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Some initial observations from Tax Forum 2014 in Orlando

I'm back in Florida this week for the Internal Revenue Service Nationwide Tax Forum in Orlando. It's a bit of a homecoming. My very first tax forum was here in 2000 when we lived in Palm Beach Gardens.

IRS 2004 Nationwide Tax Forum banner

I try to attend at least one continuing education tax conference, either run by the IRS or by one of the tax professional organizations. I always learn stuff, plus it's fun to be among a large gathering of tax geeks.

Things have gone pretty well so far, aside from my smartphone freezing up unexpectedly this morning and me losing my reading glasses during an afternoon session. The phone is fine and I found my specs.

I'll be going through my notes and soon posting some of the new things I've learned or the additional information I've picked up on topics where I already had a pretty good grounding.

In the meantime, here are some general initial observations from my first day at the 2014 Orlando tax gathering.

Obamacare is still hot: The biggest draw this morning was, no surprise, the health care tax session.

The line to that conference room looked like a Black Friday shoppers queue. I am so glad I scheduled the afternoon session.

Weather report: My earlier concerns about a possibly disruptive Hurricane Cristobal were unfounded. Thank you, weather gods.

But the interior climate has not been as accommodating. The conference rooms are cold!

I know that the forum planners always recommend bringing a sweater for just such an occurrence. But temperatures were in the 100s when I was packing in Texas. I was heading for Florida. It's August.

I just couldn't bring myself to dig out a sweater and stuff it in my suitcase.

These tax kids today: There seem to be more younger tax professionals at this event than at previous ones. That's good to see.

Experienced tax preparers are always welcome, but the tax industry always needs new blood.

Consistent IRS messaging: All the IRS speakers have been given and are adhering to their talking points. That's not necessarily bad.

And I don't doubt that the agency is sincere in:

  1. wanting to learn from and put behind it the 501(c)(4) Tea Party mess,
  2. its concern about the problems it and taxpayers are likely to face next filing season if Congress once again puts off law changes until the very last moment, and
  3. needing more money (just like at last year's forum) to upgrade both its customer service and compliance efforts.

Unfortunately for the IRS, I don't think it will get what it wants in any of these three areas. At least not in the near future.

Tax tunes: OK, time for the really important tax forum data, the annual music report.

The between-session tunes for the morning seminars I attended were soft jazz. Neither I nor my Shazam app recognized any of them. They weren't bad, but I don't have any specific song citations for you.

Things picked up, however, in the afternoon. Forum attendees waiting for seminars to begin were entertained by:

"What's Going On," Marvin Gaye

"Left Hand Free," Alt-J

"Called Out in the Dark," Snow Patrol

"Dancing in the Dark," Bruce Springsteen

"Rock of Calvary," Cataldo

"Amor Fati," Washed Out

"Le Freak," Chic

"Good," Better Than Ezra

"Heads Will Roll," Yeah Yeah Yeahs

And yes, we were all rickrolled. "Never Gonna Give You Up," Rick Astley

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