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US Poll Supports Tax Preparer Regulation

by Mike Godfrey,, Washington

25 January 2016

A national poll commissioned by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) has indicated strong support for reform of the paid tax preparer industry in the United States.

A majority of the 150m US individual income tax returns filed each year are prepared by tax preparers. The CFA said its poll was conducted "in response to concerns about frequent errors and fraud by paid tax preparers who are used by millions of Americans."

"Errors on tax forms put consumers at risk of fines and lost tax refunds yet few states have taken action to ensure that paid tax preparers are licensed and trained and disclose what are often high and unpredictable fees," said Tom Feltner, CFA's Director of Financial Services.

The poll found that 80 percent of the poll's respondents support requiring paid tax preparers to pass a test administered by government that would ensure that paid preparers have the knowledge and training to complete taxpayer returns correctly; and 56 percent believe paid preparers should have special training.

In addition, 89 percent of respondents support requiring paid preparers to supply an upfront list of fees as, in tax preparation, prices are often not given before the work is done; and 83 percent support licensing requirements for paid preparers by a state agency that would also accept and resolve complaints.

While there was a court ruling against the Internal Revenue Service's attempts to regulate tax preparers in February 2014, Michael Best, CFA's Senior Policy Advocate, pointed out that "state legislatures have the authority to implement common sense protections for taxpayers."

However, only four states (California, Maryland, New York, and Oregon) have mandatory standards for paid tax preparers who are not already credentialed as enrolled agents, attorneys, or certified public accountants.

TAGS: individuals | compliance | tax | business | tax compliance | training | law | fees | Internal Revenue Service (IRS) | licensing | professionals | United States | standards | regulation | individual income tax

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