The IRS Commissioner and his subaltern for preparer regulation this week spilled some of the beans about the “competency tests” that they are imposing on the unwashed (non-CPA, non-lawyer, non-enrolled agent) preparers. Some key bits, as reported by Tax Analysts (sorry, subscriber-only link):
- Prometric – the company known for making sure CPA exam candidates don’t hide cheat sheets in their ostomy bags – will also administer the IRS competency test. So don’t even think about hiding cheat sheets in your orthotic leg or enhanced breasts. But then again, you don’t have to, because...
- …They will allow you to use Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax, when you take the competency test, and
- They’ll only test on 1040 issues.
This confirms the obvious: the competency test will be a joke. It has to be, or too few preparers would survive to prepare the nation’s returns. It won’t be completely open-book, but it sounds like you will be able to pass if you have adequate skills at reading and using an index.
This all makes it look like the cynics are right – it’s all about extending IRS power over preparers.
Don’t believe me? Listen to Shulman’s own words:
Today, I want to talk for a little bit about some of our priority programs, such as the Return Preparer Program, the evolution of our relationship with our largest corporate taxpayers, including Schedule UTP, and our work on what we’re calling a real time tax system.
The common thread that runs through them is points of leverage and working smarter.
Points of leverage sounds like what a wrestler uses to pin an opponent. The IRS can use these “points of leverage” to make preparers more subjects of the government and less advocates for their clients. And in their own sweet time, they will.