The Top 10 issues facing tax pros

In the aftermath of tax season, practitioners finally have time to look ahead to the broader concerns that their profession needs to address in the future.

Beanna Whitlock, of Spring Branch, Texas-based Whitlock Tax Services LLC, and a former director of IRS National Public Liaison, summed up the issues she sees with her own Top 10 list of areas tax pros can focus on in the rest of 2019.

1. Security of taxpayer information

With the recent hackings of software companies, national tax professional organizations and the identifying of tax professionals by the Internal Revenue Service on their PTIN listing, tax professionals are the gift that keeps on giving for scammers. Tax professionals hold some of the most sensitive personal information of a taxpayer — their name, date of birth, and sometimes date of death, their Social Security number, spouse and children's names and Social Security numbers, where their home is financed, property they own, where they work, where they have savings or own stock, and where they bank.

We even know where their children are in day care -- and some states require tax preparers to maintain driver's license numbers, date acquired and when they expire.
IRS headquarters in Washington, D.C.
IRS headquarters in Washington, D.C.

2. IRS-required due diligence

With the new head of household due diligence requirements, added to Child Tax Credit and education due diligence as well as the Earned Income Tax Credit, tax professionals are spending hours to do the work required to prepare a return that is complete and accurate. Many tax professionals believe they have become the unpaid field force of compliance for the IRS. The question is, how much inquiry is enough? Due diligence is in the eye of the beholder.

3. Amended returns

With the delay of Congress in considering the extenders as well as a technical corrections bill, many 2018 tax returns are delayed or simply filed but with the anticipation of filing an amended tax return. These amended returns will require hand processing as they cannot be electronically filed, further delaying IRS operations.
A printout of Congress's tax reform bill, "The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act," alongside a stack of income tax regulations

4. New tax law

The IRS delayed in getting regulations, particularly on Section 199A of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, until one year after enactment. Tax professionals did a fabulous job of hitting the ground running, but this should not be the norm, and with the IRS backlog of work not getting done, the tax professional community struggles with lack of guidance.

5. Education

This is always a huge issue with the tax professional community. A “lessons learned” from the first year of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is foremost on their minds.
National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson at the NYU Tax Controversy Forum

6. Taxpayer advocate

The loss of Nina Olson as the National Taxpayer Advocate is a loss that each tax professional and taxpayer will profoundly feel. She was the stalwart for taxpayer advocacy and the resolution of systemic issues. With her retirement this July, the tax professional community anxiously awaits her replacement.
IRS Commissioner Charles "Chuck" Rettig
IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig

7. Bad press

The tax professional community seldom hears what a great job they are doing for America's taxpayers. IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig on April 15 praised the efforts of the long-suffering IRS during the filing season but failed to mention the tax professionals who hold the effectiveness of the tax system together.

8. CP2000 fallout

The CP season is when the IRS sends out notices, particularly the CP2000 notice, which is a matching of third-party documents filed with what is on the tax return. Tax professionals used to call this an "office audit" but it’s now done through the mail. Now the tax professional has to work with getting penalties abated. Many tax professionals have difficulty charging what these IRS inquiries are worth in time and effort.

9. Practice promotion

Many tax professionals are faced with the need to generate additional income to make up for a decline in their practices, due to tax simplification and "do it yourselfers," as well as dying clients.
Calendar with a red box around Tax Day, April 15th

10. Get out of the business of tax?

At midnight on April 15, every tax professional feels they don’t want to go through another tax season. But give them a decent meal, a good night’s sleep and a round of golf and they think, "Well, maybe one more!"