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A little Professionalism, if you please.

          Earlier this past week I noticed a post(1) from a blogging colleague. I mention this as although his said intentions were set and designed to inform taxpayers, I found not only a few things wrong with the post, but also felt like the post was an attack. The attack was not to just a good blogging friend and colleague, but to other such professionals as well. Moreover, I am not just referring to tax professionals. 

Please, let me explain better. 

          There has been an ongoing, somewhat group, discussion about the pending and upcoming regulation of tax preparers. In the post referenced above it is clear that the subject is surrounding this topic. 

          It is clearly pointed out “Although these tax preparers may in some cases be quite competent. . . in the author’s  own right, he continues with “. . . the fact is (the highlight is mine) they are unregulated and not answerable to a direct regulatory authority or held to an objectively determined set of standards.”

I argue this. I argued this point a while back and do so still today. 

          I have written many posts, and a series of posts and guest post, covering the topic at hand, hiring a competent professional preparer. (2) However, taxpayers, we are finding, still manage to find those preparers who, well for the sake of not having a longer post than necessary, are plain unworthy. 

          However, let us back up a bit. First, to be clear, what/who that is being discussed, is what the IRS classifies as an “unenrolled tax preparer”. (Defined below)

          Now then, let us correct the highlighted statement above. It says clearly,  “. . . they are unregulated and not answerable to a direct regulatory authority or held to an objectively determined set of standards.” 

Yes they are. 

          Let me say that more informatively, quoting from IRS Publication 470 Limited Practice Without Enrollment: 

            First lets understand what IRS Publication 470 is:

      “The purpose of this revenue procedure is to prescribe the standards of conduct, the scope of authority, and the circumstances and conditions under which an individual preparer of tax returns may exercise, without enrollment, the privilege of limited practice as a taxpayer’s representative before the Internal Revenue Service, pursuant to section 10.7(a)(7) of Treasury Department Circular No. 230”

           Okay as I read the above, IRS pub 470, and revenue procedure 81-38 has a purpose. This purpose – to “prescribe the standards of conduct, the scope of authority, and the circumstances and conditions under which an individual preparer of tax returns may exercise, without enrollment” By all rights, that should end the argument there, but no, let’s keep going. 

          For a moment lets go back to our highlight, is says unenrolled preparers are unregulated. Since definitions are important –by way of Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Regulated means:

      1 a : to govern or direct according to rule

      b (1) : to bring under the control of law or constituted authority (2) : to make regulations for or 2 : to bring order, method, or uniformity to 

So unregulated would be the opposite of the above quote box, accurate? 

          If I put this all together, I see that according to this IRS publication, Unenrolled prepares are regulated by the IRS as prescribed within Publication 470. Therefore, to say they are not is, well, not accurate.

          Surely, we can all agree that the IRS is a regulatory authority. Humm, I would think yes. 

          Thus, one may conclude that the IRS is the regulatory authority over all unenrolled preparers. Yes? 

      “Sec. 3. Applicability.01 This revenue procedure, issued pursuant to section 10.7(a)(7) of Circular 230, applies to all unenrolled individual preparers of returns who seek to represent taxpayers, within the United States, before examining officers in the Examination Division of an Office of a District Director of Internal Revenue or in the Office of International Operations.”

       Clearly, this publication applies to all unenrolled preparers. 

      “.02 This revenue procedure does not apply to attorneys, certified public accountants, or agents who are enrolled to practice before the Internal Revenue Service. The rules governing the practice of such persons before the Service are contained in the provisions of Circular 230.”

        Clearly this publication does not apply to attorneys, certified public accountants, or agents who are enrolled to practice before the IRS. 

So now we know what this publication is for and who it is for. 

      Okay, so if you turn to page 2 of this publication, Section 7 is titled, Ethics and conduct. But wait according the post (1)  unenrolled preparers have no such guidance.

       Sec. 7. Ethics and Conduct .01 An unenrolled preparer shall act in such manner as not to commit any act of disreputable conduct. Disreputable conduct includes, but is not limited to, the items contained in section 10.51 of Circular 230. 

          Wow, unenrolled prepares are held to the same ethics and standards of conduct as all those who are regulated by Circular 230 Regulations Governing the Practice of  Attorneys, Certified Public Accountants, Enrolled Agents, Enrolled Actuaries, Enrolled Retirement Plan Agents, and Appraisers before the Internal Revenue Service. 

         My point here? Well, the post that questions unenrolled prepares does so with the premise that unenrolled preparers are not “held to an objectively determined set of standards.” 

         Although IRS Publication 470 Limited Practice Without Enrollment is out dated and needs to be updated, the premise of what it states is clear, within this publication are the rules and guidelines for which unenrolled preparers are being held to an objectively determined set of standards.

          And within that document, if one is truly in the know about IRS rules and regulations, they know unenrolled prepares are held to the same high standards in Circular 230 as those for whom it was written for, prepares of tax returns.   

          When I first read the post, I asked the author, “Are you Serious?” The response: “I am dead serious. What part of what I wrote do you disagree with?”  Well, I think above I covered much of what I disagree with. He continued with “What is your definition of a “profession?” Now in the post, he defines this for us by way of Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

       1 a : of, relating to, or characteristic of a profession b : engaged in one of the learned professions c (1) : characterized by or conforming to the technical or ethical standards of a profession (2) : exhibiting a courteous, conscientious, and generally businesslike manner in the workplace.

 Lets add his other definition:

       Investor Words.Com defines profession as, – An occupation, especially one which requires an advanced education.

          A profession is indeed an occupation. A professional then would be one who held an advanced knowledge of his/her profession. Yes? 

          Now here is where he and I will bump heads so to speak. Could the forklift operator of 30 plus years be a professional, because he does his/her job, proficiently? He/she may have been trained, yet he/she may have many years of experience doing this job. If experience were the best teacher, would not years of doing the same thing repeatedly, at some point, make him/her a professional fork truck operator?

          My colleague says no. “The reason for this is simple and obvious: No impartial third party regulatory body has determined his core competence.” Really? What of the dancer, the actor, or musician and comic? So what of the landscaper? What of the carpet cleaner? Are they truly not professionals because no “impartial third party regulatory body has determined there core competence”? Not the same thing? I beg to differ, it is. These are all professions, and they all are called professionals.

          By what he is saying, Paul McCartney is not a professional. Disagree? Then please point out for us what impartial third party regulatory body has determined his core competence in music. Remember he says “impartial”

Going back to Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

      impartial – not partial or biased : treating or affecting all equally 

Sadly, I fear my colleague sees only white-collar professions, by the definitions that are posted on his site. 

          Yet my biggest problem of all, this post drags a good friend and colleague, down to mist of the idiots. He will not see this and that is fine.

      My grandmother is very much as he is, really the only difference in the two, is she is over 90. I have to wonder then if he, like her, believes that one should not wear black all the time.

          She told me once that professionals do not wear black all the time, in her mind only convicts and truck drivers wear black all the time. That very same year Jeff Goldblum (a professional actor), in an article voiced that he always wears black.

      Hummm that story should be for another time.

           Anyway, I felt obligated to share the post with my friend. In turn he wrote “I AM A PROFESSIONAL!”

           And in good debate-like a lawyer form, this post was written Professionalism: The Cafone’s Rebuttal.

          For which I asked him, “Was this really necessary?” referring to did he really truly feel he needed to continue the professional insult to our colleague, my friend.

The reply:

\”Bruce, I suppose nothing I write is \”necessary.\” But I thought it was appropriate given the recent proposals by the IRS to regulate unlicensed tax preparers.

And in response to your email, I didn’t personally attack anyone. You and Robert, more than anyone else should want IRS regulation of preparers so you can differentiate yourself from all the shmucks’ out there who call themselves tax pros. I never once said or implied that Robert or you are NOT excellent tax preparers. After reading your blogs, I’d refer clients to you myself.rt, more than anyone else should want IRS regulation of preparers so you can differentiate yourself from all the shmucks out there who call themselves tax pros. I never once said or implied that Robert or you are NOT excellent tax preparers. After reading your blogs, I’d refer clients to you myself.\”

           I politely thanked him for any referrals sent my way and left it at that other to let him know I would be writing this post. (This can be seen on my facebook page) 

          Before I was able to get this post out, two more post were published. Profession Defined is a post that in a clearer manner, explains or defines the word “profession”. Then this, Beware the Unlicensed Preparer. 

          Sadly, I found this in poor taste. Believe what you will about “the unregulated or unenrolled preparer”.

Try this:

I challenge any attorney, tax or otherwise, CPA, EA, or what have you, whom are clearly defined in Circular 230 and not living in California, Oregon, Maryland and New York (After 01/01/2010), or other such States – show me your license to prepare tax returns. 

Well?

Humm.

I wonder, if you are following the words being said;

“IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman says the agency is working on a series of recommendations that are meant to increase taxpayer compliance and improve the work of tax preparers. Those recommendations may include a call for all paid tax preparers to be licensed in the hopes of “reducing mistakes and combating fraud.”

          That includes everyone, CPAs, Attorneys, EAs, and unenrolled preparers alike. Then at that point, those who will be licensed will be all of it. Meaning, the unenrolled preparer is going to be added to the list of folks who “are” allowed to represent taxpayers100%.

          Or is that why some of you are so defensive and abrasive to those who are unenrolled? Your pissed because not only will you, the Tax Attorney, or you, the CPA, or you, the EA may have to get a license (maybe, the ground rules are still not set), but you’ll no longer have the market on representation of taxpayers before the IRS.

          News flash, monopolies are illegal. Taxpayers need to know the truth about the misconceptions within those ranks. Others are just as / can be as capable of taking the tax classes being held at those reputable universities. Earning CPE in taxation, and as pointed out, ethics.

          Aside from the required CPE that Attorneys and CPAs are required to take, there are only a few true differences between what they can do and what an unenrolled preparer cannot.

          I would also point out that the Attorney isn’t required to take CPE in taxation. The CPA isn’t required to have taxation CPE. The only ones in the IRS group of specialist that are required to take CPE in taxation are, EA’s.

          For those of you in those ranks whom I have or may have or may later offend, I am not a part of your click, been there done that, unimpressed.

Don’t like it?

FO!

Learn to be civil.    

 

(1)     Who is a Professional?

(2)     Choosing a preparer – this link will take you to post that appear here (this blog) covering this. There are 24 in all.

 Reference material:

Definitions:

  • unenrolled tax preparers – An individual who prepares and signs a tax return as the preparer, or who prepares a tax return but is not required to sign the tax return.
  • Practice before the Internal Revenue Service – comprehends all matters connected with a presentation to the Internal Revenue Service or any of its officers or employees relating to a taxpayer’s rights, privileges, or liabilities under laws or regulations administered by the Internal Revenue Service. Such presentations include, but are not limited to, preparing and filing documents, corresponding and communicating with the Internal Revenue Service, rendering written advice with respect to any entity, transaction plan or arrangement, or other plan or arrangement having a potential for tax avoidance or evasion, and representing a client at conferences, hearings and meetings.

© 2009, Bruce McFarland. All rights reserved.

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10 Comments

  1. October 19, 2009    

    Hi Bruce,

    A few quick points:

    1. The practice of tax law and tax return preparation require proficiency in two skills, a) mathematics/accounting; and b) analytical reasoning/legal research. CPAs have proven their proficiency in the first and lawyers in the second. Unenrolled preparers have not been required to prove their proficiency in either of these areas.

    3. I welcome further regulation of tax preparers even if it means that I and my lawyer/CPA colleagues will be subject to it. I already take more than 30 hours of continuing tax legal education every year. I doubt seriously that the IRS regulatory regime will require more than that.

    4. I know of no profession that licenses and regulates fork lift operators; therefore, fork lift operators, no matter how skilled they may be, are not members of a profession.

    5. If unenrolled preparers are already regulated and licensed, why is that you and Robert favor regulation of preparers?

    6. Every occupation can be said to be “regulated” in the sense that you describe because all are subject to the law if they are grossly negligent in carrying out their jobs. That is not what it means to be a member of a profession. In other words, post performance sanctions do not a profession make. It is barriers to entry and adherence to a predetermined set of standards that makes a profession.

    6. Some unenrolled preparers are talented, honest and accomplished and others are not, but without a comprehensive regulatory regime the public has no way of differenatiating the former from the latter.

    Happy to see you back and in the fray.

  2. October 20, 2009    

    Peter,

    As to your points:

    1. Agreeably practice of tax law and tax return preparation require proficiency in two skills, a) mathematics/accounting; and b) analytical reasoning/legal research. Also, agreeably, CPAs have proven their proficiency in the first and lawyers in the second. If memory serves me, you are both. Finally, agreeably, unenrolled preparers have not been required to prove their proficiency in either of these areas. – That said- do you really believe that the “regulation” is going to do this? To read this it sounds like you think the only way to have skills in mathematics/accounting, analytical reasoning/legal research one must be educated in a higher education facility. Interesting, it also sounds like, the only way to practice of tax law and tax return preparation, one must be like you, a lawyer and a CPA. Interesting.
    2. Oh, wait, you missed this one. Your list goes from 1 to 3. Now where I received my degree in mathematics/accounting, it went 1, 2, 3, 4. . . not 1, 3, 4, 5. . .
    3. You admit to taking more than 30 hours of continuing tax legal education every year. Good for you. I am impressed. I spend more time in preparation and accounting then actual law. You say “. . . even if it means that I and my lawyer/CPA colleagues will be subject to it.” In reference to regulation. Quarry, just because you have over thirty hours of CPE, yearly, this means you shouldn’t need fall under any kind of preparation regulation? Isn’t there a fellow in prison for that right now? Please don’t misinterpret my question, You have the degrees, commendable, you have the CPE, commendable too. So you are saying that a person with all that you have should be able to prepare tax returns without regulation, he can do as he pleases? And yes I understand as an attorney you are held to certain IRS standards. Do you realize that so are unenrolled preparers? They fall and use Circular 230, just as those it mentions. As I pointed out above.
    4. Now here I realize several something about you, I hope my readers see it as well. And for the record, OSHA regulates Fork truck operators, even give them a license. And my apologies up front here, but I have to disagree that by definition, when a blue collar worker is asked “what profession are you in/a part off’ a Fork truck operator will say “I’m a Fork truck operator” And to point out many Unions licenses and regulate their Fork truck operators. Unions have high standards too. You say “I know of no profession. . .” so because you don’t know, there must not be one? Would that be a belief of someone that is pretentious? (two other words that may come into play but mean the same thing more or less conceited, and pompous)
    5. I will not speak for my friend, but I will mention that a little research will point out his reasoning’s as to why. He has written about it publicly several times. As to my reasons for wanting the regulation of preparers, they are strangely enough a mix of your reasons and my friends, mixed with the logic that DS tries to spill out to the everyday taxpayer. It won’t change the tax gap as he seems to think. It will remove some folks who have no idea what they’re doing, but not all, not enough. It will ease the minds of some troubled taxpayers by way of knowing that “big brother” has its eye on their preparer. Mostly, I am hopeful that it will remove the misconception that only CPA’s and Lawyers are worthy of preparing and/or representing.
    6. I have to tell you that this is funny to me. I mean by your own words If I had the time and the permission of a manager at a McDonalds, and by your words here “It is barriers to entry and adherence to a predetermined set of standards that makes a profession.” Show you that the 14 year old kid at the fry station is a professional. Sorry, I had to giggle a bit, but only because even in my lower way and thought process, I laugh at the thought, dropping fries in a vat and cooking them, then putting them in a bag is a profession.
    7. Wait, my bad, this should be six, again. That damn mathematics thing I guess. Well I’ll leave it as is on my side because again, where I went to school, it is 5, 6, 7. – In some ways I agree with this thought, with one addition “Some Lawyers, CPA’s, EA’s, and unenrolled preparers are talented, honest and accomplished and others are not, but without a comprehensive regulatory regime the public has no way of differenatiating the former from the latter.” Sadly, with the regulation now in place for Lawyers and CPAs and other professions as well, this does not stop those people from being untalented, dishonest, and unaccomplished, so how will changing this for unenrolled prepares?

    Thanks for being “Happy to see me back and in the fray”, yet I don’t see this as such. I do not see this as a fight, a dispute, a skirmish, a battle, a conflict, or tussle. I am out here to help taxpayers, all taxpayers, not just those who make more than they’ll ever really need. But everyone, all taxpayers. Even you admit, education is key, so I am trying to provide a key to those who need the help.

    Oh, by the way, I am one of the worst at spelling, so when I see things, it kinda makes me giddy, you spelled “differentiating”. There is no ‘a’ between n and t.

  3. Jeff Day's Gravatar Jeff Day
    October 20, 2009    

    I have been an EA for, we will say more than a few years. I have read and re-read where more than on, we will say more than a few occassions, that the “store front” tax preparers are, we will say less than competent.

    Now this diatribe about preparers not being “enrolled” appears to me just like the other to be trite silliness. I have met more than a few EA’s and/or CPA’s that had no clue how to prepare the “most legally advantageous that is within the law”. I have met more than a few “unenrolled” tax preparers that were very good at their practise.

    Just because someone has the ability to pass an exam (EA) in those areas that really have absolutely nothing to do with actual preparation of tax returns, doesn’t make them a competent tax preparer. Just because someone has the ability to pass an exam (CPA) in those areas that make them a more competent book-keeper, has nothing to do with either the actual preparation of tax returns or the integretity of doing what is right on behalf of the clients instead of what is right in their own personal checkbook.

    I choose to work for the biggest boys on the block, that is my personal choosing. I personally prepare more tax returns that most CPA firms do in our area. I have probably represented more taxpayers in audits than any CPA firm in our area. I don’t write this to be a braggard, I write this to illustrate that everyone is an exception to everyone else.

    Whether we are talking about taxpreparers or any other “PROFESSSION” we have an obligation to ourselves, our familiies, our clients, our God to do perform in the best possible manner. If a person doesn’t intend to try and perform living up to our obligations, we should get out of the business. If we live up to those obligations, no one else has any right to say what we should do.

    Jeff Day EA
    Evansville, IN

  4. October 20, 2009    

    Bruce,

    I became both a CPA and a attorney because the skills required of those professions are the skills needed to be a good tax advisor. In other words, I didn’t form my opinion that proficiency in math and analytic research are the required skills of a good tax advisor after I became a CPA and attorney.

    If you agree that math and analytical skills are the essential skills for a good tax preparer, why would you question my motives in saying so? If it’s accurate, why would I need a self-interested motive for believing it?

    Would you tell the Doctor who advises you to see a Doctor that he is only doing so because he himself happens to be a Doctor?

    I doubt it.

    Or how about the piilot who says “never fly in a Jet that doesn’t have a licensed pilot in the cockpit.” Would say to him, “oh, you’re just saying that because you’re a pilot?”

    Silly, huh?

    By the way, I am quite sure that you regularly tell taxpayers to hire an experienced tax pro to prepare their returns. I know Robert does. In fact, he has even gone so far as to discourage taxpayers from using computer software to prepare their own returns. Does he do this just to fatten his own wallet or because it’s good advice? I give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he does it because it’s good advice.

    And, if you are right and fork lift operators are members of a profession that doesn’t make me pompous, it merely makes me wrong. But I don’t believe I am wrong. Even though I am very fond of fork lift operators, I don’t consider them to be members of a profession. I don’t consider chauffers, bus drivers, taxi cab drivers to be members of professions either.

    And, likewise and for the same reasons, unlicensed, unenrolled, unregulated tax return preparers do not belong to a profession. Today, anyone can hang out his “Professional Tax Preparer” shingle without ever having prepared a single tax return.

    Last but certainly not least, you point out that in my comment I used the number “6″ twice (presumably because I didn’t know that the number 7 was the next number in the series) and added an extra “a” to the word “differentiating.”

    I must admit that I find that to be such an extraordinarily brilliant (and, of course, non-childish) rebuttal of my points that I am now compelled to concede that unenrolled preparers are in fact members of a profession.

    It is, after all, futile to compete with a compelling intellectual argument.

  5. October 20, 2009    

    Peter,

    LOL!

  6. Kim B.'s Gravatar Kim B.
    October 23, 2009    

    I am not a tax preparer (although I used to be years ago) and would never proclaim to be an expert in the field but I do happen to be in a profession (and yes I AM a PROFESSIONAL even though I don’t have a regulatory authority telling me that I am) that affords me the opportunity to work with hundreds of CPA’s, EA’s, unenrolled agents, accountants and tax attorneys across the country every year and as I read this string of articles I felt particularly compelled to comment.

    I’m not going to go through and refute point by point the ridiculousness of what Mr. Pompous – oops I’m sorry, Mr. Pappas states as fact – especially since I believe that the Missouri Tax Guy, Bruce McFarland, did that both brilliantly and eloquently, but rather just provide my opinions and “take” on this whole thing.

    I find it absolutely ludicrous that this tax lawyer and CPA Peter thinks he’s somehow better than others in this profession/business just because he has a piece of paper from a school(s) saying he’s taken classes on the subject or because he took and passed some regulatory state test(s) that allow him to display a plaque on his wall. It’s actually not only quite insulting to so many preparers and people in this PROFESSION who are great at what they do and make their living at it (which is a profession by another definition Peter: “the body of people in a learned occupation who have acquired knowledge, skills and competencies in a particular field through specialized educational training or practical skills”) but it’s also insulting to millions of other hard-working people who go to work each day just like him and do their job efficiently and help keep this country running, but by his definition are not professionals. It just really shows such an arrogance.

    Actually I wonder, since he disputed the PROFESSION of fork-lift operators as I recall, amongst others, perhaps sanitation workers, where would he be if those that operate forklifts in plants that provide goods to the stores at which he shops or his local garbage man/woman decided NOT to employ their PROFESSION?

    This is an excerpt from a post he wrote 10/20 in response to The Tax Guy’s response to his response (follow that?)
    (Peter to Bruce)
    1. And, if you are right and fork lift operators are members of a profession that doesn’t make me pompous, it merely makes me wrong. But I don’t believe I am wrong. Even though I am very fond of fork lift operators, I don’t consider them to be members of a profession. I don’t consider chauffers, bus drivers, taxi cab drivers to be members of professions either.
    And, likewise and for the same reasons, unlicensed, unenrolled, unregulated tax return preparers do not belong to a profession.

    You say (paraphrasing) Mr. Pappas that if it’s correct that they are members of a profession, that merely makes you wrong, not pompous, perhaps…..it’s pretty much everything else you say that makes you pompous in my view.

    Then the audacity of this man to go on to continue to argue the point – almost to death, showed me nothing more than his self-righteousness and elitist attitude to get in the last word, somehow thinking that was going to make such a difference or impact on us all.

    As I said at the beginning of this, I work with hundreds of people in this profession, many on a weekly or monthly basis, from sole proprietors to larger firms and after talking to so many of these professionals, I think I’ve developed a pretty good read on the pulse of this business and I truly believe and certainly hope that Mr. Pappas’ definition and view of a true “professional” is that of the great minority because I for one have great respect for the work they do.

    Kim B.

  7. October 23, 2009    

    Kim B,

    There are many wonderful, worthy, wildly competent and honest non-professionals in the world. I applaud them all, including the fork-lift operators, the sanitation workers and the unenrolled preparers.

    I have said many times that I think there are a good number of non-professional tax preparers out there who are better tax preparers than a lot of us professionals, including me. I merely said what I thought was the obvious: Competence alone doesn’t make a person a member of a profession.

    By the way, I would be making these arguments even if I were not a CPA and an attorney because I believe them to be true.

    Let me give you an example:

    Although I have done a lot of research on medical issues and consider myself very knowledgeable on the subject, I am not a member of the medical profession. Regardless of how much “medicine” I practice and how much medical knowledge I obtain, unless I become licensed by and subject to the standards of a medical regulatory body I will not be a medical professional.

    If a Doctor told me this I would surely not accuse him of thinking he was superior to me or of being pompous and arrogant.

    Finally, Kim, I do appreciate that it is painful for some unenrolled preparers to admit that they are not members of a profession. Especially those preparers who are good at what they do. It is, I am sure, tough to accept.

    Hopefully IRS tax preparer regulation will change all of that.

    Post Script:

    Kim, you don’t know me at all so I pardon you for your personal attacks.

    I am sure that under different circumstances – say a couple of glasses of Shiraz, a little Sade on the stereo and a moonlit night – you’d think differently about me.

  8. Anonymous's Gravatar Anonymous
    October 23, 2009    

    An open letter to Mr. Peter Pappas –

    In your blog posts you argue that unlicensed (unenrolled) tax preparers and – at least by inference – similarly situated unlicensed persons of other occupations are not “professionals”. Please defend your position by addressing the following issues.

    Please explain the source for the following statements you make as if fact:

    “[a]nd the reason CPAs, Enrolled Agents and Attorneys are not so limited is because they were initially required by an accredited third-party licensing and regulatory body to demonstrate their core competence and are currently required by that regulatory body to adhere on an ongoing basis to a set of rigorous technical and ethical standards.” (emphasis in original text.)

    “The reason unenrolled tax preparers are strictly limited in the things they are permitted to do is because they have not been licensed and are not regulated by any third party regulatory body.”

    Because you chose to reference Logic 101, please explain how your argument that EAs, CPAs and attorneys are tax professionals who are subject to initial and continuing licensing board requirements leads to the conclusion that others, not subject to those requirements are not professionals. You presume that the definition of “professional” includes only persons subject to continuing licensing board requirements but you have offered no proof of that definition. In fact, the definition you present from the Australian Council supports the contrary conclusion as do most other published definitions including those published by Merriam-Webster in their online dictionary at http://merriam-webster.com/dictionary and the free online version of the Oxford English Dictionary provided at http://www.askoxford.com.

    You might want to try this website if you want a definition that provides better support for your position: http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/professional.html#. But bear in mind when using it, certified doesn’t equate to licensed.

    Please explain why adherence must be to the technical/ethical requirements of the board who issued the initial license. Here is your statement verbatim: “And the reason CPAs, Enrolled Agents and Attorneys are not so limited is because they were initially required by an accredited third-party licensing and regulatory body to demonstrate their core competence and are currently required by that regulatory body to adhere on an ongoing basis to a set of rigorous technical and ethical standards.” (Emphasis by bold font added; all other emphasis in original.)

    This statement blatantly ignores the authority of regulatory bodies other than the licensing board, the potential move by a practitioner from one jurisdiction to another and the voluntary surrendering of a professional license for reasons other than disciplinary actions. It also ignores the standards and codes of other organizations of which an unenrolled preparer may be a member. How do you explain these things away?

    Please redress the statement “[t]he reason unenrolled tax preparers are strictly limited in the things they are permitted to do is because they have not been licensed and are not regulated by any third party regulatory body.” (Emphasis added.) This statement is patently false. Surely you noted in your reading of Pub. 470 that the IRS’ has authority over unenrolled preparers. Or is it that you believe the IRS to be other than a third party regulatory body?

    Please explain how the definition you obtained from the Australian Council of Professions is relevant to the determination of whether an American tax preparer is a professional.

    Even if relevant, that definition doesn’t support your position so why did you present it? This definition supports the proposition that unenrolled preparer are professionals because they are held to a standard of conduct and a code of ethics by a regulatory body (namely the IRS). Not to mention that unenrolled preparers who are members of the NATP and other such organizations with similar standards and codes also meet this definition.

    Please answer the following questions:
    If I held and surrendered – for other than disciplinary reasons – a law license (thus proving my initial competency) and adhere to the standards and ethics required by the IRS (continuing adherence to rigorous technical and ethical standards), I would meet your definition of a professional – other than that the regulatory body is not the issuing body – even though I am unlicensed, correct?

    Isn’t it true that by your definition, even if I am the CEO of a fortune 500 company I am not a professional? I don’t have a license and I don’t have to prove my core competency to a third-party regulatory body and therefore, based on your definition, I am not a professional. Likewise, by your definition any competency I do have is self-acclaimed and thus I have failed to prove my compentency, correct?

    If I am a college professor, I am not a professional because I don’t need a license whereas, if I teach elementary grade levels at a public school, I am a professional because of my licensing/regulatory/ethical requirements? What if I have a state teachers license but then choose to teach at the college level? Am I or am I not a professional?

    What if I hold a CPA license but haven’t done an audit since licensure, say 30 years ago. I passed the exam and am still licensed as a CPA, keeping up on accounting/auditing CPE requirements? Surely, I have the authority (but not the stupidity) to perform an audit. I am still a professional auditor by your definition, correct?

    What if I hold a law license and maintain all of my MCLE requirements? I have a civil tax practice but clearly my license permits me to practice drunk driving defense. That gives me the right to claim to be a professional drunk driving defense attorney according to your definition, correct? Note to bar: I am NOT making this claim.
    Finally, why do you criticize the use of ad hominem attacks, then engage in ad hominem attacks? For example, the use of the adjective “simple” in the following sentence is unnecessary and obviously meant to be demeaning: “Because some of my fellow tax bloggers have been unable to grasp the simple concept . . .”

    Because the respondents disagreed with your position doesn’t mean they couldn’t grasp the concept or that the concept is simple. Obviously it is anything but simple; even you are struggling with the task of putting together a cogent argument favorable to your premise.

    I’ll look forward to your response.

  9. October 24, 2009    

    Bruce-

    You, I, those who have submitted the above supportive comments, those who have submitted comments elsewhere, and other tax bloggers have all properly and eloquently pointed out that the common, and universally (except for one) accepted, definition of a “professional” is someone who is educated, trained and experienced in a trade, profession or activity, complies with the rules and regulations and standards of that trade, profession or activity, AND is paid for working in that trade, profession or activity.

    Being a professional in a trade, profession or activity does not require licensure or certification or official acknowledgement from any government regulatory office. A professional does not need a third party to hold him/her to professional standards – a professional can on his/her own hold himself/herself to professional standards.

    There is no basis in fact or practice for the opinion expressed in the offending blog post.

    The offending post has nothing whatsoever to do with, and adds nothing to, the debate on regulating tax preparers.

    The purpose of the offending post was to be contrary and to draw attention to the author, and not to provide any intelligent discussion on a controversial and important issue.

    The offending post was an insult to about half the population, and an apology is called for.

    That said, let’s not give the offending blogger any more “attention”. Let us spend our valuable time discussing more important issues.

    TWTP

  10. October 24, 2009    

    Here here.

    I concur.

  1. WHO IS A PROFESSIONAL - THE FINAL WORD! on October 20, 2009 at 2:31 pm

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