Hancock & Dana Ray Thomas 8/27/14 08/28/14 1:18:47 AM
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Retired IRS Agent Ray Thomas is Hancock & Dana’s “secret sauce.” Now he can be yours too, the accounting firm says.
Hancock & Dana Is Betting You’ll Want
This Former IRS Agent on Your Team
By Lorraine Boyd
The Daily Recor
There are two certainties in life: Death and Taxes.
And what’s the word most likely to strike fear and panic into just about any American? Audit.
Enter Ray Thomas.
If there were ever a man you’d want in your corner, it would be him. A 26-year veteran of the Internal Revenue Service, Thomas now finds himself on the other side of that barbed wire fence at Hancock & Dana.
The accounting firm ran into Thomas on more than one occasion while representing its clients. “In dealings with the IRS, who are pretty aggressive these days, we always thought Ray was a pretty reasonable guy,” Sean Mullen, accounting firm principal and shareholder, said.
Thomas joined the firm in February, just in time for the busy tax season.
While there are times during the year when Hancock & Dana’s clients keep him very busy, there are other periods when taxes are not a client’s highest priority.
After noting how valuable a former IRS agent can be to his clients, Sean Mullen could see Thomas’ value in helping out law firms, accounting firms and other businesses, particularly small ones.
“To have someone with his expertise we thought had value. We really think there’s a niche here to offer Ray’s service to other professionals in and near Omaha,” Mullen said.
So, here’s the offer. Let’s say you are a five-person law firm in Omaha. You have a wide range of clients whom you advise on civil law. One of them could use some help with an IRS problem. Who better to advise you – and your client – than someone with firsthand knowledge? While you can’t justify a full-time tax expert on your payroll, you can employ the services of a “freelance” expert, who comes with a strong recommendation from a prestigious local accounting firm.
“Having talked to a lot of [members of] the legal community, I’m convinced there is a need,” Mullen said. Thomas can serve as a valuable resource in solving major headaches for the firm or their clients, without the need to hire him fulltime. “He’s an asset to your business.”
“We feel like we have a ‘secret sauce’ in Ray. Not only does he know how to navigate the IRS, he also makes an excellent expert witness. Whether the issue is forensic accounting or fraud, whether you are representing the victim or the alleged perpetrator, he can help. The IRS knows how to ‘follow the money.’ He can be a huge resource in both a criminal and a white collar crime context.”
He’s very qualified to help in a wide variety of tax issues. He’s seen it all. And he knows what the IRS wants to do. And what might make them take a step back. “Now I’m on the taxpayer side of the issue,” Thomas said.
He takes a defensive perspective to be sure, but also an offensive perspective. The client might say, “This is what we’re going to file; what do you think? Look at it and give us your thoughts from the other side of the table.”
“Ray has helped us structure some transactions on the front end; and made us aware of some things. We went through our client base and asked Ray to give us ideas about what some of our clients aren’t doing so well. We told him we’d like to be proactive.
“With the IRS now more aggressive and consistently assessing penalties, we want to put [the client] on notice that this is someplace where you might be deficient and you may need to shore some things up, and here’s how you do it.”
Mullen continued, “Everyone has to be more careful today because [the IRS’s] penalty stick is very, very big. So it’s a way for us to be proactive for our clients, and to be reactive if need be. Not only can Ray help us on both of those, but we also think there’s a place for his services in the accounting and legal practitioners’ world. I don’t know if anybody’s got an IRS guy of his caliber [on staff].”
The former IRS agent agreed: “Since I used to be on the other side, I would be the person sending out the ‘greeting cards.’ I knew what I was looking for and I know what the people today are going to be looking for and what questions they are going to have and what information can be provided that maybe will head it off up front. Answer their questions and the problem goes away, or doesn’t even start.”
Thomas posed a scenario. “You get home Friday night, it’s been a long week. You open the mail and there’s a letter from the IRS. They have run into issues where there’s a problem. But you know where to go, and can move forward to resolve it.”
The best example of that, Mullen said, is when “we had a client who received a notice of an exam and Ray was able to call and talk to the agent and explain that there was nothing there, and the Service rescinded the letter. I’ve been doing this for 30 years, and I’ve never seen that. He gives us some credibility at the Service. He brings a trust factor.
“I had 26 years at the IRS of either auditing returns or managing a group that audited returns,” Thomas said. “I was involved in some capacity with every function there.”
“In the process today, time is of the essence. Maybe the issues don’t get reviewed or developed, which leads to a predetermination which puts you on the defensive,” Mullen said. “Ray has the ability to say, ‘That’s not quite right.’ He has streamlined and short-circuited a lot of our issues with the Service. We think that would be of value to other practitioners.”
“We love Ray here, but he can be helpful to others as well.”
“We ask, ‘How should we handle this?’ He says this is what they want and don’t want, and what they’ll negotiate on. If we can make life easier for our clients, that’s great.”
Mullen noted, “He has probably cut the time to resolve an audit by two-thirds, sixty days in what could have been nine months. And the longer it drags on, other years are then open to scrutiny. There’s value in a quick resolution.
“We’ve got a resource here that other professionals can use. … In a big firm someone can be dedicated [to one area]; a guy in a small practice in Omaha, I don’t think you can.”
Thomas added, “IRS’s goal is to get a substantially correct return. In a perfect world, you would have this. But sometimes everything is not there. … What I have done in the past is to argue both sides. It’s all about being able to provide and present the information they need to resolve the issue.”
Mullen said people want to know: “What are they really looking for these days? I don’t have the answer, but I have a resource. Oh, you can probably get it done, but how efficiently? You don’t know where the quicksand is. Knowing the tax code is one thing; knowing how to deal with the IRS is another. Ray provides the ‘How to deal with.’”
Ray Thomas is from Des Moines, Iowa. After earning a BSBA in accounting at the University of Nebraska Omaha, he joined the IRS in Dallas, Texas, where he earned his CPA license (he is now licensed in Nebraska as well). After three years there, he returned to the Midwest, working in Council Bluffs from 1990 to 1994. After that, he worked at the IRS in Omaha until his retirement in February, when he joined Hancock & Dana.
“I enjoy working with people, helping them deal with their problems, explaining their situation,” Thomas said. “And I generally enjoy working with the agents on the other side as well.
“I saw a billboard that said: ‘Ignore your teeth and they’ll go away.’ The IRS isn’t like your teeth. Ignore them and they won’t go away.
“I’m here to help. I used to tell that to taxpayers, and now I really am here to help!”
Contact Hancock & Dana at 402-391-1065 or visit www.hancockdana.com for more information on how you can engage Ray Thomas’s services.