Wednesday, January 20, 2010


No BUZZ to speak of for this installment – so I go with A LITTLE THIS-A AND A LITTLE THAT-A instead -

+ Don’t forget to check out my daily tax tips columns at MAINSTREET.COM.

+ Mary O’Keeffe gives us her take on the IRS Return Preparer Review in “Who Should Be Tested On Tax Law” at BED BUFFALOES IN YOUR TAX CODE.

Mary would have every person involved in the preparation of tax returns and every person involved in the creation and administration of tax law tested, including –

ALL employees of the IRS from the Commissioner on down

The Secretary of the Treasury and any Treasury Department employees whose jobs relate in any way to making tax policy

Anyone on the White House staff whose job relates to tax policy in a significant way” and

All members of Congress who serve on committees that write tax laws, and their staffs

Because Mary, as a volunteer with the IRS VITA program, must pass an annual exam she feels that all those involved with taxes should be tested annually. As she mentions in her post, I do believe it would be “impractical and unworkable to require annual testing of practitioners”. Why the IRS is going to take 3 years to administer an initial competency test to just the currently “unenrolled” preparers. Besides, annual testing would place an undue burden on members of the tax profession. No other profession – MD, CPA, JD, Architect, etc - requires annual testing to maintain a “license”.

However you can’t fault Mary’s bottom line -

Maybe if all the government policymakers have to undergo the annual testing, they'll decide to create a simpler tax code that doesn't require large numbers of ‘rocket science’ paid tax practitioners.”

+ Ask an ye shall receive.
I got another email comment from Enrolled Agent Elizabeth Ruh, who apparently works for Jackson Hewitt (to be honest, I could never understand why an EA would work for one of the fast food preparation chains), with two requests -

I would be curious to know how other tax professionals keep on top of the ever changing tax laws. (I myself attend the IRS forums and read a lot of IRS publications!). I am also curious, especially from those who think CPA’s and Tax Attorney’s should be subject to the regulating, how they got started and learned the highly unusual world of taxes? (I have several mentors who started me on this journey and continue to help me grow).”

I will provide my answers to her two questions – and then open up the “floor” for responses from other tax pros, which I will publish here in a future post.

(1) Over the years I have attended tax seminars from many different companies and organizations. In terms of cost, content, location and presentation I believe the best source of continuing professional education for tax preparers is the
National Association of Tax Professionals. I have been a member now for over 20 years.

NATP offers year-end tax updates in various locations in all of the 50 states, mid-year and year-end special topics presentations at various key locations, and its annual conference with three days of CPE. It also offers a special “
basic training” course for beginners, an annual fall Technology and Office Productivity Conference, this year in Atlantic City, “webinars”, and self-study.

NATP provides members with a weekly email tax newsletter and monthly and quarterly print publications (I am a frequent contributor to the quarterly journal). It also has an excellent research department that is available to answer member questions via phone or email.

Members of NATP are automatically members of the resident state chapter, if one exists for your state. The NJ chapter of NATP also offers good seminars on federal and state tax topics.

NATP offers an EA exam review course and, I expect, will be offering a review course for the initial competency exam proposed by the IRS in its Return Preparer Review.

I highly recommend membership in NATP. If you do decide to join please mention my name as the person by whom you were referred and I will get a free gift!

Another good source of continuing professional education is the California Society of Enrolled Agents, who each year in May and June offers a “
Super Seminar” (3 days of great CPE) in Las Vegas and Reno.

As a tax professional, tax blogger, and tax writer I visit a variety of tax-related blogs on a daily basis (except during the tax season) and subscribe to the and CCH daily tax headline newsletters. These sources provide lots of good tax information as well as leads to other resources. You should visit the sites listed in my “blogroll” in the right hand margin (scroll down to end).

(2) How did I get started in “the business”? Let me quote from an earlier post -

My first encounter with income taxes came in February of 1972, when I was in my second semester as a freshman at local Jesuit institution St Peter’s College (I am not Catholic – it had a good rep for business). I had taken the first half of Accounting 101, but had not taken any tax classes.

My uncle’s tax professional, James P Gill, would hire students from St Peter’s College during the tax season as apprentice tax preparers. During his annual visit, always on Lincoln’s Birthday (then an actual legal federal holiday), my uncle happened to mention to Jim that I had taken my first accounting course and that I was helping him with the books for the non-profit organization for which he worked. Jim told my uncle to send me in to see him – and the rest is history!

For the rest of the story go to my post “
What About Bob?”.

So there you have my answers to Elizabeth’s questions. I would love to hear the answers of my tax blogging colleagues and other tax professionals. Send me an email at The responses will be complied in a post to appear at the end of next week.