For Immediate Release
Contact: Gigi Thompson Jarvis
Senate to Hold Hearing on Requirements for Paid Tax Preparers
IRS Wants to Establish Minimum Competency Standards
Washington, DC, (April 7, 2014) The Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing on Tuesday, April 8, to discuss what can be done to protect taxpayers from unethical and incompetent federal tax return preparers.
The hearing, which will be begin at 10:00 am in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, follows the rulings on Loving v. IRS, which found IRS lacked the authority to require paid return preparers to demonstrate minimal competency and to take continuing education.
“Many are surprised to hear that no minimum federal competency standards exist,” explains Robert Kerr, Senior Director of Government Relations for the National Association of Enrolled Agents (NAEA), a society representing federally-licensed tax practitioners. “The problem—taxpayers harmed by incompetent, fly-by-night preparers and bamboozled by unethical preparers—is real and ongoing.”
In its ruling in the IRS appeal of the Loving decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia wrote that more stringent regulation of return preparers may be a wise policy matter, but doing so would require new legislation and not a unilateral expansion of the IRS’ authority. As a result, IRS now awaits legislation allowing it to revive a program requiring all paid preparers to demonstrate minimum competency and to keep themselves current on tax law changes.
“It’s the wild, wild, West out there and, not surprisingly, trusting taxpayers frequently find themselves in hot water simply because they hired a return preparer without adequate knowledge of tax rules and regulations,” says Kerr. “Enrolled agents, who hold the highest credential IRS issues, believe Congress should clarify that IRS has the authority to insist paid preparers are at least minimally competent. Such a move would help taxpayers understand the varying qualifications held by credentialed tax preparers and lead to greater confidence in the tax preparation industry as a whole. Should Congress fail to act, however, all is not lost. IRS has had a program place for decades—in which attorneys, certified public accountants, and enrolled agents have voluntarily subjected themselves to high and stringent standards. IRS would be well advised to promote that program heavily and without delay.”
About Enrolled Agents
Enrolled agents (EAs) are America’s tax experts. They are the only federally-licensed tax practitioners who specialize in taxation and also have unlimited rights to represent taxpayers before the IRS. While attorneys and certified public accountants are also licensed, only enrolled agents specialize exclusively in taxes. Enrolled agents are required to complete many hours of continuing education each year to ensure they are up-to-date on the constantly changing tax code and must abide by a code of ethics. To locate an enrolled agent in your area, go to the “Find an EA” directory at www.naea.org.