Q&A: The Department of Revenue's new tax professional outreach coordinator, Mark Krause


Geno Fragnito, MNCPA director of government relations | September 2018 Footnote

Based on feedback from MNCPA members and the tax practitioner community, the Minnesota Department of Revenue recently reinstated its tax professional outreach coordinator position. The following is an edited conversation with Mark Krause, who has taken on this role, so you're aware of how to best work with him to ensure a smooth tax season for you and your clients.

You have served as the Minnesota Department of Revenue's tax professional outreach coordinator for about a year. Can you share your background and what led to your career working with tax professionals?

My journey into the tax world started at 16, when I first completed my own tax return unbeknownst to my father. When I told him I had already filed my return, he asked if his CPA could review it. To my father's surprise, I had completed my Form 1040EZ accurately! But it wasn't until I graduated from college in December 1990 with a degree in accounting and tax season right around the corner that tax preparation really became my calling.

I worked at H&R Block for 25 years in various capacities, including as a tax professional, instructor and district manager. I started with the Department of Revenue in September 2016 as a revenue tax specialist in the MinnesotaCare unit of the special taxes division and then moved into my current position last November.

Can you share the role the tax preparer outreach coordinator plays and where you fit into the process?

I consider myself one of the resources available to all Minnesota tax professionals. When an issue arises with an unclear solution, my role is to research the issue using various resources, including other Revenue experts. It's my responsibility to communicate answers in a way that's easy to understand.

Oftentimes, this role expands my own tax knowledge. More importantly, an issue that comes up frequently can become new outreach and education material.

CPAs work in many roles as tax preparers. Some work at public accounting firms, many work as controllers or CFOs, and others work in government or for nonprofits. Is there a separate contact for each or does your role cover all tax professionals seeking clarification or guidance from the Department of Revenue?

My role specifically covers providing outreach and education on individual income tax law and its application to individual taxpayers. If I receive questions outside of this realm, I involve the right department experts to help get an accurate answer.

Are there compliance trends -- good or bad -- that the Department of Revenue has identified in the past two years that tax professionals should be aware of? Knowing what to look for can help with the administration and overall efficiency of the filing process.

Revenue's vision is that everyone reports, pays and receives the right amount: no more, no less. Part of realizing that vision is helping our customers know what they need to do to file compliant tax returns. Here are some of the most important areas of compliance you and your business can focus on:

  • It may seem obvious, but make sure to complete all tax forms accurately with the information requested. Missing information may delay the processing of your clients' returns. Also, don't hesitate to include an explanation or additional documentation if you believe it would help us process the return.
  • Always respond timely to any Department of Revenue letters that request further information or action.
  • Be sure to protect yourself and your clients by protecting your systems from data breaches and phishing scams. Preparers are frequent targets of identity thieves and we've seen too many in Minnesota fall victim to such tactics. In the unfortunate event that your business or firm becomes a victim of data breaches or scams, have a comprehensive plan in place. Know the reporting requirements for a data breach and report it if one occurs.
  • If the third-party designee box is checked on your client's return, we may call you if we have questions. Be sure to respond to our phone calls within two days. If we don't hear from you, we'll contact your client for the information we're requesting.
  • Finally, help keep Minnesota taxpayers compliant by reporting questionable activity to our tip line at 651-297-5195 or 1-800-657-3500.

The Department of Revenue continuously reviews policies to identify guidance that may be outdated or may need additional clarification. What role do tax professionals play in the review process and how can someone offer suggestions if they feel previous guidance needs clearing up?

We provide opportunities throughout the year for tax professionals to provide feedback to us. For example, in fall 2017, we conducted listening sessions around the state to give tax professionals an opportunity to provide feedback. We also host conference calls with tax professionals in August and January each year to provide details on the upcoming filing season, and to gather feedback. This summer, we met with professionals from various organizations in Minnesota to solicit feedback, including MNCPA members.

The MNCPA and its members have a strong working relationship with the Department of Revenue. What more can tax professionals do to continue meaningful discussions and a successful partnership?

If you see me speaking at an engagement or tabling at a booth somewhere, say hello and introduce yourself. I'm accessible to all tax professionals. If you have suggestions for improvement, call or email me. You can also subscribe to our "opportunities to give us feedback" email list. When the Department offers usability testing opportunities or other opportunities to engage with us, you can request to participate in them. Many of the changes we make are a result of a tax professional's suggestion.

What type of information can tax professionals find on the Department of Revenue's website, and what pages do you recommend they bookmark?

We have a Tax Professionals landing page on our website that provides links to helpful resources and tax information. Under the Resources tab, we recently started providing handouts for tax preparers to share with their clients. I also recommend bookmarking the Tax Law Changes landing page, where you'll find the most up-to-date information about recent tax law changes. On the Conference Calls and Webinars page, you'll find details about previous and upcoming conference calls and webinars.

Finally, I'm excited to announce that we're launching our redesigned website next year. We have exciting plans to provide new content and information.

How can tax professionals receive updates from the Department of Revenue?

They can subscribe to our email lists by selecting the red envelope in the bottom right corner of our homepage. Specifically, I recommend signing up for the Tax Law Changes list and the five lists under Tax Professionals.

Our homepage also has a News Flash section to monitor for breaking news. You'll also find links in the bottom right corner to follow us on social media and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

Is there anything else you would like to share with our members?

I'm sure everyone has federal tax reform and nonconformity on their minds. Revenue employees have been working since the end of the legislative session to have our systems ready for tax year 2018. We recently launched a new page on our website to keep you up to date on the upcoming filing season, and we posted near final forms to our website.

Lastly, thank you to the MNCPA for contacting me to do this interview!



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Contact Mark at the Department of Revenue

The Department of Revenue is always interested in tax professionals' suggestions. If you have any suggestions or need clarification on a question, contact Mark Krause at 651-556-6606 or taxpro.outreach@state.mn.us.