Tuesday, May 14, 2019
WHAT IS A TAX PREPARER – AN ESSAY ON RESPONSIBILITY, REGULATION AND DUE DILIGENCE
A tax preparer is a person who assists an individual (who I will refer to going forward as “taxpayer” – whether or not he or she actually pays any tax) in preparing a government form – the 1040 and NJ-1040, IT-201, PA-40 or whatever.
In most cases the preparer is trained in the “instructions” for the government form – the US Tax Code is in effect the “instructions” for the 1040 – and has experience in preparing the form. The information required to properly complete the form is given to the preparer by the taxpayer, and the preparer uses his or her knowledge and experience to enter the information provided by the taxpayer properly on the form.
The taxpayer signs the completed form to attest that the information on the form, which he or she has given to the preparer, is true, correct and complete. The preparer signs the form to identify himself or herself and to verify that the form was completed using information provided by the taxpayer.
The preparer does not have to personally verify and attest to the veracity of each and every entry on the form – just that all the information on the form was provided by the taxpayer. It is the responsibility of the government to verify the veracity of the information on the form, with a 1040 via matching and the audit process.
Obviously, the preparer must not willfully, with the intent to defraud, enter false, incorrect or incomplete information on the return. If the preparer knows, via independent personal knowledge, that information provided by the taxpayer is false he or she must refuse to enter the false information on the form or refuse to complete the form altogether. If the preparer has questions about the truthfulness, correctness or completeness of any information provided he or she must seek clarification from the taxpayer.
While the government does, and should, have the authority to regulate persons who officially represent the taxpayer in the various levels of the audit process – to “practice” before the IRS – it does not, and should not, have the authority to regulate the preparer.
Of course, the government does have the authority to fine or otherwise penalize a preparer who willfully conspires with a taxpayer to defraud the government by entering knowingly false information on the form.
The above all apply to a person who assists an individual in preparing any government form – a census form, a student financial aid form, etc. The Form 1040 is just another government form.
The purpose of an income tax is to generate the revenue needed to pay the cost of administering a government and the cost of the services provided by the government. Period.
An income tax system, and the form used to calculate a tax assessment, should NOT be used to enable “social engineering”, i.e. the redistribution of income, or to distribute or deliver social welfare or other government benefits.
The excessive additional “due diligence” currently forced on tax preparers began as a reaction to the extensive fraud that was a direct result of the erroneous practice by Congress of using the tax system and the 1040 to redistribute wealth and to distribute and deliver government benefits, specifically in the form of “refundable credits”. Unfortunately, as I said in a previous post, this had gotten way out of hand and now applies to every tax form where a taxpayer claims a dependent.
Since it is the responsibility of the government to verify the veracity of information on the form known as the 1040, the excessive additional due diligence requirements force the preparer to do the job of the government without the compensation given to a government employee.
The bottom line –
(1) The government should NOT have the authority to regulate tax preparers.
(2) The Tax Code should NOT be used to redistribute wealth or to distribute and deliver government benefits.
(3) A tax preparer should NOT be required to personally verify individual items on the 1040 via excessive additional due diligence.