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Bruce Bialosky

Board of Equalization: Part of the Problem, But Steel’s Office the Solution

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Bruce Bialosky

The government of California does not realize they are the proximate cause of business leaving California. They think they can pound on businesses ad infinitum because we have great beaches and great weather. All they are concerned about is getting their money which actually feeds their unionized employees excessive compensation. Here is another tale of their attempted destruction.

My client, a young man, got caught being on the hook for a couple of entities for which he was wholly responsible. Despite that he accepted responsibility for the liability and tried to set up a payment method. The Board of Equalization (BOE) agreed to a reduced (but still substantial) amount under a program that would allow him to make expedited payments. Unfortunately, due to the slow economy, his business income stuttered and he was unable to meet the payment schedule. We were back to the full liability and establishing a smaller payment plan over the length of the debt.

I received a call from a staff person at the BOE West Covina office. This is in the district of Jerome Horton, BOE Chairman. Which district you are in very well may determine the treatment you receive from the BOE staff. Horton is a liberal Democrat and the staff in his district is far less taxpayer friendly than in Michelle Steel’s district (she is a Republican). The lady from the BOE left a message which was challenging to understand as English was clearly not her native language. When I was able to determine her name and phone number, I returned her call about an hour later. That was a Tuesday. I called her again on Thursday. I did not hear back from her until 5 P.M. on Friday after I had left for an engagement. I returned her call first thing Monday morning and did not hear back from her. On Tuesday morning a gentleman left me a message. I again struggled to discern what he was saying as English was not his native language.
I digress here, but it used to be people came to America to create a better life for themselves, create a business, and become part of the American culture. Not anymore at least not in California. They come here to go to work for the government. The employees who audit the Los Angeles city business licenses are just as bad or worse. I often cannot make out what they are saying and I may ask for a supervisor who often speaks worse English. Isn’t there something wrong with importing people from foreign lands to oversee our tax system? Isn’t it a basic right for taxpayers to have someone who speaks clear, understandable English?

When I spoke to the gentleman about an hour and a half after his call, he informed me he had called my client in the interim period. I lost it. He knew I had a power of attorney (POA) and contacting my client directly was unacceptable and illegal behavior. I brutalized the man, got my client on the phone with him to find out what they discussed, and then demanded to speak to his supervisor. I then called my client back who informed me when the man called, the first thing my client told the BOE staffer was to call me, but he lied to him and continued on with the call.

When I spoke to his BOE supervisor, she reiterated that the BOE has a policy that if they cannot reach the POA they can call the taxpayer. I informed her the policy had no validity and never would stand up in a court of law. I then asked for the staff person to be removed from this case which generated a 15-minute conversation. She told me she would call me back. When she did she informed me they had decided to keep the man on the case. I asked to speak to her supervisor.

I was now speaking to William Tucker, Principal Compliance Officer. We spoke for 20 minutes during which he restated all the garbage that I had been told up to this point. I asked him if lying to the taxpayer and circumventing his POA was not just cause to be removed, then what was just cause? Of course, he did not answer. He then thought he would be a smart guy and say to me “You don’t get to choose your compliance officer.” Fortunately I was prepared and replied “I am not choosing my compliance officer, I am just choosing who will not be my compliance officer — with just cause. How many people do you have working under you? 50, 100, 200? I will take any one of them; just not this guy.” He still insisted that this was the guy. I told him he was making a bad mistake.

I reached Joel Angeles, Chief of Staff to Michelle Steel. When Angeles heard the story he was taken aback. I told him can you imagine being at a bank and being assigned a loan officer. You determine you cannot work with the loan officer and you go to the branch manager to ask for a change and he refuses. It would be inconceivable, but with California government they believe they can push taxpayers around. Mr. Angeles told me he would get back to me. A half hour later he called to inform me I would have a new compliance officer.

Taxpayers should never be treated like this. Even if they owe back taxes they should be treated with respect. They should not have to have someone like me to protect them from a system that just stomps on their rights. The BOE and all California tax agencies need to clean up their act and remember who pays the bills.