Art of Accounting: Testifying Before Congress

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IMGCAP(1)]I testified two times before the House Ways and Means Committee, in June 1980 and June 1985.

Each time I was given five minutes to present my views. The first time I was shaking at least four of the five minutes. This was in the Capitol and here I was testifying about what they should do.

In 1980 I gave seven specific suggestions that have all since been enacted in some form. In 1985 I presented 35 specifics why a proposed law was not fair or equitable and would cause more problems than it might eliminate. None of my recommendations was adopted and all 35 bad provisions, as well as many others, were included in the law that passed in September 1986.

The theme of my 1980 testimony was that there was no such thing as a tax cut, but only a smaller increase (because of the way the tax brackets were constructed). This was picked up by Ronald Reagan in his campaign. He continued this theme a year later when he was president and pushed for his tax cuts to be enacted. That got me on the TV news program, “Live at Five,” in New York in 1980 and then a couple dozen more times in 1981 to explain the proposed tax legislation.

How I got to testify was pretty easy. I developed a “platform” and stated that I was representing the views of more than 1,000 clients. I applied directly to the House Ways and Means Committee. I did not go through my congressional representatives or anyone else. Each time I heard nothing until a few days beforehand giving me a date and time to appear.

I was given a five-minute slot, but there were many other people waiting to testify, including some colleagues and leaders of our professional organizations, whom I got to meet on an equal footing.

The experience was awesome. It provided an invaluable understanding of the legislative process through being there, preparing and developing a somewhat unique premise. My testimony brought attention and “bragging rights.” I still mention it in my bios for speeches I give.

If I could do it, anyone could. You just need to make the effort. I am not sure how the process works today, but if you want to consider doing it, reach out to me for any assistance I can provide.

Edward Mendlowitz, CPA, is partner emeritus at WithumSmith+Brown, PC, CPAs. He is the author of 24 books, including “How to Review Tax Returns,” co-written with Andrew D. Mendlowitz published by and “Managing Your Tax Season, Third Edition” published by the AICPA. Ed also writes a twice-a-week blog addressing issues that clients have at Art of Accounting is a continuing series where Ed shares autobiographical experiences with tips that he hopes can be adopted by his colleagues. Ed welcomes practice management questions and can be reached at (732) 964-9329 or

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