Rubbed the wrong way

The new paid tax preparer regulations and competency examinations have caused quite a stir in the tax preparation community, but most agree that some regulation of tax preparers will be beneficial. However, what has some tax professionals fired up is the list of exemptions for who doesn’t have to pass a competency examination, and Robert Flach is no exception:

My strongest objection to the proposed regulations comes from exempting attorneys and CPAs from the competency examination and continuing professional education requirements. This is a big mistake.

I happen to think he makes a valid point.  Being a CPA or attorney does not mean that you are a tax professional proficient in tax law in the same way that passing the medical boards does not make you a brain surgeon.  You may make a better attempt than the average lay person, but you’re not necessarily a tax expert.

However, he starts getting a little aggressive in his anti-CPA stance later on in the same post:

And as far as I know, while CPAs and attorneys are subject to CPE requirements that vary by state, there is no requirement for either to take even 1 CPE in federal 1040 taxation to maintain their license to practice.

and again in a post a week later about choosing a tax professional to prepare your return:

In my 38 years of preparing tax returns I have found more mistakes on 1040s prepared by CPAs than by any other class of preparer, including the taxpayer himself.

Now I’m not out here in professional blog world to call people out and make enemies, but this series of posts from someone who I like to read and learn from just kept bothering me.  I’m a CPA, yes, but the majority of my experience has been in tax. I had 56+ hours of CPE that was taxation CPE last year.

I’m not required to take all my CPE hours in taxation, but since so much of the work I do is tax work, it only makes sense.  I’m required to have 80 hours of CPE every 2 years.  Everything I do from January to April 15 is tax, do you honestly think I’m not going to take any of that CPE on tax topics?

I’ve also seen my fair share of mistakes made by the prior preparer, but I’ve never really sat down and tallied up the number and severity of mistakes by class of preparer.  Is it that he didn’t expect to see some of these errors from CPAs, and so those have stuck in his mind, while an error from the taxpayer himself was more understandable and less noteworthy in long-term memory?

He also seems to have found a tax professional that is preparing tax returns for auditors and attorneys in his comment bag, because I don’t know of any CPAs running a tax practice who would not prepare their own returns:

Truth is many CPAs and attorneys have little tax experience. I should know. I prepare tax returns for them.”

So, I agree that being a CPA does not guarantee that you are a tax professional, but a CPA does have professional standards that demand competence before agreeing to perform professional services.  If a CPA is signing tax returns, but taking no CPE in taxation and making obvious mistakes, perhaps he or she is in violation of professional standards.  Maybe Robert should bring some of his concerns to the AICPA regarding these preparers, rather than indict all CPAs as less than professional tax preparers.