard bearer for CPA, accounting and business training.”
“I was in college, and I switched over to COPE because I wanted to major in Accounting,” said Elisheva Y., a young aspiring CPA. “I found that college was very text-based, and COPE is much more in-the- field and practical.” Her friend Esther attended COPE in the afternoons this year, in addition to her half-day seminary program. She was effusive in her praise.
“The teachers were great. They really want you to succeed.” Her friend Leah, another seminary grad, added that the teachers are very involved in the degree process.
“They help you realize your potential and gather the necessary credits,” she said. When asked why she was at the tax seminar, she replied, “I knew if it’s a COPE event, it’s worth my time. I want to learn everything I can about accounting. This is a very important topic.” Menachem I., who attends COPE‘s evening classes, is grateful that he was able to stay in kollel while taking the course. He is intrigued by tax litigation, and found Tuesday’s presentation fascinating. “It opened my mind,” he said.