Humble heart

So I’m on the ninth hole at the golf course. My golf partner is Jay, a college baseball player from LSU and a natural athlete.  I brag incessantly that I have hit eight consecutive fairways. He says nothing.

I step up to the tee box and take a mighty swing – the ball goes 288 yards right down the middle of the fairway.  But incredibly, a gust of wind – perhaps God’s unhappy breath – turns my perfect drive into a hook and into the water.

It was my last ball.  So I took off my shoes, rolled up my pants, and waded into the lake to retrieve my $5 golf ball. Jay says nothing – but can’t stop taking pictures of me wading in the pond to capture the moment for my wife and kids.

Arrogance is a terrible thing.  It clouds our perception and keeps us from seeing all sides and the reality of the situation. My arrogance kept me from acknowledging that I’m not near the golfer I thought I was. Jay’s silence made it worse.  Now we both laugh at me.

When you are facing an IRS agent, it is important to recognize and accept that most have a lot of arrogance and very little legal knowledge. They frequently form hard and fast opinions about what they think the law says and how it applies to us.  In fact, they start out suspecting that we are dishonest.   Their arrogance as to their knowledge of the law, and their arrogance about how it applies to your situation often keeps them from seeing the reality – which is often much different. While they may be certain, they are frequently wrong.  Recently an IRS agent told me he was going to hold against my client on every issue — a fairly common IRS position. He got up to leave and I asked him what it was like knowing that for nearly 40 years I have made a living correcting his mistakes.  He became red-faced and left in anger. On appeal the IRS corrected his arrogant errors without even a conference or hearing.

There is hope. IRS agents can be so arrogant that the Tax Court can award attorney fees to the Taxpayer. Imagine that – not just being wrong but being so wrong that the Court found the IRS was unreasonable. In one case I received $75,000 in attorney fees when the amount of tax the IRS sought to collect was less than $10,000!

Folks, the point of this article is this: We all suffer from arrogance whether it is on the golf course, in tax cases, or in life in general.  The point is to recognize arrogance causes misperceptions of reality. In an IRS setting, the agent may act like he or she knows what he is doing and he may even speak with certainty, but the reality is they are often wrong. So get a good tax representative to help them see the truth.

As for my golf teacher, well, he says I don’t pay attention to him, and often makes me sit in timeout for 3 minutes during one of our lessons – most embarrassing.