and then either their business went
bankrupt or they lost their job. A lot of
times it comes from previously employing
people. Not having enough money to
pay the payroll taxes. And payroll taxes,
remember, are quarterly, so those can get
big real quick.
Q: So what’s a tipping point from civil to
A: Well, a significant underreporting of
income can always be a problem.
Q: What’s considered significant?
A: Usually you’re talking six figures, but it
doesn’t have to be.
Q: So it’s a judgment call from the IRS?
A: Definitely. Other tipping points—
which we would not ever be involved
in—but if people were to present false
documentation to the IRS in New York
state, that’s an easy basis for a criminal
Q: Have you ever had a client who refused
to pay taxes on political principle?
A: Tax protesters? We refuse to represent
Q: Do tax protesters ever contact you?
A: Probably three or four times a year
we’ll get a call from somebody. What
we normally do [with new clients] is talk
over the phone to make sure it makes
sense for them to come in and see us; but
sometimes we’re at an actual consultation,
and I’ll get the question: “Let me ask you,
where does it say that we have to pay
income tax?” And I put the brakes on. I’m
like, “Oh, no, no, no. I’m sorry. We don’t
represent tax protesters.” Because the
bottom line is the income tax system has
been upheld over and over again under the
Constitution. We will not engage in that
kind of nonsense.
Q: How do you keep up with changes in
the tax code?
A: Research, reading periodicals. Tax Notes
Today posts cases on a daily basis. We’re
constantly on the IRS website. We get any
notification that comes out of the IRS for
any changes. We have certain types of
software that keep us updated on changes.
I teach tax practice and procedure at
SUNY UB Law, and when I’m traveling and
lecturing—say it’s a three-day event and
I’m lecturing for two hours—I make sure
I’m attending other people’s lectures as
well. To stay on top of it. We have lunch
groups, too, where we meet and talk about
different cases and strategize.
Q: Do you charge an hourly rate or a flat
A: Normally, it’s hourly. We do have flat fee
cases. If we submit an offer in compromise,
a lot of times that’s going to be a flat fee.
Q: How much do you charge?
A: It’s $350 an hour for me and my partner,
$300 for an associate, and about $200 for
a paralegal. For flat-fee cases, which, like
I said, is normally going to be an offer in
compromise, that really depends on the
complexity of it. [They] generally range
between $4,000 and $10,000.
Q: What drew you to law in the first
A: I went to undergraduate with the
thought that I was going to become a
history professor. When I first started,
there was a history professor—this young,
interesting, dynamic guy. And when I
graduated, which was only three years
later, he was so burned out and unhappy
with the fact that he’d spent 10 years or
whatever getting his Ph.D., and he felt so
trapped. I mean, let’s face it, if you get a
Ph.D. in history, that’s all you’re going to
I was the kind of student that loved
history, and I used to meet with him
and talk with him about things, but a
lot of students … Well, you can’t teach
intellectual curiosity. And I think he got
worn out by that. At the same time, I ended
up taking a criminal justice course with a
different professor. One time he asked me
what I was going to do and I told him. He
said, “You know, you really should think
about law school. You’ve got a lot more
options if you look at law school. You can
always teach, but you can do a bunch of
other stuff, too. You can be a lawyer; you
can work for businesses.” So I ended up
taking the LSATs.
Q: How did you wind up in tax law?
A: When I graduated from law school, I
started working with an attorney, Gary
Borek, who had just left the IRS. When I
was in law school I had a clerkship with
our surrogate in Erie County—the person
that administers wills when somebody
dies—and Gary hired me to close a few
estates that he had at the time. He was just
starting out, probably didn’t think he could
afford hiring an associate, but he needed
some help. Within a week, he asked me if I
wanted to come on full time. It was a great
opportunity for me. I was able to learn
the inner workings of the IRS without ever
having to actually work for the IRS.
This is how small the world is. One of the
estates that he hired me to close was the
estate of my current partner’s father. At
the time, Gary Bluestein was still working
for the IRS. When he left the IRS in 1998,
that’s when we started our firm.
I should mention that I’m the only one
in our firm that actually also does estate
planning and estate administration. I
always say the two things I handle are
death and taxes, so I’m always going to be
Q: What do you like about the estate side
A: Estate planning is rewarding because
you’re really doing a great service for
somebody. People work hard for what they
earn, and it’s important for them to get it
to the next generation.
The estate administration side, that’s
usually more straightforward: helping a
family through a really tough process.
Sometimes I’ll get calls from people. You
know, I’ve done their estate plan and three
years later … In fact, it just happened. I
had a woman whose husband, 30 days
ago, was fine. Seventeen days later, he
was diagnosed. She called me while he
was in the hospital and asked, “Do I need
to do anything?” I said, “Absolutely not.
Everything is in order. You take care of your
family.” Then when I do meet with her, it’s
my opportunity to do a little handholding.
Q: Both Borek and Bluestein came from
the IRS. Is that common—IRS to private
A: Well, a lot of people who work for the
IRS stay with the IRS and have very long
and happy careers. But a lot of individuals
who leave the IRS do get into tax practice.
In our firm, Gary Bluestein worked for the
IRS, Randy Andreozzi worked for the IRS,
and Dan Brown worked for the Department
of Justice Tax Division. So it’s only me who
Q: You’re IRS-free.
A: I am IRS-free.
This interview was edited and condensed.