As tax season opens, only one group might be more confused than preparers over the future of the IRS’s legal ability to register preparers: clients.
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“Most taxpayers out there are on information overload and they don't know what to think anymore,” said EA Lynn Schmidt of Winter Haven, Fla.-based Lynco Financial & Tax Services Inc.
Though the Loving case hasn’t been an issue with her firm’s clients, EA Betsey Buckingham, a member of the tax staff at Troy, Ohio-based David C. Murray & Co. CPAs Inc., and president-elect of the National Association of Enrolled Agents, said, “I know some folks who scrambled to take the RTRP test and, while I haven't spoken to them, if it were me I'd be incredibly angry at the amount of work I had to do to study for the test and the fee I had to pay.”
EAs said that although the decision striking down the service’s legal power to register some preparers doesn’t affect them, clients who have followed the media stories still have questions. “I have not told my clients [about the decision] yet, but I probably will,” said EA Mele Perrego of Clayton, N.C., a member of the NAEA and vice president of the North Carolina Society of Enrolled Agents. “I have told my clients about the previous requirements for licensing because I feel strongly that anyone who is paid to prepare a document that a person signs under penalties of perjury should know what they are doing.”
EAs are also offering advice to clients confused by the recent spate of new credentials, both proposed and real. “When the client can afford it, I always recommend a CPA or EA,” said tax attorney and EA S. Matthew Golding in Mission Viejo, Calif., a member of the National Association of Tax Professionals.
“Otherwise, when clients are looking for something more economical, I always recommend for them to interview the tax preparer,” Golding added. “Even before the decision was handed down, I let clients know that the Tax Code changes regularly and you want to make sure that the preparer you select has been keeping up with these changes. As such, when clients ask about the recent court decision, I let them know that it is still important that your tax preparer has completed training and, at a minimum, enough CE credits to stay abreast of new tax changes.”
Golding also advises potential clients “not be shy” when asking about credentials, and, if a preparer questioned about the court decision claims additional continuing education is unnecessary, “It may be best [for the potential client] to continue down the list” of preparers, Golding said.