Just Another Blog
Thursday, August 26, 2004

The Shins - New Slang
The Clash - Radio Clash
The Cramps - Bend Over, I'll Drive
The Descendents - Silly Girl
Mr. T Experience - Even Hitler Had a Girlfriend
Guttermouth - 1,2,3, Slam!
Interpol - Evil
Jack Off Jill - Strawberry Gashes
Jack Off Jill - Angels Fuck
Pedro the Lion - Penetration
Queers - Today I Fell in Love


As of today, I have now lived in Denver for 9 years. Prior to moving here, I had never lived in the same town for more than 6 years. I previously spent time in Boston, MA, Chippewa Falls, WI, Louisville, KY, Waukegan, IL, and Washington DC. Sometimes I think about moving on to some other place: Boise, ID always comes to mind although I've never been there. For now though, Denver still works - even if I don't!

When I think about it, I'm not entirely sure what it is that is keeping me here. I don't have many friends other than my brother and sister in town. This town has been downright cruel - or at least completely indifferent - to me in terms of a love life. For the last couple of years, since I was RIF'ed from Merrill, I seem to have been unemployed at least as much as I've been employed, and certainly, I have been underemployed since then.

But still, it is hard to understate the beauty of the weather here - and the beauty of mountains. My number of ski days has been varied and inconsistent over the years, but every trip to the slopes provides some type of inner renewal. Hiking during the summer provides a nice stop-gap. I still self-identify more with the city and urban environments, but I have grown to really love the mountains.

So, happy anniversary to me, and c'mon now Denver: let's find me a job and a girlfriend. I'm not that picky about either right now. We should be able to work something out.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004
What You Need to Know about Omni Financial

On my current resume I introduce my former employer by saying, "Omni Financial is a tax consulting and business turnaround firm that specializes in helping small businesses and individuals to achieve compliance and negotiate settlements with the Internal Revenue Service and state taxing authorities."

I initially wrote about leaving Omni here, and I promised here to talk about why Omni Financial is a bad company, what my complaints were, and alternatives to IRS 941 tax problems other than the borderline scam that is Omni Financial. I see a fairly steady stream of hits - probably three to five a week - for search terms like Omni Financial sucks, Omni Financial ripoff, Omni Financial complaints, Omni Financial taxes, Omni Financial reviews, and other types of similar inquiries about Omni Financial.

Today I got my first email asking for more information about why I am so disgruntled. I tried to give a response that I felt was comprehensive and filled with enough detail of the good and bad that the person could make their own decision. Since I have been promising to detail my gripes, I am just going to paste my response in its entirety. My response focuses almost exclusively on concerns from the client's point of view. I could have rambled on even more extensively detailing what it is actually like to work for the firm. Unfortunately, my experiences in relating these types of tales from the work place are always met by complete and utter disbelief. No one believes that you could actually run a company like that and not only survive but thrive. But if there is one thing that this world is full of, it is former employees of Omni Financial. We all have war stories that are so fantastic you'd think they came straight from John Kerry.

I ran across your page dealing with your dislike for Omni Financial. My husband owns a small business that is in trouble and has been considering using Omni to help with his tax settlement.

Could you give me any insight into the company and/or procedure?

Thanks, (name deleted)
(name deleted),

First of all, I am sorry to hear about the predicament that your business has fallen into. Don't worry. You will be able to find a resolution be it through Omni, another consulting firm, or on your own. In my time at Omni I learned that the IRS can be more accommodating than many people realize.

There are a lot of problems with Omni Financial. It is my belief that the root cause of their problems lies in how they treat their employees. The environment causes a tremendous amount of turnover. The result of that turnover is that there is an extreme variance in the knowledge and experience of the associates and their staff (called para-associates or simply, paras). If your tax debt is less than $100,000 it is extremely likely that your case would be assigned to a more junior associate who may or may not yet have had a chance to learn the ins and outs of the business.

There are a number of associates at Omni who are honest and will truly look out for your best interests. However, I do not believe that is the general case. In general, the associates are concerned only with keeping their jobs and making lots of money. The primary way that the associates and the firm itself make money is not by bringing on new clients such as yourself. Rather the money is made by re-writing existing clients. To the best of my knowledge not one single client has ever come to Omni and had their case resolved for the initial quote. The firm will do everything in its power to ensure that it gets as much money from you as you can possibly afford to pay.

As a fairly well-educated fellow with an MBA, I certainly do not have a general problem with a company trying to maximize its revenue stream. It is the methods and deception that Omni uses that make me so anti-Omni. Once a client is brought on board and they go through the initial take-in or "turn-over" call with the assigned associate, the associate will begin working to determine the exact amount that you owe and your precise standing with the IRS. If the amount you owe differs significantly from what you initially told the sales rep, the associate may use it as an excuse to re-write you for more money because this supposedly makes your case more complicated (it does not).

The sales rep has probably tried to sell you on deal under which the firm will endeavor to secure you a payment plan and a subsequent waiver of incurred penalties. They may even tell you that they can get the interest wiped away (they cannot under this type of agreement). Once you are a client and Omni has established your total debt and standing with the IRS, the associate - in about 8 cases out of 10 - will then try to up sell you on a different resolution plan. This may be the offer-in-compromise program (pennies on the dollar you'll often hear (though you may not hear that it can be 95 pennies on the dollar)) or they may suggest that you switch to a new type of business entity (sole proprietorship to or from a corporation or partnership or LLC).

These changes in strategy in many cases truly are in the client's best interest, but Omni is going to charge you a lot of money for it. If you miss a deadline that Omni sets for you to provide them information because you are busy running your lives and your business, the associate will harangue you for not being committed to the strategy at hand. This of course will cost you more money. The company teaches dozens of different reasons to their associates on things that clients do that are cause to charge them more money. If there's one thing I want to express here is that whatever amount you have been quoted will not be enough.

One thing you probably can count on from Omni is having lots of phone conversations with them. The associates are reviewed on three key metrics: the amount of money they can bring in from existing clients each month (on which they are paid a hefty commission), the amount of time they spend on the phone each day, and the number of billable hours they have each day. Notice that the firm does not necessarily care whether or not the associates achieve successful outcomes for their clients. The phone time requirement means that the associate will be on the phone with you at least once a week just to check in and see how things are going. This is nice and it is one area of the business where I would suggest that Omni may actually excel: relationship building. The problem is that the associate charges you $150 - $175 an hour just to call and chat and make sure his/her phone stats are good. On the billable hour metric I have even more concerns about how the firm operates its business. The flow of a client's case has a number of very regular steps that do not vary across clients. Unfortunately, you will not benefit from the experience that the firm has for doing things over and over. Time spent working on your case is billed against your retainer not as real-time work but at a rate that they deem reasonable.

A great example is the appeal of the Final Notice of Intent to Levy that the IRS issues. Before I was promoted to associate, I regularly prepared these appeals for my associate's clients. A long appeal might take me 30 minutes to type, print, save, and prepare for my associates' signature. I was instructed to bill 2 hours for myself (at $125/hour) and an additional hour for my associate (at $175/hour). My associate did nothing for this billing other than to sign and date the bottom of the form. In that way we were able to maintain our billable hours, and we were able to quickly burn down the clients' retainer balances so that we could hit them up for more money. You can bet too that when negotiations with the IRS are approaching either finalization or a critical point that that is the time you will run out of retainer money and will have to re-up if you want to see your case through to conclusion. This was the point that ultimately sickened me to the point where I had to resign my position: we strategically plotted to get clients to where they needed us the most and then threatened to cut them off unless they paid more. I heard of numerous associates who made the claim to clients that the IRS would not look well on the fact that a client dumped or changed their power of attorney at a critical point. I do not believe this is actually true - though it could vary from Revenue Officer to Revenue Officer, I suppose.

One final point that I need to point out is that I believe the firm engages in and promotes systematic forgery. I'm not a lawyer so I'm not sure that forgery is the precise term, but the actions are reprehensible. In order to receive information and negotiate on your behalf, the firm must maintain powers of attorney and various other authorization forms. If you have already spoken to a sales rep, you have probably already received a copy of these forms. The sales rep no doubt told you that he would walk through where to sign these forms and what to do with them. You would be instructed to leave the forms blanks and to just sign them on the bottom or on page two where indicated and to fax them back. Once they have those forms they will quite literally cut and paste your signature on to other powers of attorney (POA) that they have filled out. You will never know how many types of POA's are out there with your signature. To be fair, I am unaware of any instance where an employee cut and pasted a signature for an authorization that the client probably didn't desire the firm to have. But they do not go about it the proper way.

There probably are cases where you may want to consider Omni Financial. If you have a very large debt ($250,000 or more) or if you want to fight the debt as aggressively as possible, costs-be-damned, then Omni might work for you especially if you can get your case assigned to one of their more aggressive associates. I would still counsel caution if this is your case. I witnessed associates that were so aggressive that they produced financial documents for submission to the state and federal taxing authorities that had only the slimmest ties to reality. It is the client who signs these documents under penalty of perjury. Be careful and make sure you understand and can document anything you sign.

Keep in mind I am a former employee. I obviously have my prejudices against this company, but everything that I have told you here is true or was true when I left the firm at the end of March. I also have at least one friend who still works there (although from what I hear, turnover is still critically out of control and I'm not actually sure who is still there that I used to know). Omni is not 100% evil, but I'd put it somewhere in the mid 90's. I honestly believe you could be better served by going a different route.

As far as which different route, I will offer a few suggestions. If you do want to stick with Omni and would like a recommendation for an associate that you can trust, let me know. It was my experience that if a client says they will come on board but only if they can work with so-and-so, the firm will make it happen.

Another option is to consult an area CPA. Look in the phone book under taxes and call and ask if they have experience working out payment arrangements with the IRS. Ask if they are familiar with strategies such as the offer-in-compromise program and business entity changes. I would advise you to stay away from a CPA without these types of specific experiences as it is really quite a different (just different, not harder) process than tax preparation or audit defense. I would also advise you to stay away from anyone who pushes the offer-in-compromise or pennies-on-the-dollar settlement program. This is a legitimate way for some people to settle their tax debts, but the IRS has very rigorous standards and guidelines as to who can participate and how much exactly they will have to pay. Anyone who pushes this on you with out a complete understanding of your business and personal assets and liabilities is going to disappoint you. They may very well prepare an offer in compromise for you, but the IRS will never accept it if it doesn't meet the criteria.

Another option is to work directly with the IRS. If a Revenue Officer (RO) has been assigned to your case, it is generally his or her responsibility to see this through to resolution. I found that many RO's can be very pleasant to work with. If you are open and honest and straightforward with wanting to resolve your case, you can many times achieve the same resolution that Omni would without spending lots of money. This is particularly true when it comes to the point of requesting an abatement or waiver of penalties you incurred. In order to request a penalty abatement (generally after you have already paid the debt and penalties or secured a payment plan) you can just write up your case yourself. Tell the IRS every little thing that happened that caused you to fall behind and not pay your taxes. Then provide supporting attachments to prove as much of the story as you can.

Finally, I know of another tax consulting firm that does the exact same business as Omni Financial. It was started by and is staffed by a whole bunch of folks (both sales people and associates) who left Omni for reasons similar to mine. One of the principles is the brother to a gentleman who was formerly a manager at Omni. His brother from Omni told him what a great business it was but to stay the heck away from Omni. The company is also based here in Colorado and seems dedicated to doing this service the right (honest) way. They will let you know up front whether it is worth your time and money to sign up with them. This is a company where I now know a number of people who work and who offered me a job. I declined that job in part because of the significantly longer commute it would have meant for me as well as compensation concerns but not in any way due to ethical concerns. I don't want it to seem like I am pushing this other company as I do not truly have enough knowledge to personally recommend them, so I won't give you their name and number unless you request it but will happily give you names and numbers upon request.

Thank you for responding to my blog. You are the first person that has written to me on this particular topic. In all likelihood I will end up using my response here as an outline for a post detailing my issues with my former employer. I have been meaning to post these details for a long time, but I haven't been able to sit down and take the time to organize my thoughts.

If you have any further questions or concerns or want clarification on any of my terms or arguments or complaints or want advice on penalty abatement arguments or whatever, please don't hesitate to email me. I'm not always this quick to respond, but I'll try. I wish you and your husband the best of luck in resolving your problem. Don't give up or lose hope. You can work this out.

Good luck!

Jonathan Harrington
Denver, Colorado

So that's my case against Omni Financial. Although I stand by my statement, I would ask that this post not be used to promote the products and services of another firm. Like I said, I don't have the complete set of personal experiences to know who's better and who's worse. On the other hand, if you have a blog or a website of your own and would like to provide a hyperlink to this post under the words Omni Financial, well that would be great as it will help to ensure that search engines can assist consumers in finding out the information they need prior to making a purchase.

Hard to Remember

There are some folks that I used to work with who have the hardest time finding my blog. Every couple of days I get a hit from the same IP address with a referral from Google for jonathan harrington blog.

Look at the URL!

If you can remember and spell A) my first name B) my last name and C) blog, then it seems to me that you should also be able to remember the URL. Alternatively, bookmarks or favorites are a neat and easy way to get back to pages you regularly view.

Really, I'm just giving you guys (and gal) a hard time. I wonder what it was that seems to have caused your long-term loss of short-term memory?

Did We Learn from Waco?

Mickey Kaus asks with regard to the siege at Imam Ali Mosque, "How do you say 'Waco' in Arabic?" That's one of the more adept parallels I've seen drawn for the situation.

It seems that we are just slowly closing in around the mosque - now within 400 meters - and plucking off (more here) the bad guys as we get closer and closer. So far the slow tightening of the noose seems to be working. The trick of course is killing everyone before they have a chance to blow the place up. At times like this it might be nice to be working with the Russian troops who were so effective in preserving most of the lives and the building structure during the theater hostage standoff back in October 2002. That's an argument for more effective alliance building I suppose.

Go here to learn how you can adopt a sniper.

The Scream

I haven't seen the stolen painting on eBay yet, but I'd kind of like to hang it in my living room. If the new owners are reading, I'd happily pay $250 for the piece (although I'll probably have to pay you in rolls of coins and aluminum cans).

Actually, I'm just kidding. I never use eBay (well, I did use it one time to buy something). I think everything on there is either complete, garage-sale junk or a scam or ripoff of some kind. It's popularity stuns me, but I guess it shouldn't. If you think AOL is the internet, than eBay is your shopping mall.

(And when they incorporate that last line into their advertising slogan, remember where you heard it first.)

Leadville 100

I think it was my very first night in Denver that the Hyena and I first heard about the Leadville 100. My mom's cousin with whom we were staying had his girlfriend over. She had run the race before and was preparing to run it again if I recall correctly. The race is 100 miles long, starts and ends above 10,000 feet above sea-level, and is high-altitude all the way. There are numerous checkpoints along the way and if you don't hit the cutoff time for each point, you're out. The entire 100 miles must be completed in 30 hours.

A local writer introduced his story this way:
When the sun rises today, I'll be running. When it sets tonight, I'll be running, and when it rises tomorrow, still running.
They ran the race this weekend. 400 people started, but fewer than half finished. The author of the above article made it as did Aron Ralston, the guy who had to chop off his own arm last year after getting it stuck under a boulder. The winner set a new course record. The second place finisher will run his 4th 100 mile race of the year in just three weeks. The story of this race is just all about super-human feats of strength and endurance: beyond Olympian.


I was able to find roundtrip tickets to Chicago for less than $95 each way inclusive of all taxes and other charges. I still can't afford it, but at that price I can't not go to the big three-way birthday bash. I've got somewhere around 45 shares of Medtronic stock that my parents had bought in my name when I was a wee tot that I'm going to sell. That ought to provide enough money so I don't have to kill myself for at least another month and maybe two. Of course, come April, the capital gain is going to really suck even with the newer, long-term gain rate. That is assuming I get a job in the next month and subsequently make it to April.

Anyway, I'm really looking forward to drinking it up at sea- (lake-?) level. I haven't been drinking hardly at all lately due to my unfortunate financial situation, but I'm going to try and make up for it in a big way this weekend. Hopefully, my historically strong tolerance as well as the change in altitude will be enough to allow me to keep up. I have a bit of a hankerin' for some White Castle that I intend to fix as well.

The plan as I understand it (as if anyone reading this isn't already fully aware of the plan) is to do some aggressive, warm-up drinking on Friday night, party exceptionally hard and drunkardly on Saturday, and then try to make it up to my folk's place on Sunday to recover a bit around the pool with more booze and barbeque. I'll come back to Denver on Tuesday, go out for the opening day of dove season on Wednesday, and then welcome my folks to town for a quick trip to the mountains to celebrate the long weekend and the end to a beautiful, Colorado summer.

The week ahead looks good even if the slightly broader horizon is still hazy.


I can't help but feel that it is more than just coincidence that the Stanley Cup went missing just weeks before the NHL season seems bound to also go into hiding.

It's too bad too that there has been no reported progress. I really like the idea of Damphousse in an Avs' sweater. And Forsberg seems to be hanging around and postponing his decision to return to Sweden to make sure that he really isn't going to get one more chance with the Avalanche.

Sure, football will get me through to February, but then what? Heck, I guess it doesn't matter anyway. Since the Avs' owner decided to start his own television network that so far will carry nothing but the Avs, it is unlikely that there will be any games at all on broadcast television in Denver any more.

Sunday, August 15, 2004
You Wanted to Know - Listening...

Maria Arredondo - Mad Summer (I've picked up some random stuff surfing mp3 blogs. Very Top 40 but has a happy catchiness to it.)
Lemon Jelly - Closer (I'm in that state where a little Lemon Jelly really spins the mood.)
Jesus and Mary Chain - The Hardest Walk (Just downloded about 1/2 of Psychocandy and now I'm looking for the rest of those songs.)
Interpol - Evil (Off the new album Antics; it's great!)
Nouvelle Vague - This Is Not a Love Song (Sultry do-over makes it sound a lot like a love song.)
Big Black - L Dopa (Posted it the other day, and I keep playing it.)
The Shins - We Will Become Silhouettes (Postal Service cover. Interesting in a good way.)
AC/DC - Big Balls (Recent download that is constantly in the rotation because I find it so amusingly clever.)

Saturday, August 14, 2004
Who Said...

"I'm a freak. I vote Republican, I worship Martha Stewart and I don't mind being naked."

Yeah, when I read it I thought it was the Hyena as well.

Actually it's US Olympic swimmer, Haley Cope. She appears in this month's issue of Playboy.

Friday, August 13, 2004
Special J

My buddy Stu is in the process of trying to sell his house, plan a wedding, lose weight for his wedding, is working OT to pay for said wedding, and is trying to keep some semblance to his drinking routine. With all of that going on, you'd think he'd be too busy to spend his time photoshopping my face into Nick Nolte's arrest photo or preparing a new full length feature film. But you'd be wrong.

Buy a townhowm near (kind of, sort of) New York City here.

My photo here. (Compare to the original here.)

The movie preview here. (It's mp4 and about 7 megs. From your broadband connection right click to save or left click to play in Quicktime.)

In all seriousness, the movie preview is great. It's highlights of our 2002 sailing trip spiced up a bit. If you ever come over, I'll show you the full VHS he made of the trip. I know how much you like to sit through other people's home movies.

The movie stars me as Special J, Stu as the bad guy, and Mayra and the other girl as the beautiful ladies. It's going to be a fantastic hit. I'll get rich and maybe even get that Nobel prize.

Thursday, August 12, 2004
Don't Take 'em All at Once

You have to be careful with those penis enlargement pills. Stand back when he gets excited!

Rhymes of the World

Check out this great page for some funny children's rhymes from around the world.

I liked this one from South Africa:
Yum yum bubble gum
Stick your finger up your bum
If it's nice, lick it twice
Yum yum bubble gum
And this one from Portugal:
Sebastião come tudo tudo tudo,
Sebastião come tudo sém colher,
Sebastião come tudo tudo tudo,
Chega à casa da pancadas na mulher

Sebastian eats everything,
Sebastian eats everything without a spoon,
Sebastian eats everything,
Then goes home and slaps his wife around

Kentucky Jam

This is frickin' hilarious!

Busy Monkeys and Angry Guitars

I think I might try to do this more often: the news and the music it reminds me of.

Here, monkeys are programmed to be good workers.

Here is how they did it. L-Dopa fixed me alright!

Saturday, August 07, 2004
How To Be Idle

It's not often that I will tell you that something is a must read. But this excerpt from a forthcoming book by Tom Hodgkinson, How To Be Idle, is a must read.

Go now, take fifteen or twenty minutes to read it. Then go have a smoke and crawl back into bed for a little while and think about it. Or take a long walk and think about it. Or think about other things. Just don't think about work.

I'm going to walk over to the coffee shop. I intend to start going during the week too after reading the first interview here about sex advice from the unemployed. What I really need is sex advice for the unemployed, or better yet sex for the unemployed. Maybe I'll think about that too on my walk.

Alt Text

I was having a problem for a minute trying to figure out why my Mozilla browser won't show the alt text for pictures that I have posted and that other websites use to essentially add floating captions to their photos. I did a little research and found that proper coding protocol dictates that alt text is only to be used to provide in-line, literal descriptions of images for text only browsers and specialty browsers such as html to braille ones.

The idea is that the alt text is to display in place of the picture when the picture cannot be rendered. The floating text that Netscape and IE use to display the alt text is apparently considered bad form. Instead on the alt tag within the img src tag one should properly use the title tag if they want to display a hovering caption.

A very brief review of some internet postings suggests to me that this has been somewhat of a contentious issue for Mozilla developers, but that for the time being the point is settled, and Mozilla browsers can only see alt text by right clicking and checking out the properties of the picture. I have no idea how you Mac folks survive without the right click. See here for a slightly more in-depth discussion of the alt tag versus the title tag.

I think this issue also explains why since I switched to Mozilla, Netflix no longer shows me what the five stars in their rating system translate to. With IE when I hovered above the stars, I got floating reminders like, "didn't like it," "just ok," "really liked it," "loved it," or something along those lines. With Mozilla, I just get the five stars to click on. Hmm. Maybe I'll send them an email now that I think I've figured it out.

Many of you know a lot more about html and coding than I, so you may already be practicing clean coding. If not, please change your ways.

Vince: How does Safari handle this, do you know? I'd ask Stu who recently switched over to the rainbow side, but I'm not sure he has any idea what I'm talking about. Poor guy: he bought a Mac but is using Front Page to try and do internet publishing. If that's not the craziest thing I have ever heard...

Rootin' Tutin'

Sometimes I like to pretend I'm a cowboy.


These ghosts are from the government; they're here to help. I'll probably have this Eels song in my head all day long now.


You can beat the lottery. At least sometimes, in Missouri, during special promotions, if the balls bounce just right... But you can beat the lottery. Kudos to these guys for seeing the obvious. I'm not sure I would have caught on in time.

Thursday, August 05, 2004
Barry Sanders

Mitch Albom has a great interview with Barry Sanders. It really seems to me that playing for the Lions who could just never win just utterly crushed that guy's soul. For a guy who never talks, he is certainly well spoken. He seems to have a very good understanding of the history of football and his place therein.

Job Search

Well, I've been actively looking for work again. I sent out around six resumes Friday, a few earlier in the week, and another five or so today. I've been sending them to restaurants, banks, other financial services companies, POS companies, bagel companies, etc. So far I haven't heard back from anyone. I need to get a good job making some decent money. It's been over two years now since I had a job that paid me anything. No one else is going to die any time soon and leave me any money, so I'm at the point now where I need to find something. I'm actually really looking forward to getting a job, having my sister move out, paying off the bills I've run up during this renovation project, and just enjoying living alone now that I have a half-way decent environment to live in.


I went camping Saturday to Sunday with my brother, his girlfriend, and his two dogs. We went to an area near Lost Lake in Roosevelt National Forest near Red Feather Lakes about 60 miles outside of Fort Collins. The last thirty miles or so was all dirt road: we were a long way from anything.

Saturday was the blue moon, and we took a midnight stroll through a meadow of wildflowers with the dogs. It was pretty awesome.

We didn't stick around long on Sunday, but before we left we did discover a super sweet campground for the next time we're in the area. Hopefully we will make it back up there again before the summer is over.


Before my carpet came at the beginning of last week, I unplugged my computer so that I could move my desk and everything out of the way. After keeping the computer unplugged for nearly three days, I seemed to lose my will to blog. But now that I've been back online for about a week now, I feel the need to write something. I sure hope I can come up with something better than this mindless update.