What Does EA Advocacy Look Like?

Mr. Gaddis Goes to Washington

Advocacy has long been one of the stated goals of the National Association of Enrolled Agents (NAEA) and it is one of the things they do best. However, many people are not sure exactly what advocacy looks like. One part of the NAEA advocacy strategy is an annual fly-in day where Enrolled Agents from across the country converge on Capitol Hill to meet with their elected representatives about issues important to taxpayers. Last month I was fortunate to attend this event, and here’s a summary of what I experienced.

NAEA’s 10th annual fly-in day took place on Tuesday, May 15 in Washington, DC and training for the event began the night before. During this training, NAEA leaders go over the logistics of the day and prepare the participants—more than 100 Enrolled Agents from all over the country—for what’s in store.

The first order of business is meeting the other people in your assigned group—the people you will be spending the day with. Groups are generally state-centric and comprised of 4-6 people but with all the constituents and all the legislators it doesn’t always work out that way.

The second thing participants learn is that the day is busy! For this year’s fly-in the NAEA Government Relations team scheduled 130 meetings for 36 groups with 63 Senate offices and 65 House offices in the five congressional office buildings on Capitol Hill. All in one day! In addition to the scheduled meetings participants are encouraged to “drop in” on any of their legislators not on the schedule to share the key talking points with them.

The logistics part of the training includes how to get over to Capitol Hill from the hotel and how to navigate the five office buildings while there. There are multiple entrances for each building, complete with airport-like security, and there is an underground tunnel system connecting the buildings to ease access. You don’t want to be late for a meeting so getting your bearings and finding your way around is critical.

The next part of the training is learning about meeting protocol. There are good and bad ways to meet with legislative offices and good and bad things to say. Legislative offices take thousands of meetings every year so knowing the right way to get in and out and make the key points is critical.

Finally, the official NAEA White Paper and key talking points for the day are reviewed and the various groups get together to practice their presentations. This year’s key talking points were IRS Budget Reform, Minimum Standards For Paid Tax Preparers and support for Electronic Signature Standards Act (H.R. 3153/S. 1074) which would require IRS to provide guidance on the use of commercially provided electronic signature applications for taxpayers to sign for practitioner powers of attorney and disclosure authorization forms.

On the big day, I was paired up with a colleague from Utah and our day began with a visit to the office of Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. Jake led the meeting as he is Senator Hatch’s constituent and it went well. After some small talk about things ‘back home’ we went through our talking points and had a nice conversation about taxes and what seems to be in the pipeline for action in Washington. We also met with the offices of Utah Senator Mike Lee and Florida Senator Bill Nelson before dropping in on a few more of our legislators including Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Congressman Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) of the House Ways and Means Committee.

The day wrapped up with a reception at the offices of NAEA Legislative Council Van Scoyoc and Associates, attended by Rep. Tom Rice (R-SC) and Rep. Brian Higgins (D-NY), where participants had the opportunity to unwind and share the day’s experiences. Lots of selfies were taken and the consensus was that it was exciting to be ‘on the Hill’ on a gorgeous spring day running into other groups of Enrolled Agents at every turn. Everyone seemed to have a great time and agreed it was stimulating to be part of the contingent of Enrolled Agents engaging in consequential and important tax conversations with the people who actually affect legislation.

Advocacy can take many forms and being part of a fly-in day can be a meaningful and exciting advocacy experience. I encourage you to attend at your earliest convenience.

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Jerry Gaddis
Jerry Gaddis is founder & CEO of Tropical Tax Solutions, a full-service firm headquartered in the Florida Keys offering tax consultation, preparation, and representation services. Mr. Gaddis, a Dave Ramsey Endorsed Local Provider, is enrolled to practice before the Internal Revenue Service, serves on the Board of the National Association of Enrolled Agents, and is a fellow in the National Tax Practice Institute. He earned degrees from the University of Florida and the Crummer Graduate School of Business at Rollins College in Winter Park, FL. He’s been in the tax business since 2004, and you can reach him at TropicalTax.com or on Twitter (@TropicalTax).