September 17, 2019

Tax preparer regulations

Happy tax preparer

AICPA Backs Down From Its Longstanding Beef Against Tax Preparer Regulation

In what could easily be the longest-running turf war in accounting history, the AICPA has softened its view on IRS regulation of tax preparers. Back in 2014, I covered the AICPA’s melodramatic freak-out over the IRS suggesting a voluntary tax preparer registration scheme, which sent Barry Melancon straight to the fainting couch and the AICPA […]

Baucus Proposal Would Give ‘Legal Authority’ to Regulate Tax Preparers

Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) released Part Deux of his tax reform proposal today and it mostly addresses penalties for identity theft as well as securing the Social Security Administration’s Death Master File. As enthralling as all this sounds, Baucus's plan also would give "legal authority" for the IRS to regulate tax preparers. A judge brought […]

Never Fear, The U.S. Senate Is Here! (To the Rescue Tax Preparer Regulations)

Earlier this year, a DC judge threw out the IRS' ability to regulate unlicensed preparers and then, in a bit of added insult, when another judge denied the agency's request to suspend the injunction. Anti-regulation types were happy; the IRS was sad. Despite the setback, you kind of knew that the Service wasn't going to […]

The IRS Seems To Have Its Priorities Bassackwards

The new preparer regulation system is up and running.  Accenture, formerly Andersen Consulting, collects millions to process PTINs, while millions more go to Prometric, to administer the “competency exams.”  Everyone, I mean, everything, is under control. Except for the little matter of billions of taxpayer dollars going out the door to identity thieves claiming tax […]

The Distaste for IRS’ Tax Preparer Regulations Has Reached Its Apex

The only question is, why did it took take so long? A nonprofit group plans to sue the Internal Revenue Service and argue that the agency’s effort to regulate tax-return preparers is unlawful. The Institute for Justice, an organization in Arlington, Virginia, that seeks to protect individual liberties, said in a statement it will file the […]

IRS Stops Short of Requiring Tax Preparers to Go Through a Full Rectal Exam to Pass Suitability Check

But fingerprints, on the other hand, those will be necessary.

Certain tax return preparers who must pass a suitability check will have to provide their fingerprints so that a Federal Bureau of Investigation database search can be conducted. Generally, the fingerprint requirement will affect those preparers who currently have provisional PTINs.

Under the current proposed regulations, any participant in the PTIN, acceptance agent, or authorized e-file provider programs who resides and is employed outside of the U.S. will not have to be fingerprinted to participate in these programs. Those preparers, however, must comply with all the other elements of the suitability check. In addition, the Treasury Department and the IRS are continuing to study which additional requirements should apply to people outside the U.S. Any additional requirements will be set forth in future guidance.

Attorneys, CPAs, enrolled agents, enrolled retirement plan agent and enrolled actuaries also are expected to be exempt from the fingerprinting requirement at this time. However, they are still required to answer all the suitability questions on the PTIN application, such as whether they have been convicted of a felony in the previous 10 years. Individuals participating in the PTIN, acceptance agent, or authorized e-file provider programs also are required to meet any other requirements of the programs in which they are participating.

If you’re weren’t sufficiently annoyed with the IRS’s new oversight regulations. This might do the trick.

IRS to Begin Fingerprinting Tax Preparers [AT]

The National Society of Accountants Has a Bone to Pick with the AICPA

A couple weeks back the AICPA gave its members the go-ahead to Crtl+C, Crtl+V its letter to the IRS about how certain parts of the proposed tax preparer regulations were a load of crap.

We just assumed that everyone in the accounting biz was on the same page here but boy we’re we wrong. The National Society of Accountants sent this letter to Treasury honcho Geithner stating that they don’t want any tax preparers exempted from obtaining a PTIN (among other complaints):

NSA Letter Regarding CPA Firm Exemption


What’s especially interesting is that the AICPA is not named in this letter once, however they are named specifically in the NSA’s press release:

Now, at the 11th hour, just before the registration process is scheduled to begin, some – including the American Institute of CPAs – are demanding that staff members of ‘CPA firms’ be exempted from the registration requirements. This flies in the face of why this registration program was set up. The point of the new regulations is to ensure that all tax preparers are accountable for their work in preparing returns, and that should include anyone who paid to prepare all or substantially all of a return, no matter where they may work.

The basic tenet here is that big firms will get away with letting the underlings preparing the returns not be held accountable for their (apparently) shoddy work. The NSA’s position is that if every single legit tax professional is registered then they can track down the shitty ones and the IRS can act accordingly. The NSA claims that the “loophole” proposed by the AICPA will let these amateurs skate the testing and registration requirements and thus won’t be serving taxpayers one iota.

On the one hand you might have been totally against the tax preparer regulations from the start but now that they’re unavoidable, the AICPA’s request for exemptions in some cases may burn the unlucky bunch that wouldn’t get to enjoy waiver.

The AICPA Doesn’t Mind If You Copy and Paste Their Letter for the Expressed Purpose of Telling the IRS That the Preparer Regs Suck

The AICPA is following the ABA’s strategy of mass letter sending by urging its members to inundate the IRS with tearful pleas to reconsider the Service’s Tax Preparer Registration Proposal.

The issue is so serious that the Tax Vice President, Edward Karl, went on the Hill today to testify about the AICPA’s concerns, in what had to have been one raucous hearing:

The AICPA has serious concerns that the proposed IRS regulations are an overreach and would place immense burdens on CPA firms, particularly small- and medium-size firms. Further, the AICPA questions whether the IRS has adequately examined the costs that would be imposed on tax preparers and American taxpayers.

The IRS has proposed four broad new requirements for paid tax return preparers including: mandatory registration, application of enforceable ethical standards, competency testing and continuing education requirements. At [today’s] hearing, the IRS specifically requested comments about registration and the fees tax preparers will be charged for newly required personal taxpayer identification numbers, or PTINs.

While the AICPA has consistently supported the IRS’s efforts to increase tax compliance and elevate ethical conduct through the adoption of a registration process for paid tax return preparers, the AICPA does not believe other elements of the policy are fully justifiable or necessary, according to Karl.

The AICPA is urging all of its 360,000 members to contact the IRS about the proposed regulations to express opposition to elements of the plan.

Adrienne urges everyone to do the copy and paste thing ASAP and since there’s no mention of the IRS being anti-form letter, then we’d probably say that it’s safe to proceed with the letter with the AICPA’s language.

That being said, that’s a pretty boring approach and if you can muster the passion of either side of the fair value debate, we suggest you write from the heart.

Accounting News Roundup: The Problem with American Apparel’s non-CPA CFO; Diversity Still Lags in Accounting; Patrick Byrne Denies Insider Trading Accusations | 08.23.10

Potash says in talks for superior deals [Reuters]
“Potash Corp’s board urged shareholders to reject BHP Billiton’s hostile $39 billion offer and said it was in talks with a number of potential suitors for a superior deal.

Potash Corp, the world’s largest producer of potash based in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, said superior offers or other alternatives are expected to emerge.

Discussions are on with several of these third parties in order to generate superior offers, the company said in a statement.”

How to Shine in a Skype Interview [FINSying across the country for a second round of meetings, you may be asked to interview for a job from the comfort of your living room.

While it might sound less stressful to some than an in-person meeting, such an interview can be filled with landmines for job candidates.”

The Problem With a Non-CPA CFO [FEI Financial Reporting Blog]
Francine McKenna guest-posts over at FEI for the second time, this time discussing the American Apparel situation and noting that 31 year-old CFO might be in over his head.

Goldfarb Branham LLP Investigating Shareholder Claims Against American Apparel, Inc. [Business Wire]
Speaking of APP, investigations are starting, “Goldfarb Branham LLP is investigating American Apparel, Inc. (APP 0.75, 0.00, -0.09%) due to allegations that the company may have issued materially inaccurate statements to investors concerning its 2009 financial results and the circumstances surrounding the replacement of American Apparel’s auditor.”

Movement afoot to increase diversity in accounting industry [Pittsburgh Business Times]
“Sam Stephenson, a partner at ParenteBeard LLC, a Downtown-based certified public accounting firm, brings an interesting perspective to the equation as a black man who has worked in the profession for nearly four decades. During his long tenure, he has seen improvements in efforts to recruit and promote women in the profession, but ethnic diversity still lags behind.

‘We need to bring this issue to the attention of individuals who run local and regional firms because they may not be aware that this is a problem,’ said Stephenson, who serves as a member of the Pennsylvania State Board of Accountancy, which enforces the licensing rules for CPAs. ‘A lack of diversity often means missed opportunities to attract talent and clients.’ ”


Preparer Costs Will Increase Some; Taxpayer Costs Will Increase More [Tax Update Blog]
Joe Kristan responds to fellow practitioner/blogger Robert Flach’s question of how the new tax preparer registration will affect costs for consumers more so than tax preparers.

Gays See Complex, Changing Tax Picture [Dow Jones Adviser]
“Gay couples are taking one step forward, one step back when it comes to their tax rights. Not to mention sideways.

The shifting landscape of new rules and initiatives makes it a big challenge to provide same-sex partners with good tax advice.

In Massachusetts, a successful challenge to a federal law denying gays tax breaks that heterosexual couples get could mean progress, but only if it stands up to an expected government appeal.”

Patrick Byrne Refutes Insider Trading Claims [Forbes]

Accounting News Roundup: JetBlue CFO Isn’t as Good at Gathering Trash as He Is with Spreadsheets; Dealing with a New Boss; IRS: Regs Won’t ‘Weed Out’ Preparers | 08.13.10

JetBlue CFO Flies Cross-Country, Collects Garbage [NYM]
JetBlue CFO Ed Barnes and VP Robin Hayes reportedly did their best to show up Steven Slater on a recent flight from New York to Long Beach. Apparently it is not uncommon for JetBlue execs to help out during the flight, however passengers can spot an amateur/numbers person when they see one:

“Barnes took one of the most challenging of the flight attendant’s duties upon himself: He gathered trash. ‘He never served anything, but he was the trash guy. He must have gone by eight times,’ our source said. ‘And he was kind of bad at it. He was really tall. There’s an art to reaching over people’s heads and h and not spilling it.’ Apparently both men were very nice, especially considering that the CFO was ‘clearly a guy who is used to doing spreadsheets and is now gathering trash.’ ”

Leverage FASB Tools to Catch Up on New Accounting [Compliance Week]
“Although the FASB is a on a fast track to issue a host of major new accounting standards as part of its effort with the IASB to converge U.S. and international rules, the board has coupled that with an effort to get resources out that can help key stakeholders grasp the new era of accounting that is just dawning. In addition to the usual discussion papers and exposure documents laying out the full technical detail of its plans, the board also is publishing user-friendly summaries and producing podcasts and webinars that explain the major new initiatives as they are proposed.”

How to Deal With Your New Boss [FINS]
“You will have to prove yourself all over again. The work culture of the past will change, and the expectations will be intensified, at least in the beginning. Experts agree there are specific ways to respond that will maximize your chances of surviving, and even thriving. For finance professionals, managing a new boss comes with some added stressors that professionals in other fields may not experience.”


H-P Board Sued on Hurd Exit [WSJ]
“Hewlett-Packard Co.’s directors got slapped with a lawsuit over the departure of Mark Hurd—the same chief executive who handpicked most of the board’s members—even as they face the task of finding a replacement for the former CEO.

A Connecticut-based law firm filed a shareholder derivative suit in Santa Clara County Superior Court in California on Tuesday against H-P’s board, alleging directors violated their fiduciary duties in connection with the events surrounding the resignation on Friday of Mr. Hurd.”

FDIC opens its doors to carry out financial reform [Reuters]
“Bank regulators on Thursday pledged an ‘open door’ policy for carrying out financial reform, also saying they will inform the public of meetings between senior officials and private sector individuals.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp said it will release every two weeks the names and affiliations of people outside of the government who meet with agency officials to discuss implementing the Dodd-Frank law. The subjects that are discussed will also be made public.”

IRS Prepares Preparers for Preparer Requirements [Web CPA]
“An IRS official repeatedly reassured an audience of tax preparers that the agency isn’t aiming to take away their livelihoods or weed out people when its new registration, testing, education and e-file requirements take effect next tax season.”

The CPA That Cried “IRS!”

“No bureaucracy ever thinks it has all the power it needs.”

~ Joe Kristan can’t see the future (to our knowledge) but he did predict that the IRS would try to extend the tax preparer regulations to CPAs.

Accounting News Roundup: Geithner Is Ready to Let Tax Cuts Die; Hayward on His Way Out?; PwC Wants Glitnir Lawsuit Tossed | 07.26.10

No new recession, let tax cuts die: Geithner [Reuters]
“The economy is not likely to slip back into recession but letting tax cuts for tans expire is necessary to show commitment to cutting budget deficits, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said on Sunday.

In appearances on several Sunday talk shows, Geithner said only 2 to 3 percent of Americans — those making $250,000 or more a year — will be affected when tax cuts enacted under former President George W. Bush end on schedule this year.”

BP Said to Prepare Dudley as CEO as Board Looks for Recovery [Bloomberg]
“BP Plc plans to name Robert Dudley to succeed Tony Hayward as chief executive officer as the board looks to recover the company’s position in the U.S., two people with knowledge of the matter said.

Dudley, the director of BP’s oil spill response unit, is ready to be announced as the company’s first American chief and to take the helm Oct. 1, one of the people said, asking not to be identified because a final decision hasn’t yet been made. The decision was reached in discussions with board members about how best to take BP forward and rebuild its U.S. position, the person said.”

Madoff Investors Brace for Lawsuits [WSJ]
“Irving Picard said he could wind up suing about half the estimated 2,000 individual investors he has called “net winners” from their dealings with Mr. Madoff. Such investors withdrew more from Mr. Madoff’s firm than the amount of principal they invested.

‘The people who made money, who got more, have made money at the expense of the people who didn’t,’ said Mr. Picard, who has the power under federal bankruptcy provisions to pursue money withdrawn from Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC before it collapsed in December 2008 and redistribute the funds fairly among victims.

Mr. Picard must file any so-called clawback lawsuits by December, the two-year anniversary of Mr. Madoff’s arrest and the filing of regulatory proceedings against him. ‘We’re not going to wait until the last minute,’ Mr. Picard said.”


Change the world or go home [AccMan]
Dennis Howlett implores you that if you want your firm or business to really stand out then it’s going to take more than a catchy slogan or a boilerplate email to get people’s attention. You best recognize an opportunity when you see one.

“I’ve lost count the number of times I’ve said but it is worth repeating. When disruption like SaaS comes along, it represents an opportunity. From a professional standpoint it should mean that firms can further commoditize what they do by using accounting dashboards that show them the status of their clients’ activity. It is a short step to seeing how this might be integrated into fees, billing, customer satisfaction measurement and the like.”

If You’re Going To San Francisco…AAA Will Be There [FEI Financial Reporting Blog]
Edith Orenstein has the lowdown on this year’s American Accounting Association’s (AAA) annual meeting. This year’s event is in AG’s backyard (she loves giving directions, btw) from July 31 to August 4th and will feature Francine McKenna and Professor Albrecht on one of the panels.

Join Me For a Nice Little CPA Exam Chat on August 3rd! [JDA]
Speaking of Adrienne, she’ll be over at CPA Exam Club to take your questions on everyone’s favorite test on August 3rd. Yes, that’s one week from tomorrow.

PwC Demands Dismissal of Glitnir Lawsuit [Iceland Review]
PwC’s lawyers argue that Glitnir and the firm agreed to do any legal wrangling in Iceland if the poo hit the fan. Late last week they requested that the lawsuit in New York be tossed.

Saltzman Hamma firm details merger with RubinBrown [Denver Business Journal]
“Saltzman Hamma Nelson Massaro LLP, a century-old Denver accounting firm, is merging with St. Louis-based RubinBrown LLP to form what’s expected to be among the 50 largest accounting firms in the United States, principals were set to announce on July 23.

The new entity, which will operate as RubinBrown, will employ 375 people in offices in Denver, St. Louis and Kansas City, Mo. The merger will be effective Aug. 1.”

District Court Denies Charitable Deduction for Donation of Home to Fire Department [TaxProf Blog]
Just donate a car next time. It’s a far worse investment than a house.

IRS Proposes PTIN Fees [JofA]
$50 for your very own preparer tax identification number! Of course there’s also a ‘reasonable fee’ on top of that from “a third-party vendor that will administer the application and renewal process,” that gets thrown in for good measure.

My Life as a White-Collar Criminal [White Collar Fraud]
Sam Antar went on Canadian TV last week to talk about how much fun it is to be a crook. Except the whole possibility of prison part.

Accounting News Roundup: Strange Letter Disrupts Ernst & Young’s Iraq Plans; Allen Stanford Is the Worst; Debunking a Tax Preparer Regs Conspiracy Theorist; Medifast Gets the Bird | 05.20.10

Mysterious letter rattles E&Y’s Iraq ambitions [Accountancy Age]
Ernst & Young has been trying to get its audit on in Iraq shortly after Saddam Hussein’s party ended in 2004. The firm has been providing services there, however not yet been approved to perform auditing services. E&Y has been claiming that it was making headway, “on the verge of obtaining an accounting license” but now a letter from somewhere within the dense Iraqi bureaucracy seems to have delayed those plans.

It came as a shock when the firm learned of a letter sent to the Iraqi Supreme Court, the Central Bank of Iraq, the Commission of Integritygistrar and the Iraqi Banks Union, among other senior institutions, from the Iraq Union of Accountants and Auditors, which claimed the firm had been banned.

“It has been decided to forbid the accreditation of any financial statements audited by Ernst & Young (E&Y) company and forbid its operations in accountancy and auditing for governmental and private sectors in Iraq,” the letter stated.

The letter, in Arabic and signed by the Union Secretary Dr Rafed Obaid Al Nawwas, said the union reserved the right to go to “legal authorities to stop non-Iraqis from conducting audit and accountancy in Iraq”.

So in case you missed it, E&Y did not actually receive this purported letter but heard of it second-hand and then responded that the Iraq Union of Accountants and Auditors has no authority on the matter, since it’s just an “association of Iraqi accountants.” So it sounds like the AICPA of Iraq basically tried to tell the Iraqi version of the SEC, PCAOB, et al. that E&Y was not fit to be in country (if you’ve got another idea, by all means).

Iraq’s chief accounting regulator claims to not knowing about the letter and that E&Y is “just about to obtain its license” so this may be a nuisance more than anything else.

How Stanford is worse than Madoff [Fortune]
Mostly because CDs are the basic financial instrument that is usually held by little old ladies and other common folk. Not Kevin Bacon.

Unenrolled Tax Preparer: Preparer Regulation is a CPA Plot to Put Me Out of Business [Tax Lawyer’s Blog]
Naturally, there are some unlicensed tax preparers that are taking the IRS’ proposed regulations a little personally. Peter Pappas at TLB tells us about one unlicensed preparer who did some bellyaching to the Service. This sage of taxes challenges anyone to question his expertise:

1. “I prepare my returns accurately and would challenge anyone to find errors.

2. “I have seen numerous returns prepared by CPAs and other similar preparers that were incorrect. [the man strives for perfection]”

3. “I am willing to take some courses or some certification, but to become an enrolled agent or CPA would cause an undo burden on my business. [i.e. require me to work more than 8 hours a day]”

And that’s just a sampling. Mr Pappas kindly debunks all of these (and more):

1. “A self-serving declaration by an unenrolled tax preparer that the returns he prepares are 100% accurate is about as valuable as an NBA player announcing that nobody can guard him.”

2. “This is utterly irrelevant and, if anything, an argument for more regulation, not less…[This] is dumber than texting while driving.”

3. “Becoming an enrolled [preparer] would force Mr. Jamieson to make expenditures of time and money he does not wish to make, therefore, because he is not prepared to make those sacrifices he believes that people who have made them should get no benefit from it whatsoever.”

Barry Minkow Gives Medifast the Middle Finger [White Collar Fraud]
At this point we’re assuming it’s only the figurative bird, by way of a report that states that Medifast’s business model is effectively a multi-level marketing scheme.