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BT Adds New Tax Controversy Service Line with James Pickett as Director

Bennett Thrasher LLP, one of the top 100, full-service public accounting and consulting firms in the country, has named James Pickett, a 29-year veteran of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), as Director of its new Tax Controversy Practice. The hire marks the addition of the firm’s third new service line in the past nine months, as Bennett Thrasher continues to climb the rankings of the country’s largest firms. Pickett spent his final six years at the IRS as Team Manager of the Large Business and International (LBI) Division, i.e., those with assets of more than $10 million. In this role, he supervised a team of Revenue Agents throughout several states conducting large corporate audits.

“As someone who was on the front lines leading audits of some of the largest corporations in the Southeast, James will be an enormous asset to our clients,” said Jeff Eischeid, the managing partner of Bennett Thrasher. “As a firm, we want to offer the most sophisticated expertise and as extensive a range of services as we can. We see adding a Tax Controversy Practice group led by someone with James’s background as essential in the current marketplace.”

The Tax Controversy Practice will seek to help clients resolve matters prior to the litigation stage. Pickett will be responsible for helping clients manage tax disputes involving both field and correspondence audits, post-audit issue resolution, including representation in IRS appeals, penalty and collection notices, claims and other tax compliance-related matters.  Pickett will also work in conjunction with Bennett Thrasher partner Tim Kelly, who provides litigation and forensic support for certain civil and other sensitive tax matters.

“I am grateful to Bennett Thrasher for this opportunity and am excited to reenter the private sector and apply my experience in a new manner,” said Pickett. “I understand the mentality of how the IRS approaches companies that it is targeting for noncompliance and that will aid me in assisting the firm’s clients who need these specialty services.”

Pickett served for six years as a Team Manager with the IRS in the LBI Division and for four years as a Revenue Agent with the same division. As Team Manager, he oversaw the work of between six and eleven Revenue Agents throughout Alabama and along part of the Gulf Coast, managing all phases of the LBI examination process, including audit planning, risk analysis, issue development and case resolution. While rising through the ranks of the IRS and based out of its Montgomery and Birmingham, Ala., offices, Pickett experienced the agency’s adaptive process – which it called “reengineering” – as staffing levels shrank. As part of that practice, with which Pickett has great familiarity, the IRS began to use a list of 24 criteria that it employs to audit companies that come under the LBI Division’s purview.

Many of the trend-setting techniques developed by the LBI division were frequently adopted by other IRS divisions. Pickett also trained Revenue Agents in their professional development process and performed various taxpayer education and media relations roles for the agency. Prior to joining the LBI Division, he worked for 13 years as a Revenue Agent with the Small Business/Self-Employed Division and for the IRS’s General Program.

In addition to his IRS career, Pickett served in the Army Reserve for 28 years, retiring as Lt. Colonel in 2005. He served on active duty during the 1970s. Pickett earned a Bachelor of Science degree in marketing from Auburn University and later earned a separate Bachelor of Science in accounting from Auburn University at Montgomery. Pickett is also a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). 

About Bennett Thrasher LLP

Bennett Thrasher LLP is one of the country’s largest full-service certified public accounting and consulting firms. The firm creates significant value and a unique positive experience through collaboration – with and between clients, partners, associates and the community. Founded in 1980 by Rick Bennett and Ken Thrasher, Bennett Thrasher today has a dedicated, experienced team of partners and associates who believe in creating value by working “Better Together.”