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Legendary Tax Expert and Educator Sidney Kess Dies at 97

S.J. Steinhardt and Ruth Singleton
Published Date:
Sep 18, 2023

Renowned tax accountant, attorney and educator Sidney Kess died at the age of 97 on Sunday, Accounting Today reported.

Kess remained active at the time of his death, working as of counsel at the New York law firm Kostelanetz LLP, and planning to speak at the 54th Annual Sidney Kess Conference in October.

A member of the NYSSCPA for more than 70 years, he was also member of its Hall of Fame, a recipient of the NYSSCPA’s Distinguished Service Award in 2020 and its Dr. Emanuel Saxe Outstanding CPA in Education Award in 2015. He also presented at numerous Foundation for Accounting Education conferences and seminars.

The Trusted Professional's award profile of Kess in 2020 (page 11) noted, "While most people his age might be content to relax on a sandy beach all day, Kess admits that he is a little different. 'Creating ideas and trying to implement them is my way of relaxing,' he said with a laugh."

Commenting for that profile, former NYSSCPA board member Tracey J. Niemotko, who nominated Kess for the award, called him “a sage and an icon” who is “a true Renaissance man who has selflessly devoted himself to the service of others.”

Former NYSSCPA board member Elliot L. Hendler said that Kess was “one of the outstanding accountants of this century and the last half of the 20th century.” While the two didn’t meet until 2009, Hendler said that “there was never a time in my professional career ... when I didn’t know who Sid Kess was and is.” But in getting to know him as a man versus as “an icon and a legend,” as he put it, Hendler was further impressed by his groundedness and kindness. 

Society member Edward Mendlowitz said that he was especially gratified to have been a co-editor of The CPA Journal with Kess. He and Kess wrote over 25 columns together, which has meant speaking with Kess about two or three times a week. “What a thrill! His knowledge, memory and network is so vast, it sometimes boggles my mind,” Mendlowitz said. “Our body of writing is a compendium of the entire range of financial planning services that CPAs can perform and, combined, is a toolkit of how to do it.” 

Kess authored or co-authored hundreds of books and led hundreds of AICPA tax workshops, audio, and video programs, and received the AICPA Distinguished Lecturer Award, and was frequently named on Accounting Today's annual lists of the Top 100 Most Influential People. He  edited a column on "Tax Tips" for the New York Law Journal for 50 years, the most recent one appearing in July (login required). He was also editor of the AICPA's CPA Client Bulletin and CPA Client Tax Letter.

Among Kess's other awards were: the AICPA's Special Recognition Award for his many years of contributions to the institute's continuing professional education program, the AICPA's Gold Medal Award, which is the highest award in the accounting profession, and the AICPA Personal Financial Planning Distinguished Service Award.

The AICPA established the Sidney Kess Award for Excellence in Continuing Education, to recognize individual CPAs who have made significant and outstanding contributions in tax and financial planning and whose public service exemplifies the CPA profession's finest values and ethics. He was the first recipient of the award.

A former national director of tax at KPMG Main Hurdman and a tax partner at KPMG Peat Marwick, Kess was elected to the Estate Planning Hall of Fame by the National Association of Estate Planners & Councils for his distinguished service to the field of estate planning.

Kess received his B.B.A. from Baruch College, his J.D. from Harvard University School of Law, and his LL.M. from New York University Graduate School of Law.

Funeral services were held on Monday at Beth Moses Cemetery in West Babylon, N.Y.

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