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Break out those checkbooks: the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has announced the annual Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) fees for 2021. Fees are $21 fee per PTIN application or renewal, plus a $14.95 fee payable to a contractor. According to the IRS, the third-party contractor fee pays for several functions, including processing applications, renewals, and operating a call center.

All current PTINs will expire on December 31, 2020. If you don’t have a PTIN for the 2021 tax season, you may not prepare tax returns for compensation. If you don’t have a valid PTIN, you may be subject to section 6695 penalties, injunction, and disciplinary action by the IRS Office of Professional Responsibility.

Any tax professional who prepares or helps prepare any federal tax return, or claim for refund, for compensation must have a valid PTIN from the IRS. Some forms which are used for informational purposes, like forms SS-4 and 2848, are excluded, as well as specific information returns, like forms W-2 and 1099. You can see the entire list of excluded forms and returns here.

Taxpayers should avoid paid preparers who refuse to include a PTIN on a tax return. That might happen because the paid preparer isn’t eligible for a PTIN or because they don’t want to be responsible for the return. Either way, it’s bad news. Those who set up shop and refuse to get a PTIN are sometimes called ghost preparers or black market preparers (for more, click here). Seek out a competent tax preparer who will answer your questions and sign your tax return. You can also check the IRS public directory to find a listing of preparers in your area who currently hold professional credentials recognized by the IRS or who hold an Annual Filing Season Program Record of Completion.

The IRS estimates that more than 800,000 tax return preparers will apply for or renew a PTIN this year.

If you thought that the IRS had stopped charging PTIN fees, you’re right. There’s some history there. The IRS did try to regulate tax preparers, and the matter did go to court. In Loving v. IRS, 742 F.3d 1013 (D.C. Cir. 2014), the IRS’ efforts to license preparers were struck down, but the PTIN rules stuck. 

(You can find out more about Loving here.)

Shortly after the ruling, a class-action suit was filed on behalf of tax professionals who paid PTIN fees before the Loving verdict. Those tax professionals alleged that they should not have been required to pay the fees. The court agreed, ruling that the IRS could require the use of PTINs but could not charge fees for them “because this would be equivalent to imposing a regulatory licensing scheme and the IRS does not have such regulatory authority.” In the ruling, the IRS was barred from charging PTIN fees and ordered to provide a full refund of all PTIN fees paid – worth more than $175 million.

(You can read about the class action suit here.)

The IRS, of course, appealed, and the matter went back to court. It was argued in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on May 11, 2018. While the case was pending, the IRS did not charge PTIN fees.

In 2019, the court ruled that the IRS does have the authority to charge PTIN fees (Montrois, No. 17-5204 (D.C. Cir. 3/1/19)). In the ruling, the court vacated the district court’s opinion, which means that the lower court’s judgment is no longer valid. That opens the door for the IRS to reinstate those PTIN fees – which they did. It also means, for now, no PTIN refunds. The case is ongoing.

(You can read the opinion as a PDF here.)

You can read the final regulations setting the fees – slated to be published on July 17 – here.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has released the seminar schedule for the 2020 IRS Nationwide Tax Forums.

Due to COVID-19 and related restrictions, the forums will be held online this year – as opposed to the in-person events in prior years. The series will begin on July 21, 2020, and continue through August 20, 2020, with sessions held on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. Here’s the lineup:

 Date11 a.m. – noon EDT2 p.m. – 3 p.m. EDT
Tuesday, July 21Advocating for Immigrant TaxpayersKeynote Address
Wednesday, July 22Advocating for Taxpayers with Collection Information StatementsCharities & Tax-Exempt Organizations Update
Thursday, July 23The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015’s Centralized Partnership Audit RegimeBe Tax Ready – Understanding Eligibility Rules for EITC, AOTC, CTC and Head of Household Filing Status
  
Tuesday, July 28Tax Security Panel: The Taxes-Security-Together ChecklistCybersecurity for Tax Professionals – Advanced Session
Wednesday, July 29Diligence in Practice before the IRS: Record-KeepingElectronic Payments and Direct Deposits – New Options
Thursday, July 30Federal Ethics for the Tax Professionals: Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) and Circular 230Impact of Non-filing and Non-payment
   
Tuesday, Aug. 4IRS Key Enforcement IssuesKeys to Mastering Due Diligence Requirements and Audits
Wednesday, Aug. 5Other Income: Taxable or Not?Preparation of Form 1040-NR, U.S. Nonresident Alien Income Tax Return
Thursday, Aug. 6Protect Yourself and Your Clients Against A New Wave of CriminalsTaxpayer Planning Issues After the Enactment of the 2019 Disaster Act and Secure Act
   
Tuesday, Aug. 11Representing the Taxpayer Without Records, Reconstructing Income and ExpensesTax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) Update: Opportunity Zones
Wednesday, Aug. 12Retirement Plan Distributions, Loans and MoreTax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) Update: Qualified Business Income Deduction
Thursday, Aug. 13QBI Problems? We Have Solutions!Update from the IRS Independent Office of Appeals
Tuesday, Aug. 18Currency: Virtual, Digital, Cyber, Crypto, Form 1040, Schedule 1 and How to ReportWorker Classification Issues – Hiring Freelancers Is Never Free and It May Cost You A Lot, Too
Wednesday, Aug. 19Créditos Reembolsables (Spanish session)Construya su Plan de Seguridad de Datos para sus Contribuyentes (Spanish session)
Thursday, Aug. 20Tax Changes from a Forms PerspectiveCambios Tributarios desde la Perspectiva de Formularios (Spanish Session)

You can earn up to 30 continuing education credits when you register.

The early-bird registration deadline has been extended to June 30 at 5 p.m. EDT. You can save $49 if you register by the deadline (you’ll pay $240 compared to the standard rate of $289). Register at www.irstaxforum.com.

If you previously registered for the live locations, you can transfer your registration to the virtual format at no additional cost, or request a refund (you have to do this by June 30).

The law firm of Kostelanetz & Fink has announced that registration is now open for this year’s NYU Tax Controversy Forum, which will be held on Thursday and Friday, June 18 and 19, 2020 as an online webinar featuring senior IRS personnel. The entire program will be provided free of charge.

The program will consist of 2-3 hours of panels each on Thursday, June 18, and Friday, June 19 via Zoom webinar.

This year’s Forum will feature updates on what the IRS is doing to enhance compliance through communication and enforcement. Panels will highlight the new IRS focus on intra-agency collaboration, new initiatives with respect to penalties and fraud referrals, and IRS’ handling of tax collection. Speakers will include an array of distinguished senior IRS personnel, including:

  • Erin Collins, Esq., National Taxpayer Advocate, Internal Revenue Service
  • Michael J. Desmond, Esq., Chief Counsel, Internal Revenue Service
  • Don Fort, Chief, Criminal Investigation Division, Internal Revenue Service
  • Darren Guillot, Deputy Commissioner, Small Business/Self Employed Division, Internal Revenue Service
  • Eric Hylton, Commissioner, Small Business/Self-Employed Division, Internal Revenue Service
  • Andrew Keyso, Chief, Independent Office of Appeals, Internal Revenue Service
  • Sunita Lough, Esq., Deputy Commissioner for Services and Enforcement, Internal Revenue Service
  • Paul Mamo, Director of Collection, Small Business/Self-Employed Division, Internal Revenue Service 
  • Brendan O’Dell, Coordinator, Promoter Investigations Coordinator, Office of the Deputy Commissioner, Services and Enforcement, Internal Revenue Service, Washington, D.C. 
  • Douglas O’Donnell, Commissioner, Large Business and International Division, Internal Revenue Service.
  • Tamera Ripperda, Commissioner, Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division, Internal Revenue Service 
  • Damon Rowe, Executive Director, Fraud Enforcement Office, Small Business and Self-Employed Division, Internal Revenue Service 

TAX CONTROVERSY FORUM CO-CHAIRS

  • Bryan C. Skarlatos, Esq., Partner, Kostelanetz & Fink, New York, NY 
  • Armando Gomez, Esq., Partner, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, Washington, DC

The Forum’s Planning Committee, which includes Forum founder and Kostelanetz & Fink partner Bryan Skarlatos, and the New York University’s School of Professional Services, has decided to offer this program remotely via Zoom webinar in order to ensure the health and safety of conference attendees and panelists during the COVID-19 pandemic.

You can register at http://www.cvent.com/events/12th-annual-tax-controversy-forum-webinar-sessions/event-summary-1ccc89ce43ca4d66b131cb08c90eec37.aspx

Each year, the NYU School of Professional Studies Tax Controversy Forum brings together representatives from the government and expert private practitioners to compare perspectives on a variety of topics involving federal tax audits, appeals, and litigation. The forum covers a wide range of controversy work, from procedural seminars to substantive programs, international issues, ethical problems, current enforcement initiatives, sensitive audits, and civil and criminal tax penalties.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has announced that the 2020 IRS Nationwide Tax Forums will go virtual in 2020. The agency will be hosting a series of live-streamed webinars beginning this July.

“Given restrictions on large gatherings and difficulties with travel, we’ve made the decision to present the IRS Nationwide Tax Forums in a virtual format this year,” IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said. “While we’re unable to meet in person, tax professionals will still be able to choose from a wide variety of virtual seminars on tax law. Many will be able to fully satisfy their annual continuing education requirements by registering and attending.”

The IRS Nationwide Tax Forums allow the IRS to reach out to the tax professional community. The 2020 forums were scheduled to take place in six cities around the country this summer. Those in-person events are canceled.

However, the change to a virtual format allows experts from the IRS and its association partners to still educate and update the tax professional community on tax law, cybersecurity, ethics, and other topics. There will be a plenary session with tax law and publications update, as well as multiple sessions on high-interest topics such as qualified business income, exam and enforcement priorities, due diligence, cybersecurity, and more. Presentations are made by both IRS experts and partner associations.

I’m not gonna lie. I’m pretty excited. I mean, I’m not thrilled about the circumstances, but the virtual format offers the chance for folks like me who usually can’t make it to the forums to attend online. My summers are generally packed with summer camps and other kid-related events. Getting away to attend a professional event can be challenging: now, I don’t have to.

The 2020 Nationwide Tax Forums will begin on July 21 and continue through August 20 with live-streamed webinars broadcast on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. Registration entitles you to participate in all of the live webinars and earn up to 30 Continuing Education (CE) credits for just one price. 

Y este año, se ofrecerán varios seminarios (incluida la sesión plenaria) en español.

Tax professionals who register by June 15 at 5 p.m. ET qualify for an Early Bird rate of $240 per person. The standard rate, starting June 16, will be $289. Registration information, as well as information on transfers and cancelations, is available at www.IRSTaxForum.com.

Members of partner associations listed below qualify for a discount of $10 off the Early Bird rate, but only if they register by June 15. Participating association members should contact their association directly for more information:

 • American Bar Association (ABA) Section of Taxation

 • American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA)

 • National Association of Enrolled Agents (NAEA)

 • National Association of Tax Professionals (NATP)

 • National Society of Accountants (NSA)

 • National Society of Tax Professionals (NSTP)

 • Low Income Taxpayer Clinics (LITC)

 • Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA)

More details, including course titles, dates, and times, will be available beginning in early June.

Wondering what registrations will get you? Check out these presentations from past forums:

 • IRS PowerPoint Presentations from 2019 Tax Forums

 • IRS PowerPoint Presentations from 2018 Tax Forums

There’s so much happening now. Here’s where you can find information on how COVID-19 is affecting tax returns and, of course, those stimulus checks.

Got questions about stimulus checks? I’ve got answers. There are separate pieces for high school seniors and college students, as well as seniors (seniors piece is updated here).

IRS has pushed filing deadlines to July 15. Not all state and local tax authorities are following the feds. If you’re looking for updates on local and state tax authority closings and extensions, you’ll find those here.

If you’re looking for a summary of the CARES Act, you can find it here.

All local Social Security offices will be closed to the public for in-person service starting Tuesday, March 17, 2020. According to the Social Security Administration, “This decision protects the population we serve—older Americans and people with underlying medical conditions—and our employees during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.” You can find out more here.

IRS is closing down some operations. The upside is that they’re offering some relief, too. You can find those details here.

Finally, if you’d like to help out, there are many organizations offering services during the crisis.

PLEASE DON’T LEAVE QUESTIONS IN THE COMMENTS! I may not see them. Best to ask here.

Have a Tax Court matter? If you’ve clicked over to the Tax Court web site lately, you’ve likely seen this:

It reads:

The U.S. Tax Court would like to assure the public that the Court is following recommended guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with respect to the COVID-19 Virus. For more information, click here.

So how do these measures affect taxpayers and tax professionals? Here’s what the Court says:

  • Effective March 9, 2020, and until further notice, out of an abundance of caution, the Court is encouraging social distancing and will therefore limit the number of people in the courtroom at any one time.
  • If you are required to appear in Court and are experiencing any flu like symptoms, have a fever, or are coughing or sneezing, please contact the Court before appearing. The Court will make reasonable accommodations and reschedule appearances, hearings, and trials as needed.
  • If you have recently traveled from an area with widespread or ongoing community spread of COVID-19 and you have symptoms of the disease (fever, cough, shortness of breath) reach out to your healthcare provider for details on how to proceed with proper medical care.

The Court also advises you to check with the CDC, WHO, and to monitor the Court’s website for updates.

Taxpayers are often quick to complain about customer service issues. Now, the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel (TAP) is seeking volunteers who are willing to help the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) identify ways to improve customer service and satisfaction. 

TAP was established in 2002 under the authority of the Department of the Treasury. It’s a Federal Advisory Committee made up of approximately 75 volunteers representing all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico (the Puerto Rico member represents the interests of U.S. taxpayers living overseas, including dual citizens, who must meet U.S. tax obligations). These volunteers generally spend between 200 and 300 hours per year on member activities that further TAP’s mission to improve the IRS.

You can check the list of current TAP volunteers here.

TAP listens to taxpayers, identifies taxpayers’ issues, and makes suggestions for improving IRS service and customer satisfaction. After TAP submits a recommendation, IRS program areas review the proposal and implement it if appropriate and feasible.

Sound like something you’d be good at tackling? TAP is looking for members to serve on the 2021 panel. TAP will begin accepting applications on February 18, 2020. 

To be selected for TAP, you must be a citizen of the United States of America and current with all federal tax obligations. You’ll also have to pass an FBI fingerprint and background check. You must have access to and use of a computer with Internet, e-mail, and word processing capability, and be willing and able to travel to attend TAP meetings several times during the year (be prepared to fund reimbursable travel expenses – except airfare). 

There are some dealbreakers, too. You may not be a federally registered lobbyist, and you may not be a Department of Treasury or IRS employee. 

Since 2002, TAP submitted 2,039 recommendations to the IRS. In 2018, TAP provided 152 recommendations to the IRS; you can read more details in the TAP 2018 Annual Report.

To sign up to receive an alert when TAP begins accepting applications, please visit www.improveirs.org.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my websiteKelly Phillips Erb

Years ago, I found myself sitting in law school in Moot Court wearing an oversized itchy blue suit. It was a horrible experience. In a desperate attempt to avoid anything… Read More

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With tax season in full swing, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has issued a reminder to taxpayers to avoid unethical “ghost” tax return preparers.

A ghost preparer is a paid tax preparer who isn’t on the IRS’ radar because he or she doesn’t have a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). And to stay hidden, a ghost preparer will take money from a taxpayer to prepare a tax return but not sign the return which means that, to the IRS, the return appears to be self-prepared. For e-filed returns, the ghost will prepare but refuse to digitally sign as the paid preparer.

By law, anyone who is paid to prepare or assists in preparing federal tax returns must have a valid PTIN. Paid tax preparers are supposed to sign and include their PTIN on the taxpayer’s return. But some tax preparers do not, often because they don’t want to be responsible for the consequences. Those preparers are referred to in the business as ghost preparers or black market preparers.

Ghost preparers tend to set up shop around tax time, usually as a short time rental in a busy area, or a community gathering place like a church. They tout “big and fast” tax refunds to taxpayers, almost always in combination with a refund anticipation type loans. They advertise low fees to get taxpayers in the door, but the costs for other services, like refund loans, which are tied to the size of a refund, quickly add up. The result? Incentives to cheat, including reporting bogus Head of Household filing status, inflated Earned Income Tax Credits, made-up education credits, and fabricated business expenses.

Here’s what those taxpayers don’t realize: The potential for audit in these cases is high since those missteps are IRS targets.

By the time the behavior catches up with the taxpayer, the tax preparer is often out of the picture. He or she won’t return calls if the tax preparer had even provided a number. In almost every case, the taxpayer braves any audit on their own. There is no documentation and no real excuses. The result? Refund repayments. Tax obligations. Penalties. Interest. And a financial mess.

No matter who prepares the return, the IRS urges taxpayers to review it carefully and ask questions before signing. Taxpayers should verify their routing and bank account numbers on the tax return for any direct deposit refund (ghost preparers may try to include their own bank account information instead).

The IRS urges taxpayers to choose a tax return preparer wisely. Find a competent tax preparer who will answer your questions and sign your tax return. You can also check the IRS directory to find a list of tax preparers in your area who currently hold professional credentials recognized by the IRS or an Annual Filing Season Program Record of Completion.

There was a lot of tax talk in 2019 – especially on social media. From Bitcoin to stretch IRAs to tax refunds, Twitter streams were filled with news, links, and best practices focused on tax.

Twitter is an easy way to find out what’s happening in the tax world – for tax professionals, taxpayers and tax geeks. You can join in with live twitter chats or simply look for hashtags like #IRS, #taxtwitter and #womenintax. Or, you can follow some of the folks who are most engaged in sharing tax news and information. To get started, check out the top 100 must-follow tax Twitter accounts for 2020:

IRS* (Twitter list):

  1. @IRSnews – IRS – IRS news and guidance for the public, press and practitioners. 
  2. @YourVoiceAtIRS – Taxpayer Advocate – The Taxpayer Advocate Service is your voice at the IRS.  
  3. @IRStaxpros – IRS – IRS news and guidance for tax professionals. IRS does not collect comments or messages on this site.
  4. @IRStaxsecurity – IRS Tax Security

Forbes Tax Writers & Regular Contributors (Twitter list):Today In: Taxes

  1. @ashleaebeling – Ashlea Ebeling – Associate Editor, Forbes
  2. @janetnovack – Janet Novack – Forbes Washington Bureau Chief & Personal Finance Editor / I follow tax, budget and retirement policy & planning.
  3. @nittiaj – Tony Nitti – tax guy @rubinbrownllp. writer @forbes. Tax Prof @uofdenver. Don’t blame me, I voted for Kodos.
  4. @peterreillycpa – Peter Reilly – We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection.

Tax-Related Orgs (Twitter list):

  1. @ABATaxSection – ABA Tax Section – The ABA Section of Taxation
  2. @AICPA – AICPA – The official Twitter account of the American Institute of CPAs
  3. @NATPTAX – NATP – The National Association of Tax Professionals (NATP) serves professionals through tax education, research, updates, publications and office supplies.
  4. @NSAtax – NSA – National Society of Accountants (NSA) is the association for Main Street tax and accounting professionals.
  5. @Tax_Experts – NAEA – NAEA is the membership organization advocating for America’s Tax Experts®. Use #EnrolledAgents to join the conversation with tax professionals.
  6. @WomenInTax – Women in Tax – Women In Tax is a network for women working in tax – in the profession, in-house, academia, HMRC, NGOs or anywhere else. Tweets currently by @hselftax

Tax Professionals, Firms & Companies (Twitter list):

  1. @AlloyCPAs – Alloy Silverstein – Empowering businesses with accounting, tax & advisory services since 1959 | Best of Accounting 2019 Award Winner | #Xero Partner | Managing Partner @RenCicalese
  2. @AmieKCPA – Amie K – Iowa tax girl • Came for the TaxTwitter, stayed for the sarcasm and gifs • Your weird is your strength.
  3. @Aprilshowerstax – April Walker – #AICPA Lead Manager- Tax Practice & Ethics Team | #CPA | #UNC Tarheel | Wife & mom to a mini me and 2 fur babies | Proud #IMMT finisher | Views are mine
  4. @Avalara – Avalara – Tax compliance done right. Cloud-based solution for various transactional taxes, including sales and use, VAT, excise, communications, and other tax types.
  5. @BDO_USA_Tax – BDO USA Tax – Our professionals help companies and individuals navigate complex tax issues. A 2019 @Forbes Must-Follow Tax Twitter Feed.
  6. @BrandonHarbeke – Brandon Harbeke, CPA – Tax CPA specializing in partnerships and corporations; sci-fi watcher and reader; classical and country music listener
  7. @BrightTax – Greg Dewald – CEO of Bright!Tax, the go-to cloud based US tax services firm for the 9m Americans living overseas. Expat Tax Provider of the Year. Forbes Top 100 Tax Tweeters.
  8. @bstonercpa – Brian Stoner, CPA – Award-Winning CPA; Forbes 2019 top 100 Twitter Tax Acct; Quoted on MarketWatch CNBC & CNN; #TaxPlanning & #TaxPrep for Small Business! Laker Ram & Dodger fan!
  9. @CariWestonCPA – Cari Weston – Living my life, finding my passion, learning and leading…
  10. @cbriancpa – Brian Streig, CPA – CPA focusing on tax planning, compliance, start-ups & entrepreneurs. Plus tweets about Austin, TX, food and my puppy. 
  11. @DebFoxFinancial – Deborah Fox CPA – Strategic Tax Planning. Startups. ProForma Financials. Cash Flow.
  12. @DonnaLCPA – Donna Laubscher – Tax CPA, especially fond of Form 1040; avid outside-of-tax-season reader, live theater, baseball & football spectator; iced tea addict (hydrate in the desert)
  13. @edzollars – Ed Zollars, CPA – Tax CPA & CPE Lecturer for Kaplan Financial Education. Author of material on Current Federal Tax Developments website.
  14. @HowardGinsberg – Howard Ginsberg, CPA, Tax, Financial & Accounting Services. Wealth Management. Forbes Top Must Follow Tax List. Voted Best of Long Island.
  15. @JodyPadarCPA – Jody Padar, CPA – Tax Quickbooks CPA Adjunct Professor Xero Firm Partner Sage Networker MACPA Professional Speaker Accounting Today Freshbooks The Radical CPA
  16. @joebwan – Joe Kristan – Tax guy. Former proprietor, Tax Update Blog. Currently with Eide Bailly LLP. Views are mine (who else would want them?)
  17. @JPorterCPA – Jeffrey A. Porter, CPA – Tax Practitioner, Tax policy aficionado, Past Chair—AICPA Tax Executive Committee, Past Chair—AICPA Tax Reform Task Force & fan of Kiawah Island
  18. @JustinMillerEsq – Justin Miller – Bad tax jokes and even worse puns. National Strategist at BNY Mellon, Adjunct Professor at GGU Law, and ACTEC Fellow. Tweets ≠ legal or tax advice.
  19. @kerryfreemanea – Kerry Freeman, EA – Tax Professional, Member of National Association of EAs, Arizona Society of EAs and owner of Freeman Income Tax Service in Anthem, AZ. Licensed by U.S. Treasury
  20. @LoganGrafTax – The Tax TeleGraf with Logan Graf, CPA. Pioneering the tax landscape one tweet at a time.
  21. @LTWLAW – Tax return preparation. Email now to get started! Ltw@LtwLaw.com
  22. @lypierceCPA – Lykethia Pierce, CPA – CEO of Pierce, CPA & Advisors| Check out what I have a flair for (e.g., accounting, business, sunsets, life…)| Phone no. (205) 370-4508/@AuthenticCPA
  23. @MelindaNCPA– Melinda Nelson, CPA – CPA, explainer of all things tax, mom of 3, musical theater geek, fan of soccer & Iowa State basketball, just an Iowa girl at heart.
  24. @MissTaxCat – Jina Etienne – #Speaker, trainer & facilitator engaging with passion, clarity & humor | Accounting Today #Top100 2016 – 2018 | #CPA with personality 
  25. @NathanPClark – Nathan Clark – Tax geek, beer consumer, dog lover, boardgamer, runner. Prone to extreme sarcasm and dry humor. Opinions are my own.
  26. @NayoCarterGray – Nayo Carter-Gray, EA – Savvy virtual Accountant by day who loves a corny joke, funky glasses, and is passionate about financial literacy…
  27. @raniacombs – Rania Combs – Attorney with a completely web-based law firm who helps Texans prepare their wills, trusts and estate plans online, without the usual overhead.
  28. @Roberg Tax – Jan Roberg – I specialize in individual and small business (one or two owner) taxes.  she/her
  29. @RobKovacev – Rob Kovacev – Tax attorney, DOJ alum. #Tax controversy & taxation of #innovation/#AI/#robotics. Forbes Top 100 #TaxTwitter to Follow. Views my own.
  30. @RyanLEllis – Tax lobbyist/preparer. Prez of @CFEconomy. Go @patriots@examiner contributor. Freedom/fiscal, paleo/foreign, Catholic/social. Senate unconfirmable. DMs open.
  31. @SalesTaxInst – Sales Tax Institute – Sales & use tax news, education, and expert training • Forbes Top 100 Tax Twitter Accounts For 2019 • Fearless leader: @YetterTax – the original #salestaxnerd
  32. @ShaunHunley – Shaun Hunley – Sketch comedian turned tax attorney and author (not a stretch). Click for my latest thoughts.
  33. @ShaynaCPA – Shayna Chapman – CPA.CITP, CGMA, Tech addict. Forward thinker. Smiler. Mom. Trying to control my addiction to chocolate chip cookies. 
  34. @SylviaDionCPA – Sylvia F. Dion -Founder-Managing Partner State #Tax Advisory Firm, #CPA#EconomicNexus Guru, #SALT #SalesTax Blogger, Happy Mom, Passionate Cook, PROUD Mexican-American LATINA
  35. @TallyCPA – Adam Watson – Husband, Dad and Stepdad, CPA (tax guy), nerd, knitter, Gator fan, and a big fan of my adopted hometown of Tally. Him/He.
  36. @TaxBuzzOnline – TaxBuzz.com – Forbes Top 100 #TaxTwitter to Follow. Get #tax & #accounting help from highly-rated professionals. Easy & free service for individuals & #smallbusiness.
  37. @taxguru – Amit Chandel CPA CTC – Certified Tax Planner/Exit Strategies/Tax Resolution
  38. @TaxHatchet – Brent A. Auberry – Attorney, Faegre Baker Daniels, focusing on State & Local Tax, Sec., American Property Tax Counsel (Tweets are my own & not legal advice; RTs not endorsements)
  39. @TaxJar – Tax Jar – Making sales tax compliance simple for more than 20,000 online businesses & developers
  40. @TaxPro10018 – Patrick Murphy -Enrolled Agent. Forty-four years of tax professional experience.  2019 Forbes Top 100 Tax Twitter Account
  41. @taxtherapist505 – Amber Gray-Fenner, EA – Easing tax pain and providing peace of mind! I read; I write; I knit; I solve tax problems. I take my business seriously. Myself? Not so much. (she/her)
  42. @TheSETaxGuy – Tyrone Gregory, The Self-Employed Tax Guy – On a mission to save the Self-Employed and creator of the Self-Employed Tax Academy Online Course. Go ahead… shamelessly steal a copy of my ‘Cheat Sheet’:
  43. @TropicalTax – Jerry Gaddis, EA, MBA – Founder/CEO Tropical Tax Solutions: Founded in Paradise, Serving Clients Everywhere | #EnrolledAgent | @DaveRamsey ELP | @Forbes Must-Follow Tax Account
  44. @VertexInc. – Vertex – The official Twitter account of Vertex, Inc. the company that allows you to unleash the strategic power of tax.
  45. @VLJeker – V. La Torre Jeker – US Tax – Dubai since 2001. NYS Bar 35 yrs; admitted US Tax Court. US/int’l tax planning, expatriation, FATCA. Forbes Top 100 Tax Twitter Account 2017-2019

Tax Writers, Bloggers & Gurus (Twitter list):

  1. @alexparkerDC – Alex Parker – Taxsplainer for @Law360. Fan of Purdue, Butler, Colts, Pacers, Indians & free thinkers. Views here are my own, or Batman’s. Retweets are endorphins.
  2. @BillSheridan – Bill Sheridan – Cuba, NY, native. University at Buffalo alum. Adopted son of Baltimore and St. Louis. Not a CPA, but I play one on TV. EOS implementer, speaker, author, writer.
  3. @CentristinIdaho – David Morse – Tax Policy Director @cpa_tradereform; Total Geek. Forbes Top 100 #TaxTwitter to Follow 2019 and 2018. All opinions are my own. RT not endorsement
  4. @CPA_Trendlines – Rick Telberg – Live links to breaking news for tax, accounting and finance professionals. Upgrade to premium and start profiting today  
  5. @Darla_Mercado – Darla Mercado, CFP – Reporter, @CNBC‘s personal finance team. Mom. CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™. Triathlete. A regular shmegular degular girl from The Bronx. 
  6. @dashching – Chye-Ching Huang – Tax, budget, economy, law, policy. US & NZ. Director Federal Fiscal Policy @CenteronBudget. Tweets not about US fiscal policy aren’t for CBPP.
  7. @jberryjohnson – Janet Berry-Johnson – I’m Janet Berry-Johnson. Freelance writer and CPA. Contributor at Forbes, Credit Karma, FreshBooks, Magnify Money, Accounting Principals & more.
  8. @JoeTaxpayerBlog – Joe Taxpayer – Father, Husband, Puppy Person, Friend, Financial Blogger, in that order, mostly. Likes are good, ReTweets are Great!
  9. @LenBurman – Len Burman – Father, grandfather, @taxpolicycenter cofounder, Syracuse University prof. For fun, I cycle, cook, and sing. Retweets≠endorsement.
  10. @M_SullivanTax – Martin Sullivan – Chief Economist, Tax Analysts. Former Treasury, JCT staff. Grateful for bio by Steven Pearlstein.
  11. @ManasaSogNadig – Manasa Sogal Nadig – Enrolled Agent&Chief at MNTaxBiz;Tax Geek & Blogger at ;Mom&Wife @ Chez Nadig;Forbes Top 100 #TaxTwitter Accounts 2018 & 2019
  12. @MariaKoklanaris – Maria Koklanaris – Senior tax correspondent @Law360. Steelers fanatic. Proud Penn Stater. Tweets mine only. RTs not endorsements #Ijustmetagirlnamed #Howdoyousolveaproblemlike
  13. @njagoda – Naomi Jagoda – Tax reporter @thehill@Penn alum. N.Y. native. My last name is pronounced like Pagoda with a J.
  14. @NKaeding – Nicole Kaeding – Vice President of Policy Promotion & Economist @NTUF. Mom. Wife. Federal and state fiscal policy wonk. Views expressed are my own.
  15. @RenuZ – Renu Zaretsky (Tax Hound) – #TaxHound and #DailyDeduction writer @TaxPolicyCenter. Indian-American wife, parent to 2 kids, 1 Scottish Deerhound. Views mine alone, RTs not endorsements
  16. @RichardRubinDC – Richard Rubin – I cover U.S. tax policy for the @WSJ. There is ALWAYS a tax angle. Retweets are not endorsements or tax advice.
  17. @Saunderswsj – Laura Saunders – I write about taxes for The Wall Street Journal
  18. @SoongJohnston – Stephanie Johnston – Chief correspondent, @TaxNotes Today International, ex-fashion editor, @MedillSchool MSJ06. stephanie.johnston@taxnotes.org RTs≠endorsements
  19. @TaxAddict – Tracy Shannon Levey – All Things #Tax#Accounting & #Finance. Forbes Top 100 #Tax Twitter to Follow 2019. Co-Founder Parker Tax Publishing. Opinions are my own.
  20. @TaxMama – TaxMama® – Award winning author – Top 100 accountant and tax blog – dean of TaxMama’s® #EnrolledAgent (EA) Time for Self-Study! 
  21. @taxmOuth – Free Tax Help – Tax help, answers, tips and news from federal and state tax officials, gurus, experts & authors for CPAs, tax attorneys and other tax pros. #taxes #tax #IRS
  22. @taxtweet – Kay Bell – Native Texan. #Tax blogger. Journalist. @Astros & @Cowboys fan. Birder. Wife. Order subject to change. Tax scoop at Don’t Mess With Taxes (link below).

Media, Publishers, Networks and Think Tanks (Twitter list):

  1. @AccountingToday – Accounting Today – Accounting Today, a SourceMedia brand, is the independent news and information resource for tax and accounting professionals.
  2. @Bloombergtax – Bloomberg Tax – The best access to expert analysis, primary sources, practitioner-developed tools, & technology for planning/compliance. | Follow our journalists & news: @tax
  3. @OECDTax – Latest #tax news & data from the #OECD Centre for Tax Policy and Administration. Follow our senior leadership @PSaintAmans & @GPerezinParis
  4. @Tax – Bloomberg Tax – Leading source of accounting & tax news #TaxTwitter 
  5. @Tax_Alerts – Tax Alerts – News and guidance covering all Tax issues – corporate, personal. Written by the nation’s leading tax lawyers for CPAs, financial planners, etc. A @JDSupra feed.
  6. @taxfoundation – Tax Foundation – America’s leading tax policy resource, informing smarter tax policy at the federal, state, and global levels since 1937.
  7. @TaxNotes – Tax Notes – Your #1 source for everything tax. News, commentary, analysis. Nonprofit, nonpartisan organization. #letstalktax
  8. @TaxPolicyCenter – Tax Policy Center – Independent, timely, accessible analyses of current and emerging tax policy issues. (Links/RTs/favorites/follows/etc. are not endorsements.)

Tax Professors and Other Learned Tax Geeks (Twitter List):

  1. @BW_Johnson – Ben Johnson – Associate Dean/ Accounting Professor @UEBusiness. Tax guy. I live life in a highly caffeinated state.
  2. @book_leslie – Leslie Book – Villanova Law Prof. Tax,poverty law and tax procedure/admin Author: Saltzman & Book, IRS Practice & Procedure.
  3. @EOTaxProf – Philip Hackney – #TaxProf, fmr DC IRS chief counsel atty, fmr Baker Botts atty; #nonprofits, IRS, public policy, tax, campaign finance, #darkmoney, Art Law; #LawProf @Pittlaw
  4. @JudithFreedman – Judith Freedman – Oxford Professor of Tax Law, British Tax Review editor, school governor, grandmother of 4. Here in personal capacity, not representing views of any organisation
  5. @lilybatch – Lily Batchelder – Robert C. Kopple Family Professor of Taxation at @nyulaw. Former Deputy Director @WhiteHouse NEC; former Chief Tax Counsel @SenateFinance.
  6. @Narfnampil – Francine Lipman – Tax & poverty law prof/CPA & lawyer4tax-justice at Boyd Law School @UNLVLaw @UNLVLawLITC @surlysubgroup & NVTaxCommissioner All views&comments are solely my own
  7. @ProfAfield – Ted Afield – Director, Philip C. Cook Low Income Taxpayer Clinic and Mark and Evelyn Trammell Associate Clinical Professor of Law, @GeorgiaStateLaw@GSULawClinics
  8. @ProfRuthMason – Ruth Mason – Tax professor at UVA Law. I write on U.S. state and EU taxation.
  9. @realtimtodd – Tim Todd – Assoc Dean for Academic Affairs & Law Professor (@LibertyLaw @LibertyU) teaching tax, business, & transactional law | @Forbes Contributor
  10. @SeanSteinSmith – Dr Sean Stein Smith – @LehmanCollege Prof, Member @WallStreetBTC Advisory Board, Member @GildedFinance Advisory Board, Author @IBMBlockchain @NJCPA ‘19 Ovation Award @AIER Fellow ‘19
  11. @smbrnsn – Sam Brunson – Georgia Reithal Professor Law, Loyola University Chicago School of Law. Author of God and the IRS,

And don’t forget me: @taxgirl.

To subscribe to all of the accounts in a category, click on the Twitter list link following the category head. Note that the category heads are for convenience – in practice, some folks could fall in more than one category. To subscribe to all 100 Twitter accounts on the list, click here.

Keep in mind that this list is subjective. There’s no fancy algorithm or poll. I don’t count tweets or followers, though I do take into consideration type and timeliness of tweets, as well as engagement. I also target feeds with a clear focus on tax as opposed to finance or economics. The goal is to present a wide range of tax professionals from different parts of the world, offering different perspectives (I’ve even included Cowboys fans).

Each year, I receive emails critiquing and questioning the list. I do take suggestions and the list is constantly changing. And this year, it changed a lot – which is a good thing. If you’ve been on lists in prior years but aren’t on this year, don’t take it personally. This year was extremely tough, since there’s a lot of great information being shared.

One more thing: if you tweet about tax and I’m not following you, please @taxgirl on Twitter and let me know. Additionally, if you are a tax pro and are not included on my Twittering Tax Pro list, please @taxgirl and let me know to add you. Thanks and tweet on.

* The IRS has a number of media spokespersons, including some for individual regions. Here are some of the most active on Twitter:

  • @BillB_IRS – William Brunson – IRS Spokesperson for AZ, MT, NM & UT.
  • @ChristopherIRS – Christopher – IRS Media Relations for Wisconsin, Iowa and Nebraska.
  • @David_IRS – David Tucker – IRS Media Relations – WA, AK, HI, OR and Northern CA.
  • @KC_IRS – Karen Connelly – IRS contact for CO, ID, WY, ND, SD, MN media.
  • @Luis_IRS – Luis Garcia – IRS Spokesman for MI, IN, OH, KY, PA, NH, RI, WV, NC, SC & MD
  • @raphyIRS – raph t – San Diego-based IRS Spokesman for So Cal, SF Bay Area & NV.
  • @MichaelD_IRS – Michael Devine – IRS Media Relations.
  • @IRS_Patricia – Patricia Russomagno – IRS Public Relations Specialist. 
  • @Sanford_IRS – Clay Sanford – IRS Media Relations.

Kelly Erb is a tax attorney and tax writer. For more, check out my About page, like me on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn.

The Justice Department has announced a settlement with Franchise Group Intermediate L 1 LLC, (Liberty), the national franchisor and owner of Liberty Tax Service stores. The settlement, if approved by the court, would resolve a complaint filed with a U.S. District Court in Norfolk, Virginia, by the Justice Department against Liberty.

Liberty is one of the largest tax preparation service providers in the country. According to its annual report filed with the SEC in 2019, Liberty has more than 2,800 franchise and company-owned tax return preparation offices in the United States (Liberty also markets services in Canada). Between 2015 and 2019, Liberty filed approximately 1.3 to 1.9 million tax returns each year through its stores, claiming billions in federal tax refunds on behalf of its customers.

According to the complaint, Liberty failed to maintain adequate controls over tax returns prepared by its franchisees. The company reportedly did not take steps to prevent the filing of potentially false or fraudulent returns prepared by franchisees, despite notice of fraud at some of its franchisee stores.

The government reports that between 2013 and 2018, 10 separate civil law enforcement actions were filed in U.S. District Courts throughout the United States against 12 franchisees of Liberty Tax, or their owners, former owners, or former managers. Judgments were entered in favor of the government in nine of those cases; the tenth, United States v. Doletzky et al., Case No: 8:18-cv-00780-CEH-CPT (M.D. Fla.), is pending.

Where did those franchisees go wrong? At many, the problems were tied to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Since the EITC allows some taxpayers to get a refund in excess of any tax paid into the system, it’s long been associated with fraud: the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) estimates that about a quarter of all EITC refunds are improperly issued.

(You can find out more about the EITC here.)

Liberty Tax franchise and company-owned stores filed a lot of returns for taxpayers claiming the EITC. According to the complaint, for the tax years from 2012 to 2018, approximately 41% of federal income tax returns that Liberty Tax electronically filed with the IRS included an EITC claim, more than double the rate of other returns electronically filed during that period. Those Liberty EITC refunds exceeded $12 billion. 

And remember those court actions mentioned earlier? From 2010 to 2016, employees at those stores claimed false EITC refunds by reporting income that did not exist and ignoring due diligence requirements.

In some cases, the government alleges that Liberty Tax franchisees recruited customers, including the homeless, and then prepared fraudulent federal income tax returns on their behalf. To boost income, they reported fake wages earned from household work (HSH) like housekeeping, babysitting, or gardening.

For example, in 2015, a Liberty Tax Service franchise owned and operated by Kone prepared over 1,000 tax returns that claimed HSH Income and the EITC. The fraudulent tax returns included over 350 tax returns that reported the same amount of HSH Income ($6,400) and over 300 tax returns that each reported precisely $7,200 of HSH Income. 

The government claims that Liberty either knew or should have known about the EITC fraud at its franchise locations, but didn’t try to stop it. Notably, in January of 2014, the company and its CEO at the time, John T. Hewitt, received complaints that franchisees had prepared tax returns with potentially false EITC claims linked to HSH income. Nonetheless, the number of returns claiming HSH income increased. 

The government also says that when the company identified specific EITC violations, it didn’t take steps to curb the abuse. In 2016, Liberty Tax conducted an onsite compliance review of one franchisee and found errors in over 80% of the EITC files. The company gave the franchisee a failing EITC compliance grade but did not terminate him until the government initiated a civil enforcement action in 2018. 

Other improper acts include erroneous dependent claims, false claims for expenses, and fraudulent claims for refundable education credits. There were also reported violations of federal Preparer Tax Identification Number (“PTIN”) regulations, including stores that allowed employees to share PTINS so that employees without PTINs could prepare tax returns.

In 2019, Liberty admitted in its annual report that it “did not maintain effective internal control over financial reporting” and “[t]he control environment, risk assessment, control activities, information and communication, and monitoring controls were not effective.” Still, the government says that the company failed to take sufficient measures to prevent fraud and errors at its stores. In many cases, the complaint alleges that Liberty only terminated franchisees after the United States or other law enforcement agencies took action.

How bad was it? According to the complaint, for tax years from 2012 to 2016, the IRS assessed over 25,000 separate penalties against tax return preparers for tax returns prepared at Liberty franchises and company-owned stores. For tax years from 2012 to 2017, 20,000 of the 28,000 audits of Liberty customer tax returns resulted in changes to correct false or incorrect items reported on each return – a whopping 70%.

Under the settlement, Liberty would be required to take steps to identify and curb abuse going forward. Those steps include a ban on employing the company’s founder and former CEO, John T. Hewitt; Hewitt would also not be allowed to hold an interest in or serve on the board of directors of any Franchise Group of the company.

Liberty would also be required to establish enhanced compliance measures, including training programs and additional resources to monitor, detect, and report non-compliance. The company must also take steps to ensure effective quality control throughout its stores, including conducting onsite compliance reviews and using mystery shoppers. Additionally, the settlement mandates disclosure of any potential violations to the government. 

The high-profile complaint and settlement is an acknowledgment that return preparer fraud is a serious problem – so much so that the IRS included it in its Dirty Dozen Tax Scams for 2019. To protect yourself, use care when choosing a preparer and remember that taxpayers should use only preparers who sign the returns they prepare and enter their IRS Preparer Tax Identification Numbers (PTINs). For hints on finding a tax preparer, click here. For more information about return preparer fraud, check out IR-2019-32.