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IRS loosens requirements for tax preparers

Like many people in California and across the country, you may choose to hand over a stack of paperwork to a professional tax preparer when tax season arrives. It can be an easy way to get your taxes taken care of without spending hours poring over documents and trying to navigate complex IRS forms.

While it may seem like a worry-free alternative, relying on a paid preparer is not a guarantee that you don't have to worry about your taxes. Even if all you do is sign your forms before filing, you may be vulnerable to tax litigation or other IRS action. And a new announcement by the IRS makes it more important than ever to make sure your preparer is legitimate and qualified.

Last year the IRS required preparers to undergo 15 hours of continuing education from an approved provider. They also had to pass an annual test that cost $116 per attempt. This requirement was meant to make sure preparers were up to speed on tax law and requirements, with an aim of protecting taxpayers.

However, the IRS recently announced that it will not be enforcing that requirement this year. A federal court ruled that the IRS does not have the authority to enforce such a regulation and enjoined the organization from enforcing those rules. California, however, has its own system for regulating tax preparers.

With the IRS easing up on its requirements for tax preparers, it is more important than ever for consumers to do their own homework to make sure their prepares is reliable. Academic credentials, good client testimonials and other qualifications all may be signs of a good preparer.

If you have concerns about your tax return it may be wise to consult an experienced tax law attorney. He or she can help guide you through the tax code and protect your personal and financial interests.

Source: The San Francisco Chronicle, "IRS giving up on regulation of preparers," Kathleen Pender, Jan. 22, 2013

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