IRS – Hmmm…… the very mention of this powerful agency stirs all sorts of strong emotions, but most people are unaware of its latest power grab.
So, what is this recent attack on personal freedom? Well, it involves about 300,000 Americans (other than CPAs, attorneys, or enrolled agents) who regularly prepare tax returns for those who choose to hire them. Many of these preparers have been doing this as a profession for many years and are skillful at it. Those who hire them have been mostly satisfied because that choice is their prerogative. After all, this is the American way. Or, at least it has been until recently.
The IRS decided to usurp congressional power by designing a system that would, in effect, put themselves in control of these preparers, who have already paid for an annual license so that the IRS can identify them. That registration is NOT in dispute, but the further requirement to make them pay for annual continuing education courses and to take an exam administered by an outside company to the tune of $116 is way beyond IRS’ jurisdiction, according to The Institute for Justice (IJ), an advocacy group that specializes in defending the Constitutional rights of ordinary Americans. They have taken the case on behalf of three return preparers.
Those of us who have lately become very discouraged with the U.S. justice system have good reason to be elated, at least for the time being. Why? In January, the U.S. District Court in D.C. slapped down the IRS in a great decision protecting the rights of preparers to pursue their profession without harassment. Immediately, the IRS filed a motion to stay the injunction; but because of brilliant work by IJ, the judge again ruled against IRS. Now the case goes to the U.S. Court of Appeals. And so we wait,…..perhaps, all the way to the Supreme Court.
Why is this case so important to all Americans? Well, over the last several years, we have seen various governmental agencies rule by edicts that have forced businesses and individuals to jump through hoops and incur all sorts of outlandish costs. We have witnessed an impotent Congress seemingly unable to do anything about the situation. Now maybe a different picture is emerging.
Also, a very powerful argument, at least in the court of public opinion, is that the IRS would prefer to have return preparers as de facto agents of the IRS and thereby weaken the relationship that preparers have always had with their clients. They have never been representatives of the IRS, and they firmly hold on to their independence. After all, there are already penalty provisions in place for those who commit fraud or otherwise violate the law.
Change may be desirable sometimes; but on this one, let’s keep the status quo.
Photo credit: terrellaftermath