(From Accounting Today)
The Internal Revenue Service is joining with several national tax and accounting organizations to give taxpayers new options and tips on selecting reputable tax professionals and avoiding unscrupulous preparers.
The effort includes new information available at IRS.gov/chooseataxpro, including a list of consumer tips for selecting a tax professional. There will also be a new gateway page with links to national non-profit tax professional groups, which can help provide additional information for taxpayers seeking the right type of qualified help.
IRS commissioner John Koskinen spoke at a press conference Thursday in Washington, D.C., in conjunction with members of several national organizations that represent hundreds of thousands of tax professionals across the nation. The other groups involved in the initiative include the American Association of Attorney-CPAs, the American Institute of CPAs, the Council for Electronic Revenue Communication Advancement, the National Association of Enrolled Agents, the National Association of Tax Professionals, the National Conference of CPA Practitioners, the National Society of Accountants and the National Society of Tax Professionals.
“The tax return represents one of the biggest financial transactions of the year for many Americans, whether they are getting a refund or paying a tax bill,” IRS Koskinen said in a statement. “Filling out tax returns accurately is critically important. Between tax law changes and tax scams circulating, it’s more important than ever for people who need professional assistance to select wisely and carefully.
More than 140 million tax returns were filed last year, and more than half of with them, about 75 million, were prepared with the help of a paid return preparer.
“With the upcoming filing season, some taxpayers may want to get help with the new provisions of the Affordable Care Act, and tax professionals provide one of the several options available,” Koskinen told reporters. “Most people only have to check a box on their Form 1040 return to indicate they have health care coverage, but some taxpayers claiming exemptions from coverage and those without coverage and those with premium tax credits may have questions. Tax professionals will be able to help guide taxpayers through what they need to do in these circumstances.”
Commercial software programs will be able to help as well, he acknowledged. “Taxpayers who decide to hire a professional to help prepare their taxes should make sure to select that person carefully,” said Koskinen. “I‘ve been a commissioner for almost a year now, and one of the things that still surprises me is the number of scams circulating out there. We especially want to warn people about one type of scheme prevalent at tax time in particular where scam artists pose as tax preparers, make misleading promises to entice people to cut corners on their taxes or even commit outright fraud in order to get bigger refunds. Last year we saw nearly 200 abusive tax return preparers receive criminal convictions. We want to get the word out to taxpayers not to be duped by unscrupulous preparers. It’s important to find a reliable trusted tax professional to assist you with your taxes.” He highlighted some basic points that taxpayers should keep in mind when selecting a tax professional, such as checking the preparer’s qualifications and work history.
“As part of this effort, we’ll also be offering a new directory on IRS.gov beginning early next year which will help taxpayers find tax professionals with credentials or certain qualifications in their local area,” said Koskinen. “The database will be sorted by type of preparer, including CPAs, attorneys, enrolled agents and other preparers, including those who have participated in the IRS’s new voluntary education program, called the Annual Filing Season Program. Preparers in this program may not have the same credentials as the categories of tax professionals I just mentioned, but they have completed a tax preparation education program. I would note that while it’s helpful for a preparer to participate in our Annual Filing Season Program to give taxpayers some comfort in their choice of the preparer, the training offered under the program does not give a preparer the same level of expertise that CPAs, attorneys and enrolled agents have.”
Koskinen was also asked by reporters about the latest round of budget cuts that Congress just imposed on the IRS, the fifth consecutive year of cuts at the agency. He noted that although the cut was officially $350 million, it really translated into a $600 million cut when other expenses were factored in. He noted that the IRS had already slashed many programs and he warned that wait times could increase. The IRS might even be forced to close on certain days, but only as a last resort.
“We are at a point where if you make any further cuts in this organization, the wheels start falling off,” he said.
If you have a client that owes taxes and cannot pay, call your Kansas City Tax Attorney, Jeffrey R. Siegel, at 913-735-4829.