Monday, August 3, 2009

Give IRS a piece of your mind

I'm a bald guy, but my barber needs a license to trim the fringe. My tax situation is complicated by self-employment, part time W-2 work and big IRA changes, but my tax guy doesn't need a license to sort any of that out.

Does that make sense? I don't know. More interestingly, IRS doesn't know either. The service is formally asking us to chime in on that question this summer. It's already held one public hearing last month on the topic. Click on the witness names here to see what was said. Another one is in the works this week, and two more are in the works later this summer. Or if you can't make any of those, the agency will take written comments this month too.

The issue is worth following, even if it isn't your first choice for light summer reading.

Basically, more than half of us turn to someone for help with our taxes each year. But neither the IRS's enforcement arm, its consumer friendlier Taxpayer Advocate's office, nor its operations overseers at the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration office know enough about those preparers to know how to monitor them.

The enforcers want to put preparers like Joyce Marie Simmons out of business. She's a former Texas snow cone stand operator who went into the tax business and, IRS alleges, fudged about $13 million in improper deductions. She disputes the allegations and the matter may be in court for some time.

One danger is that clamping down on egregious abuses may make it harder for your tax pro or mine to claim legitimate deductions too. The definition of what's iffy moves closer to us.

So, speak up while you have a chance. And keep those receipts just in case.