AICPA Opposes Voluntary Tax Prep Certification
The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) has announced its strong opposition to any effort to create a voluntary certification program for tax preparers.
The idea of a voluntary program has been proposed by IRS Commissioner John Koskinen in the wake of the agency’s unsuccessful bid to implement mandatory certification. But in a letter to Koskinen from AICPA President Barry Melancon and Jeffrey Porter, Chair of the AICPA Tax Committee, the organization opposed such a program because it would create confusion in the marketplace.
“We believe a voluntary program would create confusion regarding the relative proficiencies of the various types of preparers. In addition, the proposed voluntary system would undoubtedly leave the impression among most taxpayers that certain tax return preparers are endorsed by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). As a practical matter, any voluntary regime constructed would still not address the problems with unethical and fraudulent tax return preparers,” the letter notes.
The AICPA instead recommends that the IRS focus on strengthening the PTIN registration system, and avail itself of penalties and remedies it already has at its disposal to handle issues of fraudulent returns. Specifically, the letter mentions statutory authority under:
- Section 6694 – civil penalties for understatements due to unreasonable positions or willful or reckless conduct.
- Section 6695 – civil penalties for (i) failure to furnish a copy of the return to the taxpayer, (ii) failure to sign the return, (iii) failure to put the PTIN on the return, (iv) failure to retain copies of returns prepared or a list of taxpayers for whom returns have been prepared; and (v) failure to comply with due diligence requirements relating to EITC claims.
- Section 6701 – civil penalties for aiding or abetting an understatement.
- Section 6713 – civil penalties for disclosing or using taxpayer-provided information other than for return preparation.
- Section 7206 – criminal penalties, including imprisonment, for willfully aiding or assisting in the preparation of a fraudulent return.
- Section 7407 – authority to seek injunctions against return preparers engaging in specified behaviors, including fraudulent or deceptive conduct that substantially interferes with proper administration of the tax laws.
In addition, the trade group has asked for a more open public dialogue on the issue and greater taxpayer education.