Michael Raanan Helps People Resolve Tax Disputes
After spending seven and a half years working as an IRS Revenue Officer, Michael Raanan decided to use the skills and knowledge hed built during his career to start Landmark Tax Group, a company that helps people resolve their tax disputes with the IRS.
I was really impressed by Michael’s passion for what he does, as well as his desire to help others through difficult times in their lives. I’m excited that he agreed to talk to me about who he is, what he does, and how he makes a difference. His story is a great reminder that the knowledge we gain on the job can be applied in many different ways.
Before you started Landmark Tax Group, you worked for the IRS. Can you explain a little bit about what you did for the IRS, and what your motivation was for leaving?
While an IRS Revenue Officer for about 8 years, I worked directly with taxpayers or their representative to resolve their tax delinquency and bring them back into federal tax compliance. I managed an inventory of cases involving business and individual taxpayers throughout the United States and elsewhere, including Canada and Luxembourg. Realizing the need for competent tax representation, coupled with the personal satisfaction I gained by working with taxpayers to resolve their tax matters, led me to leave the government earlier this year and start my own tax firm where Ive been helping taxpayers ever since.
You’ve been able to make a pretty big pivot with your career. You used to collect taxes for the IRS, and now you help taxpayers resolve disputes with the IRS. Was the transition pretty smooth for you?
Resolving IRS disputes for taxpayers is something I was doing even before starting Landmark Tax Group. While at the IRS, it was my responsibility to listen to each taxpayer, assess their tax situation based on the facts of the case, and work with them to resolve their tax matter. Indeed, I was helping taxpayers while at the IRS, though understandably, it was difficult for some taxpayers to see it that way at the time. Now, I am in a fortunate position to continue helping taxpayers by working as their advocate and making their lives a little easier.
Can you give us an example of a common dispute you help taxpayers resolve, and the ways that you’re able to resolve it?
Many individual and business taxpayers come to me for help with their back taxes. For individuals, the liability is largely a result of insufficient withholding or lack of estimated tax payments. For businesses, its usually caused by failure to make federal tax deposits, or payroll taxes. In both of these common cases, we are able to place an immediate hold on IRS collection actions while simultaneously getting the taxpayer into current compliance with their federal tax obligations. This allows for an environment free of IRS enforcement whereby an installment agreement or offer-in-compromise can be negotiated. In all cases, we ensure our clients keep their income, assets, and businesses by helping them navigate the ominous waters of the IRS collection system.
The work that you do can have a huge positive impact on the lives of your clients. Is that something you find rewarding?
Dealing with the IRS can be an emotionally (not to mention financially) draining experiencing for most taxpayers. Individual and business taxpayers alike often feel overwhelmed with the complexity of the Tax Code. And receiving a letter or notice from the IRS only makes matters worse. Being able to put the taxpayer at ease by helping them understand their tax situation and getting them back on track is extremely rewarding. Having worked numerous cases while at the IRS, it only takes me a few minutes to ascertain the taxpayers situation and offer several potential remedies to resolve the issue at hand. The result is immediate peace of mind for the taxpayer. The personal satisfaction from helping a business stay in business and helping an individual move on with his/her life is immeasurable.
Is there such thing as a typical day at the office for you?
No, and thank goodness! For me, one of the best perks of tax resolution work is lack of routine. On any given day, I am fielding phone calls, sorting through taxpayer emails and IRS correspondence, communicating with various levels of the IRS, preparing financial analyses, and advocating on my clients behalf. Every new case presents its own nuances that are both challenging and interesting at the same time. Variety is the spice of life, and I welcome it with open arms.
A big part of your job is managing client relationships and expectations. What lessons have you learned in those areas?
Customer service and client satisfaction are by far the most important tenets of the Firm. Anyone that calls into our office, whether a prospective client or not, is treated with respect and professionalism. As a professional tax firm, it is incumbent upon us to be honest with taxpayers from the very beginning and to be straightforward when discussing potential remedies to their tax disputes. Clients appreciate that, and since they were given realistic expectations from the start, they are more likely to be satisfied as their case matter concludes.
If you were hiring for an entry level position, what achievements or qualities would you value the most in a potential candidate?
Without exception, candidates would have to be guided by personal and professional integrity, have a strong work ethic, and a genuine passion for helping taxpayers and customer service. Our services are a reflection of our people – mediocrity is not an option.
You started Landmark Tax Group in January of 2012. Starting a new company is always a pretty big leap, and Im sure there have been some sleepless nights spent wondering if you made the right decision. What do you tell yourself that helps you know you’re doing the right thing?
While at the IRS, Ive had the fortunate (and unique) experience of working with hundreds of business taxpayers. Through my interactions with these taxpayers, Ive learned a lot about the dos and donts of business and have incorporated these lessons into my business plan. As with all new businesses, there certainly are challenging times that keep me on my toes, however what keeps me motivated is the positive feedback from taxpayers. Knowing that I’m making a positive difference in peoples lives reinforces the fact that Im on the right track and inspires me to continue moving in the right direction.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
One of my favorite quotes is from former Ivy League professor and author of The Last Lecture, Randy Pausch, who once said Luck is where preparation meets opportunity. Both in and out of the workplace, I aim to be as prepared as possible to help maximize opportunities and minimize any potential losses. All of my successes can be traced back to diligence and preparedness.
What advice would you offer to a recent college graduate who is looking for work in your field?
Working as a tax professional can be a very rewarding job on many levels. I would strongly encourage anyone interested in tax resolution work to sit for the Special Enrollment Examination (SEE) offered by the IRS. Upon passing the exam, you will be licensed as an Enrolled Agent – the highest credential the IRS awards. Enrolled Agents (EAs) are unrestricted as to which taxpayers they can represent, what types of matters they can handle, and which IRS offices they can represent clients before. For more on EAs, visit the IRS website here.