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
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.
\”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”.
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.
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?
Learn to be civil.
(2) Choosing a preparer – this link will take you to post that appear here (this blog) covering this. There are 24 in all.
Publication 4019 page two. It is not a list per say but will show plainly the “differences” of form 2848 and form 8821.
- 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.