Wednesday, December 11, 2013


TAXPRO TODAY recently posted my editorial “Who Speaks for the Tax Preparer”, in which I called for an independent lobby to champion the interests of tax preparers to Congress and the IRS.  

While my past TAXPRO TODAY editorials have not always generated good, thoughtful comments (on one occasion it was truly a mucking fess), this time I actually received a good, thoughtful and responsive reaction from fellow tax pros.

A commenter identified as “Jeanieb1” (what be Jeanie?) had this to say -

Nice, Robert. Been doing returns since 1978 and have long since thought the preparer community needed a voice. We are doing the IRS auditing for them prior to filing a return or else face due diligence problems. EITC, Child Care & Education credit, to name a few, on the ever growing list we have no control over. All the prior points are valid. However, if every one of the current professional organizations added $5.00 to their dues to help fund a PAC for all, it might be beneficial. The PAC would have no other agenda than to let the preparers prepare; and, let the IRS auditors audit. The IRS needs to implement some safeguards of their own, such as not sending 10+ EITC refunds to the same address! They could practice some due diligence and professional responsibility.”

My reply to Jeanieb1 was - 

The idea of a PAC to lobby for the interests of paid 1040 preparers (including CPAs who prepare 1040s for compensation) funded by voluntary $5.00-$10.00 contributions as part of the annual membership fee of NATP, NSTP, NAEA. NSA, etc., and even AICPA, is certainly something to consider. As long as the PAC is independent of the individual supporting organizations and is not "beholding" to AICPA as a major contributor.

I may be prejudiced, but I do not believe the AICPA as an organization is interested in helping the non-CPA 1040 preparer. AICPA is only interested in perpetuating the ‘urban tax myth’ that CPA = 1040 expert, which, obviously, is just not true. Perpetuating this myth does not benefit the paid tax preparer or the taxpayer public.”

From taxprO -

I would join and support an organization dedicated to representing the interests of qualified tax preparers not already governed by some authoritative organization. This organization could establish credentialing requirements, in addition to lobbying for fair practice requirements. IRS should not be dictating these issues as long as there is a mostly adversarial relationship between it and tax preparers.”

Another interesting idea – the organization created to lobby could also be the independent industry-based organization that administers a voluntary RTRP-like credential that I had talked about in an earlier TAXPRO TODAY editorial.  So we could kill two birds with one stone.

EA Joseph F. Kerner feels -

We do not need another organization. The current organizations, NATP, NAEA, CPA groups, and the several other Tax Clubs that I get emails from on meetings, webnairs, etc must work together.”

Lee Willard, an EA and a CPA, agreed with Joseph, and also has another suggestion.

1. We need not have a single large organization of tax professionals. All we need do is have present organizations work together to jointly fund a special advocacy team in Washington.

2. But speaking of things that need to be changed for tax professionals, Enrolled Agents should be professionally responsible to an authority outside of the IRS - and perhaps other tax professionals as well (other than CPA's and attorneys supervised by state authorities). An authority within the Treasury Department, or even the Taxpayer Advocate, would be a definite improvement in this regard. Why should the fox guard the henhouse?

A tax preparer lobby would certainly need the existing membership organizations to work together.  Lee’s idea to “jointly fund a special advocacy team in Washington” is fine – but the advocacy team would need to be independent of the individual funding membership organizations.

Lee’s “#2” is indeed interesting.  Perhaps the independent industry-based organization created to administer the voluntary RTRP-like credential could also take over administration of the EA designation, offering a 2-tiered credentialing program like the one I suggested for the IRS to institute in the wake of the death of the mandatory regulation regime.

Hezzy merely wanted to rant, making some good points in the process (highlight is mine) –

I don't know about all of you, but the fees I have been receiving for the preparation of tax returns is hardly worth the time and anxiety over audits, penalties and increased regulations and responsibility to assure the information given to me is accurate and truthful. That on top of the total waste of time and money with my passing the RTRP exam which the IRS did not have the authority to impose. The IRS is so overburdened with responsibility it can no longer function in the capacity for which it was formed. Now more of their burden in issuing bogus EITC to criminals and illegals will be placed on us. We might as well give it up to the big lobbied tax preparation firms who seem to get away with anything since they fund the political parties.”

I also received some good response to my TWTP post “Should the RTRP Survive? My More Than 2 Cents Worth”, a response to another TAXPRO TODAY item.

Over at Twitter, fellow tax blogger Jason Dinesen of DINESEN TAX TIMES tweeted his reaction to the post -

I believe in leaving things as they are and encourage the unenrolled to become EAs, rather than creating a new designation.”

And asked -

But is there really a ‘need’ for a voluntary RTRP designation?

Joe Kristan of the ROTH AND COMPANY TAX UPDATE BLOG shared his agreement with Jason.

I replied to the guys -

“Still see need for a ‘less extensive’ credential, & like the 2-tier idea. All taxpros don't want to represent.”

Joe admitted -

I could get behind an industry based {RTRP - rdf} credential.  I only oppose IRS role.”

But just said “no” when I asked -

Do you think the current EA designation should be administered by an independent organization instead of IRS?

My final tweet to Joe and Jason was -

Whatever happens, the most important thing is that the IRS should not be able to force all unenrolled preparers to become RTRPs.
Chris Johnson, EA, a frequent commenter to TWTP, submitted this comment to the post -
Great post, Bob!
I'm an EA who has posted here before who actually agrees with this post, for the most part. I'm not totally against regulation of tax preparation, but don't have anything good to say about the RTRP designation either, partly because I believe it would dilute the value of my own EA designation but also partly because mandating such a designation would only push the "underground" tax preparation business further underground. You know what I'm talking about- people who prepare tax returns, sometimes using pirated software, only take cash for their services, no PTIN on the return and there is no written record of them preparing the return anywhere. The RTRP designation is not going to put an end to that. Also, there are many other unenrolled prepares like yourself who have prepared returns for satisfied clients for many years without any real problem. While I believe my EA designation adds to my marketability (and also allows me to do other things such as audit representation, which I actually enjoy sometimes), I think that would-be clients should be free to choose who prepares their returns and it all comes down to personal choice.
There are some people out there who will only go to a CPA to prepare their taxes, no doubt I've lost out on a few would-be clients because of that, but I do just fine as an EA, and from the looks of it you do just fine as well.
I do think that continuing education is essential in the tax business, as tax codes are always changing and you can never know too much tax and of course I must do it to maintain my EA designation. While it's great that you choose to do continuing education, I am certain that not every unenrolled preparer chooses to do so. Perhaps the IRS thinks that the RTRP designation would force more of those in the business to take continuing education but again, those in the "underground" tax preparation community will never abide by such a rule anyway.
Anyway, keep up the good postings!
When asked his thoughts on my suggested IRS administered two-tiered credentialing program Chris replied (highlight is mine – I couldn’t resist) –
“The two-tiered credential program involving the RTRP and EA would probably be a good idea - the EA designation would be less obscure and wouldn't be diluted by the RTRP designation like it has been (to some small extent anyway). Both credentials are administered by the IRS anyway, so how hard could it be for them to do?
At the end of the day, it could be a lot of free publicity for the EA designation, so I guess I'm all for it! Too many automatically assume that CPAs are the only people who can do tax returns, yet plenty of CPAs don't belong anywhere near a tax return.”
So, taxpros and taxpayers alike, what do you think about these issues?

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