The Importance of Your Network With Janette Lohman
Hosts & Guests
The Importance of Your Network With Janette Lohman
Meredith Smith [00:00:04] Welcome to sort of the SALTovation show, is a podcast series featuring the leading voices, Insult, where we talk about the issues and strategies to help you make sense of state and local tax. Hello, everyone, and welcome to another episode of this SALTovation podcast. We're going to shift gears a bit and go a little lighter in tone on this episode. Our previous discussions have identified areas within the state and local tax profession that often get overlooked and placed on the proverbial back burner. We have discussed how we have to deliver the bad news to businesses about risks and exposures with a dark cloud following us. However, today we are going to showcase a woman who has been described as being incredibly positive in her state tax journey. Miss Jeanette Lohman, GeoNet, is a practicing attorney for more than 30 years and is an industry leader at the Institute for Professionals and Taxation and the EPIS liaison to the American Bar Association tax section. She believes people have the best intentions and will learn more about what that means for businesses and tax professionals. We're excited to welcome Jeanette. Jeanette, thank you for being with us today.
Janette Lohman [00:01:19] Thank you so much. It's a real pleasure.
Meredith Smith [00:01:21] And as always, we have Miss Judy. Hello, everybody. So we're going to dove right in. And you have a very varied background that includes law and accounting, government, industry. Can you walk us through how you initially got into state and local tax and what opportunities for what opened up for you as a result of kind of progressing through your career?
Janette Lohman [00:01:44] How long is this webcast,
Meredith Smith [00:01:47] however long you want to write?
Janette Lohman [00:01:50] Well, actually, it all started back in nineteen seventy nine when I was an intern with Toothbrushing Company, which is now part of Deloitte, and I was also a law student. And because I was literally the lone man on the totem pole, I gotta do what nobody else wanted to do. And that was usually state and local tax. So every state and local tax assignment that came into the office ended up on my desk. Now, I must say that my career could have taken a turn at that point because I also got all of the Christmas stuff. But from that standpoint, I could definitely research, but not so. So what ended up happening was I ended up with a few other iterations coming back to but as I said, I was ashamed to step up and the job just sort of found me. And I followed my bliss. And my husband was the one who labeled me the shameless job hopper. But what happened was in nineteen seventy nine, of course that was right before the eighty one eighty two eighty six Federal Tax Act. And what ended up happening was state and local tax went from being sort of the least favored child, the stepchild of Texas, to being the main event for most companies, particularly the multinational companies, because the state, total state and local tax liability was now exceeding the federal. So when that happened, I shamelessly popped again and became McDonnell Douglas Corporation's very first full time state and local tax lawyer. Once again, it was because nobody else wanted to do it. And I think that state local tax is probably the best kept secret in all of the law, let alone tax, because it's different. It's very wild. And at the same time, because I was the only full time state and local tax lawyer probably at the time, at least in St. Louis, I started teaching state and local tax at the end program at Washington University because nobody else knew what it was all about. So I was teaching it and simultaneously practicing it. And then after another bout at my little buddy, which is now the law was still to Frosch, I got this strange call at McDonnell Douglas. No, I'm sorry, I forgot to stop. I started with the voice. I went to Emerson Electric. I went back to the voice of what is to show us. And then I was that McDonnell Douglas. And while there I was the director of tax planning and assistant general counsel. In fact, I had been. It out of my state and local tax back into federal and international, and I was supervising state and local, which was a disappointment because I had so much fun in state and local when I got that strange phone call that we all fear on behalf of the new governor, Mel Carnahan, the new governor of Missouri, saying, hey, Jeanette, you want to become the director of revenue. And I thought, there really is such a person. I thought the director of revenue was just sort of a political person or a figure of speech. But nonetheless, I took the call. I took the job. And once again, I had to reinvent myself and a whole new different position. I went from being the. Being the head of tax, if I was director of tax planning, so I was essentially the head of state and local, if you will, for the largest taxpayer in Missouri. And then I jumped over to become the evil tax collector. And so I certainly have the longevity of a continuous service record as director of revenue. I lasted almost five years, but that's another can of worms. But what ended up happening is after I became the director of revenue, that sealed my fate, the only thing I really had, the only marketable skill I really had was in state and local tax. But something else, everybody the accounting firms all wanted to hire me when I was ready to leave. But having done six years and eight years time in public accounting, I didn't think that was an option. And McDonnell Douglas wanted to put me on civic leave when I took the position because they wanted me back. But by the time I was ready to leave, McDonnell Douglas was no longer McDonnell Douglas. It had been acquired by Boeing. And my former job, if I had stayed in that position, I probably would have been. So here I am, director of revenue, and nobody wants to hire me. So when I started interviewing with law firms, everybody wanted to talk to me because it was kind of novel. Hey, they felt the same way I did about directors of revenue. I mean, there really are people like this, but I have this big conflict of interest, like with everybody in the state. And so I can only get my job. You know, I always used to like to say that there are five ways to leave a position of director of revenue, and only one of them is pleasant. I had said I could only talk to folks who approached me, but when they called me I thought, oh my goodness, I have totally trashed my career unless I want to be a career state, at which point my career would hands down whoever becomes the next governor. So I put myself in peril without really knowing it. And law firms would call me in an interview, but they would say, where's your book of business? You know, and forget about don't forget about the conflicts. OK, so you have no book of business, nothing but conflicts. And let's say you've been either an administrator or a bureaucrat for the last 30 years. What do we do with you? You know, you're too old to be an associate. You're too young to be of counsel. But we can't possibly make you a partner because you can't support yourself. So they would take me and put me through a rigorous interview process and then say that will pass. There was only one firm that was interested in even giving me a chance, and that's when I walked in the door. So much to my horror, they really didn't have a state and local tax practice they wanted me to form. And they basically said, here's your, here's your office, here's your telephone, here's your computer, have scientists. And I was terrified. And the next two years were probably the hardest two years of my life because I didn't know what I was doing. I had never been a partner at a law firm before. I'd never been an associate in a law firm before. And I didn't. I made some critical mistakes that I helped counsel other folks who were in that situation out of. And that is if you're in a situation where you have no business of your own, your best source of business is your other partners. Unfortunately, I wasn't smart enough to figure that out later on, but I did figure it out. And so that's where the cookie list came in, are you us? Everybody, I don't know why the cookie has turned into such a novelty, but what happened was after my first year as a partner at a law firm. I barely covid my jaw in terms of the revenue generated, but that was actually probably the heartbreak that I was conflicted out of enough business to have made my career because of the conflicts of being director of revenue. It wasn't that I couldn't attract business. I couldn't take it. So at the end of the first year. There were six people who really did something to try and help my career. They either became my clients and trusted me with their business or they got me speaking engagements. I had plenty of time to write great speeches because I certainly didn't have a large slice of the time. It was just one of those things that people would go out of their way to ask me to join a board or something. I still have that glamor of being a former director, which in my mind was worth about twenty five cents when everybody else was impressed. And I guess that's the only thing that mattered. So with these six people at Christmas time, I said, everybody chocolate. And the next year was a little bit better, I managed to cover my jaw and my overhead share, but there were 20 people on the list. In other words, once you're on the list, you have to die to get off of the list because you're somebody who helped me when nobody else was looking and nobody else cared. Right. So nonetheless, the pilgrims. So it took me three years to finally figure out what I was doing wrong. And what I was doing wrong is that I was so worried about my own plight that I wasn't focusing on the plight of my clients. And after a while I actually hired help because I knew how to network. You know, I don't know many people in our lives who can't work. But that's not really learning how to sell business. The only selling business is what can you do for them? And who are your clients and what are their names, not your needs or needs are totally irrelevant. And if you can figure out whether you can give value to the client all the better. If you can't, then I think you're ethically obligated to find somebody who can. Because it's all about what they need, not about anything, and once I figured that out, I had no more problems in that regard, none whatsoever. Now conflicts, obviously, but no more issues with regard to that. But anyway, the cookie list kept growing because, as I said, once you're on it, you're never taken off of it unless you die. Unfortunately, and in some instances, I still send the widow or the widow the cookies because they've become popular over the years. Well, not over the years. About two thousand nine. I saw these adorable little handmade turkeys. Yes. And they were on top of popsicles. And I laughed so hard when I saw the turkeys. I thought it was the cutest thing I've ever seen. And I asked my confectioner if you could make that. And I shifted because they were turkeys. I shifted the gifts to Thanksgiving and it actually created sort of a revolution because I tried different flavors of Oreos and different types of chocolate. But after a few years of trying, everybody likes the mint flavored fresh Oreos with hand dipped homemade dark chocolate with the handmade turkeys and everybody. I actually was threatened if I ever changed the formula.
Meredith Smith [00:14:17] So I can say with certainty, I have eaten probably 90 percent of every year's box that comes. So I don't know if I should thank you or be really mad at you. But yes, I am the Turkey consumer in our office and I think we get two boxes because Alex is from Minnesota. So then I'm double happy. I don't know.
Judy Vorndran [00:14:44] And we don't bother to send it to him. No.
Janette Lohman [00:14:48] With my assistant, who is brilliant and makes me look really good. We have to start I've actually started writing the cards because there's so many people on the list now, and I write all the cards by hand because it's actually my favorite part of the holidays, because I get to say I get to relive every nice thing that anyone's done for me over the past twenty one years. And I know every one of the people on the list and why they're on the list. And it just makes me it's like this big rush of karma. It gives me great pleasure to still be able to say thank you. Even twenty one years later to the original, six people are still on the list.
Judy Vorndran [00:15:30] That is funny. I was just in Pagosa visiting, doing a little tour of Colorado and went and saw a buddy of mine who would relocate down there from Denver. And I like doing pagosa right, which is a lovely community. Google it, but I'm like, it's kind of remote. How are you making this work? Well, funny story. Just seeing him made me realize I got our master's attacks together and I know my partner at my firm because of. Yeah, because he said you should get to know Alan and look him up. And next thing you know, he continues to be my partner all these 15 years later because of this man I went to school with 30 years ago. Is that funny, those connections? And it was a really solidified time of like, oh, my gosh, this is why I'm here and why and with what and all these relationships have made such an impact on me. That's a funny thing that I don't do. Cooking something to think about, though, honestly, because it really is those connections that matter, which is obviously why you're here today with us because of all the things you've done for me and my experience dealing with you, with IBT, dealing with you, experiencing your leadership and the things you've done as a committee. And the head of this organization, an organization I've been very passionate about because I'm able to double dip my CPA, my law license, which is why I've always gone to the New Orleans conference all these years. And it's such a great conference. That's why I've been going to it probably 20 years, you know, and because of you, you and Muffie, obviously the two of you have been such. Such example setters for me as a little bit younger than you, but not much,
Meredith Smith [00:17:07] but something I want to go I want to go back to Janette that you had started with. And Judy, this is a very similar story to how you got started in this for some of the people who might not be familiar with your story. It was very much, oh, this is going to be clerical. I'm going to relegate you as the woman to go do this thing. So do you. I don't know if you just want to, like, give us a little glimpse of that piece of how you got started in this area that involves turkeys once a year that I'm enjoying.
Judy Vorndran [00:17:44] And it's funny you say that to Jeanette because it was me and another guy, both attorneys and public accounting, you see, and someone needed to go out and do the sales tax returns to this company. That was a giant office supply company that had gobbled up all the smaller offices. Supply companies need somebody for the sales tax returns. And I said it was me or this other guy. And I said, well, why isn't he doing it? The partner said to me, it's really clerical. And I just didn't really think anything of it. I said, OK, all right, I'll go do it. But here I am. However, almost 30 years later. Well, twenty four from twenty five to six, something like that right now. Gosh. Right. And it was because of that to equal people's levels. And I get picked and I think back now and I'm like, well he was a guy and I was the girl and I was clerical. Therefore I should go do this. And then I thought the same thing: this is a clerical job that is fascinating. I mean, I remember for this company, I was reading one million dollars of sales tax revenue a month to the state of California alone. That's a lot of money I was making sure the state got. And I didn't know what the heck I was doing doing the sales tax returns and I was doing them by hand and best friends with AP to get the returns done. And there were piles of money going to these governments. And I thought, this is clerical, this is real money. And I realized that one hundred million they're making a billion dollars is a lot of money to be at that level. Right. So it's a funny thing, the money and the value system, because it's clerical in a way that that's the form, but it's how you get to the form that's not clerical. Right. So that is really fascinating for me in space and why I've continued to grow in that area. If they had just started publishing co. to have state local groups because you maybe would be the I don't know if they have that in Missouri. It's a touch. I was at Deloitte after I was at sea, but the small groups were very new to the firms back then. And we hired departments of revenue executives like yourself to come in and tell us how to remediate all our client's woes. Right. And that's where the visa program originated, invented by people like you.
Meredith Smith [00:19:55] Well, that's what I thought was interesting. Do you think that that conflict of interest, because we know someone from the state of Colorado just went in house to go work for an accounting firm? Do you think that would have been an issue had you gone to an accounting firm or is that only a conflict because you went to a law firm? Yeah. Because we find that it's good to have those revenue people in your back pocket because they know the intricacies of the system and how to get things through or how to make things happen. Right. So we would find incredible value in that. But it appears as if you didn't have that same level of welcome open arms.
Janette Lohman [00:20:35] Well, I think the industry. The the. If you want to hire people who really know what they're doing, you want to hire the people who are actually doing the tax processing on the inside, the director of revenue is clueless enough. And in Missouri, they call this tourist because the average life expectancy was about 18 months. And so, yeah, but here this is worth the price of listening to the podcast. If there is one of the most important things I learned when I was the director of revenue was that my assistant, whom I inherited and it didn't matter whether we went from Republican to Democrat or Democrat or Republican or whatever, for instance, it had been a Republican administration that would pass. And I came in with the Democrats. But the most important single thing I learned from being director of revenue was that my assistant we've been there for 40 years, knew everyone and everything. And everybody was rude to everybody, they called and they wanted to just plow past her and get to the director of revenue. Well, she was the only person who could help them and they were basically killing themselves. And besides that, the other the other important thing is, you know, first of all, if you want to find somebody at the department, you want to call the directors line, but you want to to basically tell your story to whoever answers the phone, because chances are that's the most important and influential person in the entire department of revenue. And another thing you want to consider, people always want to hire me because they think I can jump straight to the top, which is the last thing you want to do. You know, if it's in your own best interest, because I guarantee you that you need to go up the system level by level without offending anyone along the way, because if you want to get something resolved successfully, you have to work through the system. And sometimes it takes longer, but a lot of times it avoids costly litigation. And you get a much better result if you basically take credence, like, for instance, I think that it's far better if you can work out the issues at the audit level. You've won. You know, and nobody likes litigation, and I spend most of my time trying to work myself out of a job, which is what you know, which is which may seem to be counterintuitive, but quite frankly, that's why that's why I think I'm just knowing you're right. I do know how the system works, but it's exactly the opposite of people who have been in the system. It's exactly the opposite of how they understand. I'd much rather work with the front line collection specialists than the front line auditors, although I don't I don't really think that. Let's put it this way, I'm more or less trial counsel, although Matt, where my trial partner tries cases, in other words, I write great briefs and I have all the experience and the issues and everything. But quite frankly, I think that it takes a particular skill to be able to argue before a commissioner or to be able to actually try a case right now.
Judy Vorndran [00:24:21] And I think the skill set
Janette Lohman [00:24:23] Well, there is a very unique skill set, and the most important part of the skill set is basically dummy an issue down to a level that the judge understands why you're upset and understands what the issues are. In fact, the best legal writing and the best legal arguments I've seen are the most simple,
Meredith Smith [00:24:48] because you're often not dealing with a judge who's not in a tax court. You're dealing with the same person who is hearing any number of cases or disputes or whatnot.
Janette Lohman [00:24:59] Exactly. Exactly. So from that standpoint, it takes a team and you have to be able to work well, work well with each other. Like, for instance, my trial attorney for my first 12 years of practice was one of the best appellate lawyers in our firm. And he had the audacity to retire. And I went into mourning and my. And he recommended that Ladwa, who is a young whippersnapper, you just made partner. Now, this is a long time ago, man. I hope you're not listening because he's been working with me now for well over a decade. But basically, he impressed me so much. And one particular incident that I literally made him an offer he couldn't refuse, but he had to learn, say, text. I even made him take my class at the law school. Oh, you bet. And I made him go to the seminars, the seminars and the other.
Judy Vorndran [00:26:04] And now he has these full Borys all in it to win it. So you
Janette Lohman [00:26:10] he's over. He's always been in it. So what is it but you know, that's the funny thing. I have convinced a young man as bright and personable and wonderful as Matt. He truly is one of the most marvelous human beings I've ever met. But he absolutely thrives on salt. And I remember when I first told him the problem with being a trial lawyer and being in a law firm is that you don't have any time to develop a business. So you're always working on other people's cases. And I gave out the opportunity not only to share the business, if you will, with me, but to inherit my entire practice, you know, and that. But I believe in giving my flowers while people are living. I don't like to send flowers to bad people and I like to receive them while I'm still living. We'll be fine. But one of the things that's so exciting to me about salt is I literally love my clients. I work for my clients. My partners don't object because they do quite well. I love the people with whom I work. I have the best clients in the world. I have the best coworkers in the world. We're bringing up a wonderful crop of young associates who are just, you know, just absolutely excited to be part of it. Because, you see, the interesting thing about salt is that there are only a handful of this really in the area of Taxotere, only a handful of this across the country. And we all do the same thing. And we all speak at the same conferences and we all refer to each other's business. And we all we're like a family. It's really true because my salty friends are closer to me than my quote unquote normal friends back home, because I don't have I don't spend any time with my normal friends except on holidays or special occasions. And I see my friends all the time. In fact, I talk to them all the time. Yeah. We have no competitors in this industry. We have all my colleagues and that's the beautiful part of it.
Judy Vorndran [00:28:27] And it's so collaborative because there's everything so unique. You never see the same issue in the same exact way, because every industry is unique, every business is unique, and therefore you're always having to kind of collaborate and think through the issues. And now I think it's really fascinating. And there's definitely a thing about people who like it and they kind of get into it and they're constantly just thinking about what to do. What about this and what about that? As you know, the laws weren't written to deal with today's business, so you have to adapt and that makes it kind of fun. Well, and
Meredith Smith [00:28:58] part of that, too, is not when did you bring this up? A lot when we're discussing with clients is an audit scenario that's not public. Right. So you don't know what you can do or what you can resolve in an audit. And so that's part of that information sharing. And as state and local tax professionals, we can't be an expert on everything everywhere. Right. That's impossible. So we try to be really good at it. But part of what makes us good is knowing who to call next. We don't
Judy Vorndran [00:29:28] now.
Janette Lohman [00:29:28] Yeah, well, yes, it's wonderful. I know local councils in all 50 states. I know accounting firms in all 50 states. Well well, actually, that's an interesting thing in terms of cross referrals, because a lot of times someone will be looking for a lawyer or an accountant with a particular type of expertise in another state. We don't have anything at all to do with state and local churches, but also from my contacts, because I have national contact. Right. For them to see if somebody in their firm is eligible to handle it. I mean, we know each other from conference rooms for depositions. We do all kinds of things for each other and we do it without thinking and we do it without expectation of quid pro quo. And it's sort of like having the biggest and best family that one could imagine. I just love it. I couldn't do anything else.
Judy Vorndran [00:30:28] Well, it's funny you say that because I think about why I've been involved in it, and I did that at the big forum where we had a compendium of people because the national state, local practice had become fairly large over my career. But honestly, when I left and I went to a regional firm, I didn't have that anymore. And I relied on it. And then I see the ABA also, which I'm also part of, has a small team which is growing. But the IP was just there's just no question if I had a question, I called somebody that I'd look it up and I look at their state and I call them up.
Janette Lohman [00:30:59] Here's another, here's another exciting thing. One of the reasons why I absolutely love the IP and think it's just a hugely premio organization is number one. They freely accept as members those of us in consulting or accounting or in law that were not treated as second hand, second hand services. As you know, they invite us when they want us to speak or something, but they don't really want us to do it. And we respect that. And we don't solicit we don't do awful things during or at least people don't last very long if they try that kind of stuff. But the one thing that they have, though, is that no one else has really come up with is the CMI certification. And that is becoming more and more popular. In fact, I'm about ready to if I ever and fortunately during covid I've been so busy I haven't had time to do a lot, a lot of uncovered related stuff. But quite frankly, the CMI is becoming a credential insult. Ha. And the good part about it is that, you know, for instance, if anybody can be a lawyer but nobody knows what type of lawyer they are. Anybody can be a CPA, but who knows what they practice. I don't even know if five percent of the CPA exam even involves tax. But quite frankly, if you're a CMI that lets people know that you have specialized in at least one area of salt and for the first time ever, a potential client, a very large company, called me up. And the first question the person asked is a big sales tax issue was, are you a salesman? Personally, fortunately, I was able to tell them. Yes. And in sales tax, I was the only candidate. And their beauty pageant, who is the CMI and an attorney. And I got the case. But it wasn't because it was because I was a client that spoke volumes to me. And I think that the real key is that in the future, I believe because right now the IPC has a great deal going on. Here's another reason why you should listen to the podcast, because if you're an attorney with, I believe, over 10 years of experience or a CPA with over 10 years of experience, there is an opportunity for you to waive both the schools and sit for the income tax shammi without having to go through the school's. And that's because we're trying to encourage more people, more income families to take it there. Once again, you still have to meet all the educational requirements you have to have. They do it on a points system and that support system is readily available. But they'll let you. It's a one time offer only and it expires at the end of the year. And even though I have Skype and credit incentives and I also have the sales tax shammi, I am thoroughly tempted to also sit for the income tax just because they're going to let me work with schools.
Judy Vorndran [00:34:34] Well, yeah, that's why I haven't done it. I mean, I duly license like you and I'm like, that's just one more thing to focus on. Not that I'd value it, but honestly, it's the schools there. They're more rudimentary at this point in my career. Twenty five, six years led to it. I don't struggle with spending a week or several weeks, as you know, to get the background. That's very redundant of what I've already known. And I've done some of it, but I just haven't. I've actually encouraged some of my people to do it who could use it. But it's one of those things where it's time money, you know, but that's I didn't realize that and I didn't even know they were doing that for the income. Are they doing that for sales tax too?
Janette Lohman [00:35:11] No, just for income, but I think that because of you, not because of profit, you have to remember that as I am now past president of ICG, but the second half of my presidency, I spent canceling conferences. That was the most depressing, horrible time
Judy Vorndran [00:35:34] I can afford in New Orleans. I always go to New Orleans every year.
Janette Lohman [00:35:38] I literally broke my heart because the three New Orleans conferences are my all time favorite. Yeah. And as you know, you're showing the musicians when I'm wearing my muses here. That's right. That's right. That's right. But, oh, I've actually had some when I've been giving presentations at conferences, I've actually had folks from New Orleans come up to me and say, would you make the issue for now
Judy Vorndran [00:36:09] you have to win the IPT or whatever, because the king or queen
Janette Lohman [00:36:15] tie. You know, I make an exception. I like to make shoes for myself, but you know, it takes forever to make them. So they're in fact, I need to get into the mood. But right now it's really depressing because they're talking about canceling the carnival with all the parades in New Orleans next year, because, of course, there's no possibility that you can be socially just. But the other thing, I guess if folks are listening, one of the things I really want to let you know is that if you're blessed with a large network and most people are and you're blessed with lots and lots of contacts and you're old like I am. Don't turn your back, a lot of folks in our areas have been furloughed, they have been quality people, I mean, some of the most brilliant people I know have been downsized. Their company went out of business because they were in the hospitality entertainment business and their job went by the wayside or what have you. And I have been spending all of my spare time when I could have been making shoes or doing music shoes or something like that. I've been spending my time trying to help them network and find other positions because there are some industries during covid that are thriving and there are other industries that are not. And so I think right now I'm trying to help six different people and I think two of them have finally landed positions. And the good news is the positions they've landed are far better. They have more potential and more opportunities than the positions that they were forced to leave. Yeah, no real reflection if you're out of business or a business. But one of the one of the things that you can do if you're in a position, if you have what good is a network, if you don't use it, and particularly to help other people, because right now there's a there's a whole nother layer of crisis hitting our industry
Judy Vorndran [00:38:27] when I would think more people might hire people. I've been starting to think this on just having a little bit of time away to the two week drive around Colorado a little bit. And it made me think, you know, people need to have people like us and house people need to be responsible for this work within software. Can't solve it. You know, you can't do one hundred percent hands off. It has to be a combination of somebody owning it within the business and somebody in automation. You've got to manage your issues. And I also wonder just that with a prospective client. Eighty million dollars of revenue, if you look at every single thing, they sell sales taxable subject to tax, their customers might be exempt, but what they're selling is taxable. We're talking at eight percent, almost eight million dollars in tax a year. And you don't have somebody to help you do that in terms of your company. Why don't we have that right? Why do we think that it's such a clerical and important thing with such a giant amount of money we're collecting on behalf of all these governments? And we don't do it well because our accounting teams don't understand our finances. CFOs might understand conceptually, but they're not the nuts and bolts, the nuts and bolts people. I think we're going to see a trajectory towards more of that specialization in terms of company knowledge. I would like to see that being focused upon a set of people throwing their hands up and saying, I don't understand. I don't want to understand it too confusing for me because I don't really believe that to be true. But it is built on knowledge and experience of growing with it. But I wonder if we're going to see more of that business, because now with Wayfair, you've got collections everywhere, which is a byproduct of sales tax. Then you've got the income tax and you get whatever.
Janette Lohman [00:40:04] It's just there's so many other layers to them that I've seen. I've seen a rash of plaintiffs lawyers looking carefully at new companies that are starting to collect taxes. And if they're over collecting the taxes, which is there seems to be a tendency for them to do that. These plaintiffs lawyers are bringing class action suits against them because it's like they're over collecting a liability and they're alleging that they're defrauding the consumers. And the problem comes with states like, unfortunately, Missouri that has twelve thousand different tax rates. But that's not what we try to make things easy for anyone. But nonetheless. Well, after all, I am the woman who named the woman so.
Meredith Smith [00:40:58] Well, we can just add that to the list of just like whatever 20, 20 is like, who knows? There's just, you know.
Janette Lohman [00:41:06] Well, no, but, you know, the interesting thing is that I never dreamed that I would be spending a lot of time with you. Speaking of the various states, collection agencies and trying to negotiate pay plans for the businesses who were just shut down by virtue of covertness. And what's even more interesting is that some of the states are still imposing penalties and interest when the whole reason why the businesses were shut down was because of governmental mandates.
Judy Vorndran [00:41:41] Right. Right, right.
Janette Lohman [00:41:42] So what is that? And they want to get back on their feet. They've received some federal assistance. They're trying to pay their bills and they're trying to be compliant prospectively. Why on earth should states want to penalize this? Right. I agree with you. There were just all kinds of weird things going on, sort of like I think, all right, my mother was from the south and she had a million funny savings. But one of my favorite ones was about how my momma used to say what a disaster would happen if there was a crisis. Well, she said, Nancy, that massive moment and there in the entire United States of America, there is no limit that cannot be turned into a pitcher of lemonade. And so. You know, that's one of the things that I try to keep finding the good things that can come from covid rather than focusing on the fact that it's there. And I think this gives everybody an opportunity to help everybody else.
Meredith Smith [00:42:47] And that's perfect. I think there's been a lot of time and opportunity for self reflection on how we just in the various communities that we consider ourselves a part of can participate. Right. And so going back to and kind of trying to wrap this up is as a community of state and local tax professionals, what do you think we can do to carry that momentum forward to just make us better and kind of round out? Just that 20, 20 is just a dumpster fire in some capacities. But like, let's let's tighten it up. Let's come together as a community. What do you think we can do to just carry that forward with us?
Janette Lohman [00:43:31] Well, I always like this story about the starfish on the beach, but there is this person walking along the beach and there were all of just thousands and thousands of starfish, and there was one little guy throwing them back into the ocean just as fast as we could. And the person walking down the beach stopped him and asked him, what do you do? You're never going to save all these starfish? And he said, yes, but I can save this starfish and I save from state and local stach standpoint. If you start thinking about not what you can't do, but what you can do, then it just explodes. Like, for instance, we're also facing a lot of a lot of just very unfortunate political strife. And we're trying to work our way through all of that, too. And I think that there are lots of ways to help. For instance, if you believe in the process and you can join them, then you can support them in other ways. If you know that there are people who are starving, you can donate money to the food banks. You can basically take care of the people you know. Like, for instance, during covid, even though I'm not a covert employee employer, I have a lot of people who support me as housekeepers and gardeners and yoga instructors and all kinds of people that I know that I keep that are basically on my own personal payroll. And I didn't cut anybody off the payroll just because we couldn't reach for yoga or they couldn't come clean my house or they couldn't come work in my yard. Those are the types of things that and yes, I do pay taxes.
Meredith Smith [00:45:23] Yes, you do.
Janette Lohman [00:45:25] Yeah. You know, I mean, it's just one of those things that you have to do. You really have to do what you can do, and in fact, one of the smartest women I ever had the pleasure to know when I first became the director of revenue, and I was just overwhelmed because once again, I was reinventing myself. And now I was basically in charge of two thousand people who had offices in 10 different states. And I was supposed to collect, what, 14 billion dollars worth of revenue. And I was overwhelmed. And I remember I was really frustrated and I went out to lunch with the director of corrections. We were both first females in our roles. And I said, I don't know how to do this. I said, this doesn't make any sense. I don't understand politics. I don't understand the other set. And the employees are starving. They're they're they're you know, they're paying them so poorly that some of them qualify for assistance on top of full time jobs. So this is embarrassing. I don't know what to do. And she said, well, don't sit there and whine about what you can do. Think about what she said, if you can't give him a race and give them a coat of paint. And I said, well, what do you mean by that? She said, well, she was the director of corrections and she said. If I can't give them a raise, I will do what I can do. What can I do to make their working conditions better, to make their livelihoods better? I can give them flex time. I can do certain things where I don't have the money. And what happened was I think she created a monster because when I started thinking about what I could do rather than what I could do, I saw a million things I could do and I started doing them one by one. Each woman had its own little separate pitcher of lemonade, but all of a sudden it became fun. All of a sudden, you were a problem solver, you weren't part of the problem, and that's what that's particularly so because we're all wonderful people and we're all very congenial by nature. But what can you do? You can help one of your former colleagues find a better job. Right. What can you do? You can give money to food banks. What can you do? You can. Help and be compassionate to people who haven't had the same opportunities that you had.
Judy Vorndran [00:48:01] Well, you obviously push to get the CMI for people like me who don't want to take the time to give me an opportunity to get a credential that I do value
Janette Lohman [00:48:11] right now because we're not getting the word out about that.
Judy Vorndran [00:48:15] No, I don't know that.
Janette Lohman [00:48:16] Yeah, well, you see the board just the board just passed that. And it was our last board meeting before covid. And one of the things that I promised to do, I'm on the advisory board for state tax notes and I'm going to write an article about the IRC because I want to get information like that out there. I want the people in the salt world who are already the problem with the Samui to realise that everybody already has a credential. Thanks. I already have my credential. But what I'm saying is that 20 years from now, if you don't have a say or my people won't give you any credence and salt. Right.
Judy Vorndran [00:48:59] Especially if you're not a lawyer or a CPA. But once again, it's a designation that can bring value as the level of expertise which you and I took years to get.
Janette Lohman [00:49:10] Right. But what I'm telling you, though, is that you have to have years of that kind of, you know, that kind of experience and that kind of education before you can even sit for the exam. Right. It's not like the system is not like a rite of passage, like a bar exam or a CPA, where you have to have achieved a certain level of expertise in your field before you can even sit for it. And then although they keep the passage rates highly confidential, I guarantee you that taking that exam was not for sissies. Oh, no, no fool.
Meredith Smith [00:49:48] Look for any sort of CMI. I will broadcast that. But I think there is, you know, I think that's a great place to end. Jeanette, thank you for your work and your commitment to the profession and taking the time to share your story with us. This has been the Cultivation podcast. And I'm Meredith Smith. And so next time.
Janette Lohman [00:50:06] Thank you so much.
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Questions asked and answered in this Episode:
- How did Janette initially get in state and local tax and what opportunities opened up for her as a result of progressing through her career?
- Is it a conflict of interest to work at an accounting firm rather than a law firm?
- Why do we think it’s a clerical, unimportant thing to have someone help with sales tax revenue?
- What can a community of state and local tax professionals do to carry the momentum to make us better?
What You Will Discover:
- [01:33] Janette shares how she started her 30-year long career with state and local tax
- [09:27] What were the hardest two years of her life
- [10:04] What is the origin of her famous cookie list
- [15:31] How the relationships in SALT matter in the industry
- [21:32] What is the most important thing Janette learned from being Director of Revenue
- [22:59] Why it’s better to work out the issues at the audit level
- [28:54] Why it’s important to adapt in the business
- [36:46] How Janette helps people that were affected by COVID-19
- “I think that state and local tax is probably the best kept secret in all of the world, let alone the tax, because it’s different. It’s varied. It’s wild.” – Janette Lohman [03:48]
- “If you’re in a situation where you have no business of your own, your best source of business is your other partners.” – Janette Lohman [09:49]
- “The only trick to selling business is that it’s what can you do for them and who are your clients and what are their needs, not your needs. Your needs are totally irrelevant.” – Janette Lohman [12:24]
- “If it’s in your own best interest because I guarantee you, you need to go up the system level by level without offending anyone along the way because if you want to get something resolved successfully, you have to work through the system.” – Janette Lohman [22:29]
- “We have no competitors in this industry. We have only colleagues.” – Janette Lohman [28:20]