• AICPA Lays the Smackdown on Dear Abby

    By | August 31, 2015

    Here’s what went down. On July 13, Helpless Big Brother wrote:

    I have just learned that my sister's husband of 35 years (I'll call him George) hasn't filed their personal income taxes going back a number of years. … Apparently, he hasn't filed because of his inability to organize.1

    Their professional tax preparer has met with both of them2 and tried to work out a step-by-step program, but George consistently fails to meet the deadlines. … She has copies of business-related documents relating to the unfiled tax periods, but not enough information to file on her own.

    … What else can I do?

    To which Dear Abby replied:

    [Your sister] and her husband may need more help than their CPA has been able to give them. A group that I have mentioned in my column before is the National Association of Enrolled Agents (NAEA). These are tax specialists — some of whom are attorneys and CPAs — who are specifically licensed by the Department of the Treasury. Tell your sister to contact an enrolled agent by visiting www.naea.org. TODAY.

    What was that, now? Did you just say that CPAs suck balls and that EAs are the shit? Not on AICPA Tax Executive Committee chairman Troy K. Lewis’s watch.

    DEAR ABBY: May I offer some clarification to you and your readers … ?

    In fact, THREE3 groups of tax preparers have unlimited practice rights under Department of the Treasury regulations to represent their clients on any matters before the IRS — certified public accountants, attorneys and enrolled agents.

    None are more qualified than CPAs. CPAs are licensed by state regulators and must meet minimum education requirements to sit for their national licensing exam and then fulfill ongoing continuing education requirements, as well as abide by a code of professional ethics.4

    Enrolled agents are often former IRS employees who are licensed by the IRS after passing an exam. Enrolled agents are competent and respected5 tax professionals, but the fact they are licensed by the IRS does not mean they are better qualified or superior in serving clients than are CPAs or attorneys. … — TROY K. LEWIS, CPA

    And Dear Abby took it.

    DEAR MR. LEWIS: Thank you for the clarification and for expanding my reply to that letter. It was not my intention to imply that CPAs are less qualified than enrolled agents — and if I created that impression, I sincerely apologize.6

    The AICPA must’ve felt like it needed to protect the CPA brand because Abby’s syndicated advice column boasts a daily readership of more than 110 million. And it’s clear that Dear Abby is a huge fan of enrolled agents because they’re not qualified to audit her daily readership numbers.

    1 Maybe tax preparers should start sending all of their clients annual tax organizers. The longer the better.
    2 Hopefully while still wearing his Statue of Liberty costume.
    3 That’s right — ALL CAPS — probably because he had a licensed CPA perform agreed-upon procedures to verify the number of groups of tax preparers with unlimited practice rights to represent their clients on matters before the IRS.
    4 Fortunately our code of ethics does not prohibit us from being dickish to nice old ladies who are giving free advice to anonymous readers.
    5 The AICPA shows its respect for enrolled agents by making sure everyone knows that enrolled agents vastly inferior to CPAs.
    6 Now re-read Dear Abby’s reply with as much sarcasm and condescension as you can muster.

    • SouthernCPA

      Who writes to Dear Abby for tax advice?

      • N.E.R.D.

        To be fair, it’s not really tax advice. It’s about compelling his/her brother-in-law to file their taxes because he/she is presumably worried about the repercussions non-filing will have on his/her sister.

        They didn’t write it asking whether their dog’s kennel care is deductible as Schedule A medical.

        • BasisPoints

          What if my dog is blind and over 65 in dog-years?

          • N.E.R.D.

            Maybe it’s okay then. I’m not sure, I’m just a CPA.

            Check with the National Association of Enrolled Agents (NAEA). You should contact an enrolled agent by visiting http://www.naea.org. TODAY.

            • BasisPoints

              Thank you for the clarification and for expanding your reply

            • FartDude

              I will recommend contacting the NAEA every time someone asks me for tax advice. I hear those enrolled agents are the SHIT.

          • Another exKPMGer

            Publication 501 goes into great detail on who is blind, who isn’t, and the various levels of blindness. However, no such detail is provided on age, other than to say the individual must have turned 65 before year end, and if he/she passed away, must have turned 65 before passing away. So I think as long as you can determine the point at which your dog turned 65 in dog years, and your dog was still alive at that time, then I think you’re golden (Retriever, that is).

            • Tax people are so witty. 😀

            • Another exKPMGer

              I can barely do my own taxes. Using TurboTax nonetheless.

            • N.E.R.D.

              You forgot to consider whether the dog’s expense is eligible to be claimed by the taxpayer in the first place. We’d have to check if the dog is a dependent of the taxpayer or not.

              If the dog has a food bowl and its collar tag with the taxpayers’ full name and contact phone number, I think we can reasonably conclude that the dog is dependent on this taxpayer and not dependent on some other taxpayer.

              Lots of dogs I know use this loophole. Congress needs to really get its shit together and close loopholes for rich dogs with owners that pay for medical treatment.

            • Another exKPMGer

              This thread has quickly gone to the dogs. We should refocus. I said FOCUS. Good boy. *hands treat, pats head*

            • N.E.R.D.


            • big4dropout

              Does life begin at conception? What is average gestation for a dog?

    • liEYr

      Former IRS agent = barely functional retard (BFR)

    • Another exKPMGer

      This might be the most interesting thing Greg has, dare I say EVER, posted? Here’s a Scooby snack.

    • Spectrum

      Instead of getting all uppity about EA vs. CPA, perhaps the CPA could have made her feel more stupid by pointing out that the wife can file MFS?

      • BasisPoints


      • N.E.R.D.

        Even better, she could try to claim innocent spouse relief with Form 8857 and be absolved from the tax liability entirely!


        • Spectrum

          Innocent spouse relief only kicks in after the IRS is trying to collect, however….. if nothing is filed, they may not be trying to collect anything yet.

          • N.E.R.D.

            True. The relief would probably need to be filed after a MFS filing, not before.

    • Big4Veteran

      One point deduction to Mr. Lewis for failing to weave the most competent type of accountant, the CGMA, into his response.

    • sludgemonkey

      Dear Abby Dear Abby my fountain pen leaks…….

    • D’Angelo

      I hope the tax preparer got a huge retainer before dealing with that godawful client.

      People like the letter writer’s brother in law are hopeless, nothing short of a bank levy will make him get his shit together.

    • Someone es should write Abby back and inform her the CGMA is the ultimate designation…

    • FartDude

      I called that guy who gets you out of tax trouble.

      Total rip off. He saved me from paying the IRS $20,000, but I had to pay him $18,995.


      • FartDude’s Broseph

        Tell him to go make love to himself, Bro!

    • cpanum31

      It all raises and interesting question.

      I wonder how many C.P.A.s in practice can pass the Enrolled Agents examination.

      I’ve known a few who hold both and many who hold only one. I have formed my own opinions over the decades. But I am curious.

      • Big4Veteran

        “I wonder how many C.P.A.s in practice can pass the Enrolled Agents examination.”

        I would estimate it to be around 100%. Passing exams is a memorization exercise.

        If you’re asking if I could pass the EA exam this afternoon, the answer would certainly be no. But I don’t think I could pass the CPA exam this afternoon either (even though I passed it many years ago).