David Brunori unleashes righteous anger on the IRS preparer regulation power grab in a wonderful Tax Analyists piece — one that is, unfortunately, only available right now to Tax Analysts subscribers (Update, 4/4/12: Tax Analysts has made the post available here.). A taste:
IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman praised the regulations when they were first proposed, saying they would “help ensure taxpayers receive competent, ethical service from qualified professionals and strengthen the integrity of the nation’s tax system.” Really? The irony of the IRS wanting to ensure preparer competency is palpable. The Service is notorious for handing out incorrect information to ordinary citizens who call for help. Millions of Americans rely on IRS advice at their peril, yet the agency is worried about the competency of the preparers?
He correctly identifies the real forces behind the rules:
H&R Block and Jackson Hewitt were tripping over themselves in support of the regulations. They know that onerous regulations will impose a cost on paid preparers, particularly individuals. That cost will force many preparers out of business. The big preparer companies cannot wait to get their hands on the millions of Americans who will be looking for tax help. Even more outrageous is the fact that H&R Block and other big companies will be exempt from some of the regulations. If a preparer is supervised by a lawyer or CPA, he is deemed both ethical and competent (although he still must register for a preparer tax identification number). So H&R Block and Jackson Hewitt not only escape the burdens of the regulations, but their direct competitors will be put out of business.
And, of course, it required high-placed wire pulling:
The Podesta Group, led by former Obama administration official Tony Podesta, was lobbying for the regulations on behalf of H&R Block. That is the way Washington works.
Meanwhile, 2 million returns are not being processed because electronic filing identity theft is completely out of control this year. Software “glitches” have bogged down the processing of the honest returns that do come through. But at least the IRS is issuing preparer ID numbers.