There’s no start date yet but the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is already gearing up for what’s certain to be a difficult tax season. Noting that the current Tax Code is “very complex,” made more complicated in 2014 with additional FATCA (Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act) and ACA (Affordable Care Act) provisions, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen says that many taxpayers may opt for a tax professional this season. With an uptick in complexity and an increase in scams directed at taxpayers, it is, he says, “more important than ever to choose wisely.”
Last week, Commissioner Koskinen held a press conference with input from representatives from the National Association of Enrolled Agents; the National Society of Tax Professionals; the National Association of Tax Professionals; the National Society of Accountants; the National Conference of CPA Practitioners; The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants; The American Association of Attorney-Certified Public Accountants; and The Council for Electronic Revenue Communication Advancement to discuss tax preparation options available to taxpayers. With respect to the pros, Commissioner Koskinen said, “Tax professionals are a vital link with American taxpayers, and without them we could not run the nation’s tax system.”
To assist taxpayers, IRS has created a new partner page on its website which explains information about various organizations that may be able to provide tax preparation services. The page is not intended to endorse any particular group of preparers but is, instead, intended to educate taxpayers about tax preparation options. Commissioner Koskinen said, about the page, “We want taxpayers to understand the different types and categories of tax return preparers available to help them with their tax issues.”
This page is not a directory of tax preparers: that directory isn’t yet available.
The much-discussed directory will include those professionals who have registered with the IRS and have a valid Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). With the new directory, taxpayers can search and sort for tax preparers by name, city, state and zip. In addition to the usual suspects (CPAs, attorneys, Enrolled Actuaries and Enrolled Agents), the directory will also include those taxpayers with the newest designation, the Annual Filing Season Program (AFSP). The AFSP is a voluntary and temporary program which offers a recognizable record of completion for tax preparers who (similar to those required for the former Registered Tax Return Preparer (RTRP) designation); requirements for the program consist of 18 hours of continuing education, including a six hour federal tax law refresher course with test.
Expect the directory to be up and running to coincide with the start of tax season in January 2015.
Of course, not all taxpayers will opt for a tax professional this year. Just over more than half of taxpayers opt to use a tax professional at tax time. Others may self-prepare or use tax software. This season may be a little daunting for some taxpayers, however, including those with ACA issues such as related tax credits or exemptions or those who need to make a payment because they could afford to buy health insurance but chose not to. That should be a relatively small percentage of taxpayers: most taxpayers will simply check a box on their federal income tax return to indicate they had health coverage.
No matter which option you select, Commissioner Koskinen offers, choose wisely.
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