Most likely, the answer is no. Remember the days with paper client files, colorful sticky notes, and calculator tapes? If you think about it, the “old way” of preparing tax returns was not that long ago. Change is happening and it’s happening fast. In just 5 years, the tax preparation process has changed a lot. […]
Exposure Drafts appears every other Wednesday. Send suggestions to email@example.com.
The Journal of Accountancy's unnecessarily dramatic headline — Limit on direct deposit of refunds will go into effect in 2015 — doesn't quite capture what's really going on here. What's really going on here is that the IRS wants to limit those who have lots of refunds put in their account. Presumably, a taxpayer should […]
The IRS decided against continuing a court battle on whether it has the legal authority to mandate testing and continuing education for paid tax return preparers. The agency had until May 12 to file a petition with the US Supreme Court to appeal two lower courts' rulings that it could not regulate the 600,000 to […]
This from our pal Joe Kristan who grinds away at the Tax Update Blog: It’s not enough that you’ve done business with me forever. I need some ID. The invaluable Russ Fox yesterday threw light on new requirements for electronic filing from the IRS. These requirements, found in their new Publication 1345, were issued with no public comment […]
Mind you, it was a small sample of 19 but of those, 17 were wrong: GAO found significant preparer errors during undercover site visits to 19 randomly selected preparers — a sample which cannot be generalized. Refund errors in the site visits varied from giving the taxpayer $52 less to $3,718 more than the correct […]
I may have blown off the PCAOB public meeting this week but this I can totally get with. Mostly because they used the word "incompetent" so brazenly (the irony of which is obviously lost on the Senate). The Senate Finance committee will be tackling the all important topic of "Protecting Taxpayers from Incompetent and Unethical […]
In case you weren't paying attention, the IRS's Registered Tax Return Preparer (RTRP) program just got shit-canned by a federal judge. Of course, as CPAs we don't really have to care about the RTRP program because we're exempt, as are our minions, as long as we promise to micromanage them. Regardless, schadenfreude feels pretty damn […]
Somehow we missed the saga of Mo' Money Taxes. Here are a few stories that should get you up to speed on some of the haps at Mo' Money: A Mo' Money Taxes franchise owner in St. Louis and four of his employees were arrested on fraud charges last month. Back in February a bunch of […]
Three hundred fifty preparers and two hundred locations won't be included in any future tax seasons: Kansas City-based H&R Block said the company plans to eliminate 350 positions and close about 200 underperforming offices. The announcement was part of a broad strategic realignment that the company announced Wednesday. H&R Block said the plans were designed to […]
It's rare we share any feel-good stories with you all so when I saw this letter of thanks printed in the New Jersey-based Daily Journal, I thought it might be nice for you to read. Let's all remember as some of you miserably trudge ever-onward toward April 17th that no matter how bad you have […]
Our resident tax nerd, Joe Kristan, touched on the IRS competency exam a couple of weeks ago but yesterday the IRS officially rolled out the red carpet. So, if you prepare tax returns but aren’t a CPA, lawyer, or enrolled agent, you now have the distinct pleasure of spending $116 to spend a few hours with everyone’s favorite test vendor – Prometric – whose proctors will keep a watchful eye on you to make sure your ostomy bag isn’t a secret answer bank, that you aren’t packing heat and your gum is appropriately disposed of. What’s the point of all this, you ask? IRS Commish Doug Shulman can answer that:
“This is another major step forward in our effort to enhance tax preparation service to millions of taxpayers. People should feel assured that the person they hire to prepare their federal tax returns has a working knowledge of the tax code,” said Doug Shulman, IRS Commissioner. “The majority of tax return preparers are reputable professionals but the few bad apples cause great harm to taxpayers and the industry.”
Got it? It’s for the good of the country. Just make sure you don’t have a runny nose on the day of your test. That’ll get you in trouble.
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.
For those of you that haven’t nailed down the CPA yet, hopefully you’re not amongst those receiving nastygrams from the IRS for not complying with the new ID requirements.
And, on behalf of the thousands of tax preparers who did comply with the new rules, Doug Shulman doesn’t appreciate your apathy, “The vast majority of federal tax return preparers complied with the rules. We owe it to the compliant tax preparers to make sure that everyone is on a level playing field.” [Bloomberg]
In the Bronx, no less.
According to an indictment unsealed Tuesday in Manhattan federal court, Charles prepared tax returns at a tax preparation business called “420 Multiservices” in Bronx, N.Y., in 2006. Between 2006 and 2007, Charles, 34, Patterson, 29, Nekiya Edwards, 32, and Akmell Edwards, 33, engaged in a scheme to use stolen and other identification information, including names, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers, to file fraudulent tax returns.
According to the indictment, in March 2008, Patterson was approached by agents of the IRS-CID. During that encounter, Patterson threatened the agents, stating, among other things, “I know you guys got guns, so what,” and “That’s why I kill guys like you.”
The IRS is on you like white on rice.
The Internal Revenue Service is taking steps to stop tax preparers with criminal tax convictions or permanent injunctions from preparing tax returns. This is just one of several recent moves to improve the quality and oversight of the tax preparation industry.
More than 700,000 tax preparers nationwide have registered with the IRS and obtained Preparer Tax Identification Numbers (PTINs). This nine-digit number must be used by paid tax return preparers on all returns or claims for refund. Paid preparers must renew their PTINs annually to legally prepare tax returns.
“We owe it to all taxpayers and the many honest tax return preparers to remove the relatively small number of bad actors from the tax preparation industry,” said Doug Shulman, IRS Commissioner. “Just one unscrupulous tax return preparer can cause a lot of financial damage to both taxpayers and the tax system.”
Nineteen ne’er-do-wells have already gotten word that they’ll be stripped of their PTINs for unseemly behavior of some kind or another. Best get that CPA so you don’t have to mess with the whole thing…until you the IRS lumps them in too.
As you’re all aware, the teen years are a confusing time. Trying to fit in, keeping the parents off your back and trying to determine what exactly is going with your body is enough to drive you to underage drinking.
Some junior and seniors at a high school in Monticello, New York have been brave enough to add tax preparation to the mix volunteering for the IRS’s VITA program. “It’s a little confusing, but you get the hang of it,” said Marcus Daniels-Penn, told the Journal. Of course not everyone participating has such a optimistic view of the experience as Adam Kaiser, who was struggling with determining who can be claimed as a dependents, noticed something most people don’t realize until long after they leave the quad, “The government can’t do anything simple,” he said.
Technology is a beautiful thing. It makes our lives easier, including work. It gives us supremacy over our late-to-adopt friends and colleagues who are still stuck with clunky old company laptops. And apparently it makes it easier to lug around several devices than just sit at our desk with one. Somehow this is more convenient, but we’ll get to that in a minute.
Check out this revolutionary, wielding his iPad as a weapon in the war against April
With the 2011 tax season in full swing, accountants and CPAs are searching for ways to save time and service geographically separated clients. A popular solution, QuickBooks hosting, allows for CPAs to securely access QuickBooks and client data remotely from any computer, phone or tablet with an internet connection. Recently, NovelASPect’s client, Scott Sanders, CPA, took QuickBooks hosting to the next level. Scott added his tax software to his QuickBooks hosting account on a NovelASPect virtual server. Using the Citrix receiver, Scott can now access his tax software from anywhere with his iPad. He then paired his iPad with his iPhone via Bluetooth to use the iPhone as a mouse for the iPad.
“Accessing my tax software and QuickBooks via my iPad has been a tremendous time saver,” says Scott Sanders. “Clients can review and sign their tax documents at their location. I can then efile the return with the government and email a copy of the tax return immediately to the client. I also have access to client financial information in Quickbooks anytime / anywhere.”
Quick question: can’t a laptop do the same exact thing?
Remember last June when 114,000 iPad user accounts were exposed by rogue Internet security group Goatse Security? Not to mention the fact that the iPad is not only a target of hacktivists looking to prove a point but also thieves who would love to get their hands on that overpriced toy you insist on playing with on the subway.
Here’s the issue I see with on-the-run tax preparers MacGyvering their iPads to shoot the data off to the client and then to the government from just about anywhere: WiFi is not always secure. We assume Scott Sanders knows a thing or two about protecting sensitive data if he’s knowledgeable enough to figure out how to use his iPhone as a mouse for his iPad (and what’s wrong with using a laptop and a, oh I don’t know, mouse?) but I would not want my tax preparer sending me my 1040 to sign; he can barely wash his grungy white dress shirt separate from his red socks.
I’m all for convenience but there’s a point when the work required to make it safe for all involved parties becomes inconvenient.
Taxes are a touchy subject with Americans. This is known. On the one hand, a Tennessee CPA combined his love for 1040s and firearms, issues coupons to clients who, in their jubilation, can spend their refunds at his gun shop. Even if someone were not due a refund, it wouldn’t be tough to convince someone in small-town Tennessee that purchasing a gun is bound to make you feel better about the IRS impending on your freedom. For others, finding out that their sophisticated tax planning didn’t go as intended, may just cause them to grab the nearest bottle of hooch and try to forget their troubles for awhile.
Thanks to Kay Bell, we have learned that one liquor store in Delaware has made this latter scenario more convenient for its customers:
Because we were curious to know more, we called up Steve’s to find out the situation. We spoke to someone who said that returns start at $65 but the lady in charge was out and could call us back with the details. We’ll have the lowdown for you when we hear back from her.
UPDATE: We just got off the phone with Yvette Nidwik, who does the tax prep over at Steve’s and she shared with us a few more details. Unfortunately, the answer to the question on everyone’s mind, “Do we get a discount on booze?” is a flat “No.” Apparently it’s illegal in Delaware law to give discounts on liquor associated with another service (or something). Be that as it may, we were surprised when Yvette told us that she has a lot of “church people” as clients despite the proximity to the Devil’s brew. Yvette has been preparing tax returns for eleven years, five of those at Steve’s. She is not a CPA but plans on becoming an Enrolled Agent soon. She also doesn’t have a problem with the IRS’s forthcoming preparer regulations, saying, “it’s a good thing,” and that she’s “a fixer” meaning she has lots of clients who come in with prior year returns and she find lots of mistakes (especially from discount preparers that will remain nameless).
So if you’re in the area and don’t have the time or willingness to do your own, look Yvette up at Steve’s but she’s a busy lady, so no messin’ about and she’d probably prefer if you stopped in the liquor store after speaking with her.
[J]ust because a person has the initials CPA after his/her name does not mean that he/she knows his/her arse from a hole in the ground when it comes to preparing 1040s.
That comes courtesy of the Wandering Tax Pro, Robert D. Flach. It got the attention of Joe Kristan, who came to the defense of CPAs everywhere but did admit that some CPAs have no business being near tax forms:
[Robert] then spends his next 10 paragraphs elaborating on our shortcomings. And that’s fine, to a point. Not all CPAs are qualified tax preparers. By the same token, not every lawyer is capable of defending you on a murder charge. But the guy you want by your side when the state wants to send you to the chair is definitely going to be a lawyer. And while not all CPAs should be your tax advisor, many of the best tax advisors are CPAs.
Case in point: many relatives and clueless friends of auditors still ask said auditors to prepare their tax returns. In most cases, a) this is a HUGE mistake and b) they don’t want to help you anyway.
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 Integrity gistrar 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.
With less than a week until April 15th, it’s safe to assume that some people are finally getting a tad anxious about the upcoming deadline. If you live in New York and happen to be one of these procrastinators, it may be wise to check with your tax professional, not only because they hate it when you show up on the 13th – 15th with nary a clue about what you earned in 2009 but also because if you’re really unlucky, your tax pro instead was just total shiester and got caught up in “Operation Brass Tax.”
First off, we’ll just say that we’re not sure who at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York or the IRS’s Criminal Investigation Division was given the modest charge of naming this particular operation but it obviously sucks. We’re not expecting you have an imagination like JK Rowling or anything but guys, c’mon.
But enough with trivial matters, the main concern is that there are many New Yorkers that are completely going batshit crazy because A) they recently found out that their tax preparer was a robbing them blind and B) they have no idea how they are going to get their tax return filed in less than a week without help because reading the instructions is NOT. AN. OPTION.
Twenty-six phony tax experts in Manhattan and the Bronx have been charged by the SDNY/IRS for pulling a smorgasbord of scams including, “stolen identities of children to falsely claim them as dependents on clients’ returns; claiming “business losses” from fictitious businesses; using stolen identities, including Social Security numbers, of deceased individuals to list as the ‘taxpayers’ on fraudulent returns, and taking the resulting refunds themselves.”
All this chicanery has U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara upset because these tax professionals are supposed to be the good guys!
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and IRS Special Agent-in-Charge Patricia Haynes unsealed charges Thursday against the tax preparers. Sixteen were in custody, four had been previously charged and face new charges, and six remain at large. “Professional tax preparers are supposed to be gatekeepers, not facilitators of fraud,” said Bharara in a statement.
Some might argue that this is just another reason why regulating tax preparers is the best idea the IRS has ever had. Of course then you remember that these regulations will probably drive these tax prep lemonade stands underground anyway.
While that’s another matter entirely, there’s no cause for concern. There’s plenty of tax gurus in New York like the guy who got mixed reviews on Craigslist. If venturing to Queens isn’t a solution then you can always, you know, file the extension.
26 NYC Tax Preparers Charged with Tax Fraud [Web CPA]
More New York Tax Trouble:
Investigation Reveals that 30% of Tax Preparers in NYC Lied About Rapid Refunds
For whatever reason, people crave their tax refunds like Big 4 recruits crave tchothkes. Accordingly, someone came up with the bright idea of “refund anticipation loans” or rapid refunds. Web CPA is reporting that the New York City’s Department of Consumer Affairs has investigated nearly 800 tax preparers throughout the City and issue over 2,000 citations for violations including illegal advertising of the rapid refunds.
Getting your refund ASAP is the personal mission of every tax-American but if preparers lie about the fact that they’re actually loan sharks, then that’s when the City will get after you:
Consumer Affairs Commissioner Jonathan Mintz noted that RAL costs can amount to as much as a 500 percent interest rate. “The truth is that RALs are such a bad idea that tax preparers and lenders generally need to lie about them in order to sell them,” he said at a press conference Tuesday. “Lying about them in New York is illegal.”
Mintz’s investigators found that three out of 10 tax preparers in the city were misleading their customers about their rights, and in most cases telling them or deceptively advertising that a refund loan was just a rapid refund or a same-day refund. “In the Bronx, over half the preparers that we inspected got it wrong and were issued violations,” he said.
C’mon Bronx tax prep, you’re better than that…
The silver lining in this little story? The City will collect a $1 million and by the grace of God, tax preparers are actually messing up less, as the compliance rate reached 69% in the 2010 investigation up from 65% in ’09 and 56% in ’08.
We here at GC have harped on the upcoming tax preparer regulation, most recently the declaration by the IRS that the new regs are the most important step taken EVER. While that particular statement remains to be hyperbole of the highest order, the new regs will certainly drive these tax prep/loan sharks underground. Whether that’s good or bad depends on your comfort level with black market tax prep services. The IRS doesn’t care; they’ll be coming heavy either way.