Former IRS agent now focuses on franchise law

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By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

While attorney Gary Remer enjoyed his four years as a revenue agent with the Internal Revenue Service, it had its downside: “No one was ever very excited to see me come to their office,” he says.
The same can’t be said for his career with Maddin, Hauser, Wartell, Roth & Heller in Southfield. A shareholder and member of the Franchise Group, Remer now finds clients are very happy to welcome him.
“What makes my job great is getting to know my clients and understanding their goals,” he says. “This goes beyond having the opportunity to work with them on tax and business matters – it’s building trust so the relationship goes from attorney to trusted adviser.”

The Franchise Group was formed in 2010 when Remer teamed with Stuart Bordman, Rebecca Turner and Brandon Buck. In 2012, Kate Matlen joined the group. The quintet drafts franchise agreements, prepares Federal Trade Commission-mandated Franchise Disclosure Documents, registers franchisors to offer franchises, reviews and negotiates supply agreements, leases and litigates and arbitrates franchise disputes. They began by representing three start-up franchisors, a retailer, and a company operating several hotels as the franchisee of a number of international hotel systems. Today, the team represents Hungry Howie’s Pizza & Subs, Inc., Wild Bill’s Tobacco as well as other franchisors.

“We’re a dynamic group of individuals that each brings a level of sophistication to very specialized areas of the law,” Remer says. “The composition allows us to address the needs of our franchise clients and that’s a great feeling.”

He also enjoys the variety of work.

“There’s no such thing as a typical day on the job,” he explains. “I might anticipate coming into the office to work on a project when a client calls me with a random question of what to do because one of their tenants in a building just Crazy Glued all the locks shut. Then my day goes in a completely different direction than I ever anticipated.”

Remer, who joined the firm in 1997, concentrates his practice in employee benefits, franchise law, corporate law, and taxation. He also is a member of the newly formed Health Care Group.

A Certified Public Accountant, and named in Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business in each of the last three years as a Leader in his Field of Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation, he brings accounting and business experience to the table in addition to legal expertise.

“Having a background in accounting and law allows me to better understand the full aspect of a business’s operations and provide the highest quality service to my clients,” he says. 

But accounting wasn’t on his radar as a career choice when he first headed to Michigan State University as an undergrad – especially in light of the fact that his father was an accountant. But once Remer took his first accounting class, his view started to change – and after completing his first tax class, he was truly hooked. 

“I’ve no regrets whatsoever with the decision to study accounting – it’s provided a great background for business,” he says.

His years with the IRS provided him with “outstanding” training and gave him the opportunity to work on some very sophisticated tax matters. It also pointed him in the direction of a legal career, and he went on to earn his law degree, summa cum laude, from the Detroit College of Law at MSU.

“At the IRS, I had the opportunity to interact with many different attorneys and was impressed with their ability to maneuver through and use the law to the advantage of their clients,” he says. “Once I started law school, I knew it was the perfect decision as I was one of those strange individuals who actually enjoyed attending law school – I guess that says something about my personality.”

A former chair of the Michigan Association of Certified Public Accountants (MACPA) Employee Benefits Task Force, Remer is currently chair of the MACPA Franchise Task Force, and serves as a council member of the State Bar of Michigan Tax Committee. Last April, he was named vice chair of the MACPA Membership Task Force.

Co-author of “The Insider’s Guide to IRS Plan Audits,” Remer has lectured extensively on qualified retirement plans and other tax topics and was recently the keynote speaker for a daylong business law seminar for the American Institute of CPAs (AIPCA) in Little Rock, Ark.

 He also is called upon as an expert in the media and has appeared on Channel 7 Action News and WWJ News Radio 950 as well as being quoted in such publications as The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press.

“Those who know me realize I’m one of those strange people who actually enjoy public speaking – it’s a rush to entertain a group of 300 people and rise to the challenge of turning a topic such as tax into an entertaining subject for those in attendance,” he says. “Appearing on TV and radio is just a natural progression in doing what I enjoy.”

Remer also shares his expertise as an adjunct professor for Walsh College of Accountancy and Business Administration in Troy, where he teaches graduate tax classes focusing on pension and profit sharing plans, section 401(k) plans, stock and stock option plans, IRAs, SEPs, ESOPs, tax sheltered annuities, nonqualified deferred compensation plans, VEBAs, flexible benefit plans, health care plans, insurance plans, and other common fringe benefits.

 A native of Oak Park and graduate of Oak Park High School, Remer now lives in West Bloomfield. An avid reader, he is currently reading “Taking People With You,” by David Novak. 

 “It’s a great book on developing a team environment in what is traditionally a more individually focused area of work, the practice of law. I’m always looking for ways to make the place where I spend so much of my time better.”

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