The Role of a
Everything today is taxes. . . . What better seat on the grandstand
of life can I offer you than that of tax counsel? . . . Who is the fig-
ure behind every great man, the individual who knows his ultimate
secrets? A father confessor? Hell no, the tax expert.
DISCOVERING OPPORTUNITIES FOR CLIENTS
It was 1980. I was a lowly staff accountant with one of the Big Eight (now
Big Five) certified public accounting (CPA) firms in Denver. One day the
tax partner came by my cubicle and invited me to lunch. He said he had
a client he wanted me to meet. On the way to the restaurant I learned that
the person we were to have lunch with was the multimillionaire owner of a
local cable TV company. I will call him Mr. X. I also learned that I would
Big Five: Through mergers of the Big Eight, the five largest
international CPA firms are now PricewaterhouseCoopers,
KPMG, Arthur Andersen, Deloitte & Touche, and Ernst &
Young. These are the premier employers for young CPAs
entering public practice.
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be preparing Mr. and Mrs. X’s tax return that year and handling any tax
planning needs they might have.
This news made my mouth go dry. Our firm did the audit for Mr. X’s
cable company, and I had heard about Mr. X from one of the auditors.
Word had it that he was so aloof that none of the audit staff had ever seen
him. The audit partner on the job dealt with the company’s chief financial
officer but never Mr. X. It seemed to me that someone so rich, powerful,
and haughty would be difficult to work with.
We met Mr. X and Mrs. X at an upscale restaurant. I was surprised to
discover that they were both charming and we hit it off. Mr. X did not talk
to auditors because he had no interest in auditing. He did, however, have
an interest in taxes and liked to talk about taxes a lot. After that day, my
audit friends became quite jealous when Mr. X would call me in my little
cubicle and talk for long periods. The audit partner in the big corner o