After conducting several studies to determine whether tax preparers were doing people's taxes properly, the IRS announced Monday it will begin regulating tax preparation next year to ensure taxpayers get adequate service—and don't lose money in fines or overpayments.
Changes will begin in the 2011 tax year. Those who want to prepare taxes for others come tax season will have to pay the IRS a registration fee, pass a competency test and spend at least 15 hours a year learning the latest on tax law. Currently, few states monitor tax preparation and there are no federal requirements to be a tax preparer.
Officials called out the tendency of some preparers to exclude "other income" from their clients' tax returns. That issue will be partially addressed starting this year. Electronic-payment processors such as PayPal and credit card companies will have to report merchant sales if they surpass $20,000 a year, or if a seller receives more than 200 payments in a year.
The lack of regulation may be costing taxpayers money every year, as recent studies show. In 2006, Government Accountability Office employees visited 19 tax-prep businesses to get their taxes done. All 19 businesses made mistakes on income-tax returns, and only two "arrived at the correct bottom line," according to reports. In a 2008 test, 17 out of 28 of those tested made mistakes. Officials also said many of the complaints the IRS received in 2008 concerned fines taxpayers were responsible for because of mistakes by tax preparers.
"In most states you need a license to cut someone's hair," IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman says. "Most tax-returns preparers don't have to meet any standards when they sit down and prepare federal tax return for an American taxpayer."
Major tax-prep chains H&R Block and Jackson Hewitt say they support the new regulations, and that their companies' requirements surpass what the federal government will impose.
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Auctiva staff writers constantly monitor trends and best practices of those selling on eBay and elsewhere online. They attend relevant training seminars and trade shows and regularly discuss the market with PowerSellers and other market experts.