Representing Myself vs. CPA vs. Tax Attorney: Who Should Represent Me? -One

Should I represent myself in a sales Tax Audit? or Have Somebody from My Company Represent Me? Should I have My CPA Represent me? or Should I have a tax Attorney represent Me Initially? I would tell you that sales tax audits are very complicated they're complicated because of the amount of data involved they're complicated because they involve statistics and they're complicated because sales tax law is kind of a different animal than basic federal income tax law unless the people from your company or you personally have experienced dealing with sales tax audits I almost never recommend that a client handle the audit themselves even if the client is going to work to prepare the documents necessary for the audit and do the prep work I always maintain that it's better to have a representative as the face of the audit as the face the audit versus having the client do it themselves with respect to CPAs the biggest problem that I see with CPA representation is that a lot of CPAs come from a compliance background and what I mean by that is when you're a CPA your job is to fill out tax forms and to fill them out accurately the term certified public accountant means that you have public trust in preparing financial statements that's where CPA comes from when you're thinking about compliance oftentimes it's very hard to shift into an advocacy focus and the difference between attorneys and CPAs is that attorneys mostly lived on the advocacy side of things so whereas most CPAs are compliance based example perceiving an audit notice with a document request and turning over all the documents to the auditor a tax attorney would know to fight that it's not to say that you're some CPAs can't be good advocates for their clients in fact we know many that are and in fact that technical accounting background plays very well in a sales tax on it because oftentimes the sales tax auditor has their own background in accounting but you want to make sure that there's an advocacy component of it because knowing the sales tax law isn't everything the knowledge of tax procedure in a sales tax audit is really critical to success in the audit you want to have a representative that can not only handle the audit but can handle any subsequent appeals that can deal with the settlement section of CDT fa or who can go litigate the case at the office of tax appeals in California if absolutely necessary because of this most CPAs that I know that do sales tax audits are only limited to the audit level and while they do a very fine job.

I think the client is better served in a lot of situations particularly when there's any risk involved to having somebody who's more comfortable at the higher levels and can get provide a much broader representation of the client by far the biggest successes that we've had in the appeals process are those audits that we've handled initially, because we're able to load the record at the audit level with things that are going to help us later in Appeals whenever we do a sales tax audit is a firm we're constantly building the record and putting information in there that we know we're going to have success on either at the settlement level or the Appeals level if you don't have familiarity with the highest levels of the process it's really hard to do that during the course of the author.


Sam Brotman, JD, LLM, MBA

Owner and Director of Legal
Brotman Law