Discussion:How do the taxpayers find this "TaxAlmanac web site

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1040man (talk|edits) said:

9 October 2006
I am surprised to see so many questions posted from taxpayers and was wondering just how they find this site.

Bengoshi (talk|edits) said:

9 October 2006
I can't remember exactly how I found it. But I think I was searching the Internet for general information on a tax issue (using Google). From there I found a discussion thread that was on topic. I found most of the posters quite knowledgable, and from there (like most of us), I became an Almanac-addict.

Jmor (talk|edits) said:

9 October 2006
I use PROSERIES tax software, tax program and they refered me to it.

Tdoyle (talk|edits) said:

October 20, 2006
TaxAlmanac has been widely mentioned in the media (Time Magazine, Business Week, San Jose Mercury News, Forbes.com, and many others) and has also been widely indexed by Google and other popular search engines. Intuit has regularly mentioned TaxAlmanac in its Lacerte and ProSeries newsletters, but has been careful not to advertise the site to non-professionals. Regardless, as with any internet website, people are going to find it.

We are excited that tax professionals are benefiting from the site, and we think that the community that has formed here is TaxAlmanac's biggest asset. As such, we'd like the community to decide what is in its best interest. What should happen when a non-professional asks a question? Of course, no one is required to answer any question, but should the community have a standard way of dealing with such inquiries? Should we add a notice when people post questions or when they sign up for an account that the site is for professionals? Should a standard response to such questions asking them to find and ask a professional be the way these questions are answered? Is there benefit to other tax preparers in seeing how other preparers respond to these questions? Should we create another forum for taxpayer questions and let the professionals decide if they want to read / reply? I'm not sure what the answer is, but I think it's an answer that you, the community needs to discuss to determine the best course of action.

- Tim Doyle, TaxAlmanac Moderator - Talk to me 12:34, 20 October 2006 (CDT)

1040man (talk|edits) said:

20 October 2006
OK ... Professionals. What is your take on Tdoyle's remarks. "What should happen when a non-professional asks a question? Of course, no one is required to answer any question, but should the community have a standard way of dealing with such inquiries?

Inagpurwala (talk|edits) said:

20 October 2006
My suggestion would be:
Each user should be required to fill-in profile.  This way we(Tax Professional) know who is that person and tailor our answer accordingly (without tax-lingo for non-tax person).

Other Tax-Pros may have some other suggestions. Lets hear them!Inagpurwala 13:19, 20 October 2006 (CDT)

Jdugancpa (talk|edits) said:

20 October 2006
There are questions and there are questions. Sometimes nontax professionals ask questions that are relatively easy to address and not likely to be subject to misunderstanding. Other times questions posed by nontax people ("do it yourselfers") are complex and answers can be easily misconstrued, or are fact dependent, e.g., http://www.taxalmanac.org/index.php/Discussion:Form_LLC_with_fiance/wife_to_manage_2-Duplexes_in_AK

. These type of questioners should be referred to a tax professional.

JR1 (talk|edits) said:

October 20, 2006
Yeah, I'm with JD on this. Some of the questions are refreshing and fun and useful. Sometimes, I feel like we're being set up with 1/2 (or less) of the info just to get the desired response. No way to tell until you ferret it out, tho'. I wouldn't want to ban taxpayers from here...but don't necessarily want to see a link from TurboTax either!

Tdoyle (talk|edits) said:

October 20, 2006
Here's a thought... TaxAlmanac supports the concepts of templates and transclusion. Basically, this means that we can create a page with a standard message, and then any of you could respond by just typing the name of the template, and then that template message would be displayed. An easy way for you to inform the person of what they need to do without having to type it over and over.

- Tim Doyle, TaxAlmanac Moderator - Talk to me 13:56, 20 October 2006 (CDT)

Death&Taxes (talk|edits) said:

20 October 2006
When I post to websites of bloggers, I am usually asked to check whether I am a blogger, or an other, and on some of them my screen name looks different because I do not blog. Could we not do something like that, using the 'remember me on this website' feature I see at some of these sites? Two or three categories: tax professional or taxpayer.

Bottom Line (talk|edits) said:

21 October 2006
I agree that every user should be required to complete the user profile. Seems like more often than not, there's no profile. Helps to know who you're talking with. I like that taxpayers have access to the site. Let's us know what the competition is doing. There are good and bad professionals out there. Having an additional resourse for the taxpayer, I believe is helpful. Besides that - some of the questions they ask can be quite entertaining!

Solomon (talk|edits) said:

21 October 2006
TTB requires no registration to post let alone a profile. I have seen unrealistic questions and incorrect answers posted by EA's. The bottom line in my opinion is the poster of the question in most cases should verify to his/her satsifaction the accuracy of the answers. If they do not know how to do this, then they should not do their own return. In many cases it is his/her name going on the tax return. After all, the statistics I have seen rate the IRS and tax preparers (not just the chains) as being incorrect as high as 40 per cent of the time - of course this would exclude TaxAlmanac.:)

Estock (talk|edits) said:

27 October 2006
I agree with Solomon - the tax professional (I would imagine) posts a question with an answer already in mind, and is simply trying to affirm his/her idea of what the answer is by the opinions of other tax professionals. Therefore, although the advice we as tax professionals may give to a non-tax professional are based on our knowledge, many decisions are based on interpretation and opinion.

What to do? There needs to be some type of indication of whether a poster is a tax pro or not. Bottom line.

By the way Solomon - don't CPAs also post unrealistic and incorrect answers? :) I'm not that dumb of an EA...

Solomon (talk|edits) said:

27 October 2006
Estock - your are right. :)

PGattoCPA (talk|edits) said:

30 October 2006
We had a similar discussion back in April & May. The thread can be found at http://www.taxalmanac.org/index.php/Discussion:Tax_Questions_posed_by_Taxpayers_%28non_professionals%29

Not enough people supported the idea of "forcing" paid preparers to post their profiles back then. Nether was there support to place self-preparer questions in a separate part of the forum. It seems to me a bit disingenuous for us to not post our own profiles then say that self-preparers should go to some other part of the forum.

For the record (as can be seen from my response in the previous thread linked to above), I am in favor of paid preparers being forced to post a profile in order to post questions / answers in the main forum and to have self-preparers ask questions in a separate part of the forum. I guess my addendum would be that anyone who does not post a profile would automatically be directed to the self-preparer forum.

I know not everyone will agree with me, but as the NPR series states, "This I Believe".

Regards to all.

CrowJD (talk|edits) said:

30 October 2006
When I first came here, I really didn't understand that you could post a profile.... as usual, I click before I read!

Kluskey (talk|edits) said:

30 October 2006
Please post my vote to set up a separate forum for self preparers.

The forum is a great resource to bounce thoughts off other tax practitioners but could be very much misconstrued by self preparers.

I think we're supposed to sign any tax return we have a material impact on, so by giving advice to strangers, we may be on shaky ground.

Thanks.

Solomon (talk|edits) said:

30 October 2006
This is a public entertaining and helpful forum - period. Does anyone get paid for posting? If not paid, then anyone that uses the information in preparing their own tax return from the forum the tax return is considered self prepared. There is no shaky ground. Sec. 7701(a)(36)(A)(B). I vote to keep it the way it is now.

Abralick (talk|edits) said:

30 October 2006
I am fairly new to tax almanac and have found it a valuable resource to converse with other tax professionals or self preparers. CPA and EA designation does not necessarily mean that individual does not need help interpreting tax law. I am proof that as a CPA and EA, real life everyday situations are not always "textbook" That said, I want to do whatever I need to do to continue to post and read this forum. Please let me know the decision of the majority so I can comply. I don't think I filled out a profile when I joined, however, I will update it as soon as I found the page. Thanks to everyone who post and respond. Finally, my opinion would be to leave the forum as it is.

PGattoCPA (talk|edits) said:

31 October 2006
TaxAlmanac's stated purpose is to be a community for tax professionals to share information, ask questions of other professionals, etc. See http://www.taxalmanac.org/index.php/TaxAlmanac.

As someone mentioned above, they stumbled upon TA via a Google search. Yes, that is the nature of the internet. However, does that nature mean the purpose of a forum is automatically subjugated because of spider crawls and search engine capabilities? I don't subscribe to that line of thinking.

The only reason I have read as reason why TA should be straying from its stated purpose and allow self-preparers to use the main forum is because then everything is in one place. However, that makes it too difficult for those who do not want to read or respond to those questions. Every time you see a question you have to click on the poster's link to see if they posted a profile. Of course, the vast majority of self-preparers are not going to post profiles, but many of the professionals on this site have not done so either. Thus, many times one cannot tell who is posting the question (self-preparer or professional).

If there were separate forums, then there is no such issue (other than answering posts of self-preparers who make up a profile and lie about being a professional). For those who do not want to answer self-preparer questions, they can stay in the professional area and not have to wade through those posts. For those who want to do so, they can go to that section of TA and do so.

Additionally, in response to Kluskey's concern above, although I think it is a stretch, Circular 230 issues are not as black & white as Solomon suggests. My understanding is that the IRS has been asked to respond to issues such as professionals answering questions in tax forums and has refused to do so. They have not pointed to ยง7701 and said, "No problem - have at it."

Finally, and also in response to Kluskey's concern, an "interim" web page could be created (one page before entering the "post a question" web page) that says something like, "By entering this web site you agree that you are not receiving tax advice and that people responding to questions are not providing tax advice. Responses are for informational and educational purposes only and should not be relied upon for the preparation of a tax return or for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed upon the taxpayer." (Or some such nonsense until the IRS clarifies Circular 230 with respect to forums.)

If it ends up staying the way it is, then the stated purpose section of TA (link above) should be modified.

Solomon (talk|edits) said:

31 October 2006
It seems to me the refusal of the IRS to respond to the question regarding tax forums actually answers the question of liability. I have read numerous medical sites and now and then I see a disclaimer but not too often.

Solomon (talk|edits) said:

31 October 2006
Discussion:Tax Questions posed by Taxpayers (non professionals) I think JR1 summed up my opinion quite well in his post of May 5, 2006.

JR1 (talk|edits) said:

October 31, 2006
I was just about to stick my neck out again, and here you're agreeing with my agreement with you, Solomon. Now I'm confused! Seriously, any kind of "this aint' what it appears to be" language would give me pause. That's just silliness. We're on an open forum here. You ain't liable. You didn't sign anything. The only one to watch out for is encouraging someone to commit fraud. That we don't recommend. Otherwise...I still vote aye with Solomon and Abralick.

Death&Taxes (talk|edits) said:

31 October 2006
I am not sure I would like to segregate the self-preparers. I have learned much from Dennis' answers to those trying to administrate an estate themselves, and just today I see a self-employed trucker and his wife asking about health insurance. Yes, the discussion has dovetailed into past discussions, but this is valuable. I do think all should post some qualifications.

PGattoCPA (talk|edits) said:

1 November 2006
Nothing would change if the SPs (self-preparers) were segregated. Neophyte pros could still see how a line of questions from a pro to a SP were developed. (JR1 post of May 5). As I mention in my post of May 5, the apprenticeship of new pros in an office is not something that everyone in the office is invloved with at all times. It is inefficient and a waste of resources. Why should the online world be different?

Most times when I see an interesting subject title, I want to click through and see a question from a pro, not a question from a SP. And that is happening less and less.

On the other hand, there are times I do want to see some SP questions and how they are answered by the pros. By having a separate forum, I can do that because every OP will be from a SP. Again, much more efficient.

JR1 also asks in his May 5 post, "Maybe we need to ask what our purpose is, on this site." The purpose of the site is at the link mentioned above. It was the purpose that I originally read about in the September 2005 issue of The CPA Technology Advisor and it was the purpose Tim stated to me when he and I spoke by phone soon thereafter. It was not changed after the last thread. If Intuit decides to change it, then so be it. I am not diametrically opposed to it, but again, separate forums would be more efficient.

JR1 also writes in his post of April 24, "If they were separated, we'd just avoid them." Is that what everyone is afraid of? If so, then you really don't care about the SPs. If you do care about the SPs, then you can make ONE CLICK and get to that forum. If you don't care (or more likely, don't care on that particular day) you don't have to click to that forum.

PGattoCPA (talk|edits) said:

1 November 2006
Tim: I notice on the "Discussion Forum Index" page at http://www.taxalmanac.org/index.php/Discussion_Forum_Index that there are eight separate forums plus one "All Topics" forum that mashes together the other eight.

Couldn't you create separate forums for questions originally posted by pros and questions originally posted by self-preparers and then create another forum that mashes only those two forums together? Those of us who want separate forums can bookmark the separate forums and those that like everything mixed together can bookmark the combined forum.

Of course, that would mean we have to answer the other question of the day. That is, should pros be forced to post a profile in order to have access to the "pros only" section?

Whay say you? Possible?

PGattoCPA (talk|edits) said:

1 November 2006
To Solomon and JR1 regarding "protective language" (my term). As I said, although I think it is a stretch, Circular 230 issues are not as black & white as Solomon suggests and JR1's comment of "You ain't liable," while easy to say is not shared by either the major law firms or the major accounting firms. Following is the protective language used by some of the big firms merely when they send out legislative and administrative updates. That is, they aren't even responding to a question posed by a taxpayer or client.

Perhaps you know something that these guys don't, but if they are going the CYA route, then it's probably a safe bet to do so. After all, anyone can sue anyone for anything and the more arrows you have in your defense quiver the better. Or, do want to rely on telling the judge, "I ain't liable and that's all I got to say,"?


Steptoe & Johnson LLP (major law firm):

As provided for in Treasury regulations, advice (if any) relating to federal taxes that is contained in this communication (including attachments) is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (1) avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code or (2) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any plan or arrangement addressed herein.

Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP (major law firm):

CIRCULAR 230 DISCLOSURE: To comply with Treasury Department regulations, we inform you that, unless otherwise expressly indicated, any tax advice contained in this communication (including any attachments) is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (i) avoiding penalties that may be imposed under the Internal Revenue Code or any other applicable tax law, or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any transaction, arrangement, or other matter.

Morrison & Foerster LLP (major law firm):

To ensure compliance with requirements imposed by the IRS, Morrison & Foerster LLP informs you that, if any advice concerning one or more U.S. Federal tax issues is contained in this publication, such advice is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (i) avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code or (ii) promoting, marketing, or recommending to another party any transaction or matter addressed herein.

Deloitte & Touche LLP (Big 4):

The information contained in Tax News & Views is for general purposes only. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not constitute tax advice from or reflect the view of Deloitte & Touche LLP. Deloitte & Touche LLP assumes no responsibility with respect to assessing and/or advising the reader as to the respective tax consequences arising from circumstances relating to the reader's particular tax situation. It is recommended that the reader consult with their own tax advisor with regard to the application of the tax laws and resulting tax consequences relating to the reader's particular situation.

JR1 (talk|edits) said:

November 1, 2006
Sorry, Senor Gatto, I didn't mean to dismiss your comments about the protective language. I fully understand the implications and realize that for liability purposes there's all this crazy language to say that what we just said we didn't say...wink wink. It is foolishness and stupidity, but sadly required now by IRS and highly desired for liability purposes. I don't use it. It's absurd. So my comment was to that, more than to yours. I hate to see that kind of thinking (if it qualifies as thinking) in our world, and it's only increasing. If no one says, this is stupid, it just keeps going on. It's like the labels on hair dryers...don't use underwater. Gee, hadn't thought of that. I'd just hope we could avoid it, but perhaps there is some legit concern about the liability of giving non-advice advice legally.

Death&Taxes (talk|edits) said:

1 November 2006
I typed and saved wording similar to 'Sutherland,' keeping it in My Documents. I try to remember to cut and paste to the bottom of the email where I answer a question, but many times I forget. What I do see is situations where I email the client that I have filed the return electronically and it was accepted. It always makes me chuckle when I receive back, "Thanks, David" with the CYA phrase on it from clients in the professions. That is why I don't make it part of my email.

PGattoCPA (talk|edits) said:

1 November 2006
JR1: No need to apologize. Perhaps I was being too glib and I should apologize to you and Solomon. In a "common sense" world, both you and Solomon are 100% correct and I would agree with the two of you whole-heartedly. Unfortunately, we are not in a common sense world.

To make a point of that people can do or say anything the following is a true story:

A state auditor came in for a field audit. He had questioned a filing position a company had taken and was in the process of writing up a very large audit adjustment that would result in a significant tax liability. The VP of Tax, the tax manager and the person in charge of dealing with state audits showed him the state statute (it was in the law itself) that not only supported, but mandated that the company file in that manner.

Unfazed, he waved his arms and said, "Those are only words." The three employees sat in stunned disbelief looking at each other to make sure they all heard the same thing.

Luckily, once it got past the field agent, his superiors quickly told him to not write up the adjustment.

PGattoCPA (talk|edits) said:

1 November 2006
D&T: You are absolutely correct in that many times an e-mail has nothing to do with advice (e.g., the "Thanks, David" you mention). The nice thing about using Microsoft Outlook (and perhaps other programs do this as well) is that you can create multiple signatures and then choose the appropriate one to append to the bottom of the e-mail before sending it.


So, a "Thanks, David" could have "Best Regards, Bob" automatically added to the bottom whereas, "Dear Bob: Following are my thoughts about the tax ramifications of the transaction you are contemplating that we discussed yesterday. . ." could have "Very truly yours, David" and then the protective language automatically added.

Death&Taxes (talk|edits) said:

1 November 2006
Thanks for that idea; like you say, the interplay with other professionals is one reason this site has been so rewarding since I first visited. I use Outlook Express so I must give this a look.

Death&Taxes (talk|edits) said:

3 November 2006
Can I bring up a corollary of this discussion and why some kind of profile is needed? How many questions do I see that begin "I have a client" and when I read the question, I wonder what kind of business the person posting is in? Is it just me, or do others think some of those posing questions are insurance salespeople, or investment advisors, trying to Monday morning quarterback some other professional's client? The lack of knowledge of basic tax law on the part of some with clients is staggering.

Rlw (talk|edits) said:

4 November 2006
I've been away for a while, but now that the year is drawing to a close, I'm thinking about taxes again.

Almost exactly a year ago, I asked on Talk:TaxAlmanac whether this forum was for tax professionals only. TDoyle replied that all were welcome. I hope that it will stay that way. No one is forcing any professionals to answer questions from amateurs.

By the way, I was surprised to notice that the TA logo still says "Beta". What criteria determine when will TA emerge from Beta?

Tdoyle (talk|edits) said:

November 4, 2006
FYI: The beta status will be going away in the very near future.

- Tim Doyle, TaxAlmanac Moderator - Talk to me 12:44, 4 November 2006 (CST)

PGattoCPA (talk|edits) said:

4 November 2006
Rlw: With all due respect, what is being *forced* upon certain members is the clicking through to posts that they don't want to look at in the first place. When I do not want to look at posts from self-preparers (SPs), I still must click on the post to see who the OP was - pro or SP. As TA has gotten more well known, it is morphing into a *combined* purpose forum; i.e., OPs who are both SP and pro. As there are many more SPs than pros the SP OPs will soon overwhelm the pro OPs. And then TA becomes just another tax forum because it will be too difficult to find OPs by pros.

On the other hand, if there were separate forums for SPs as OPs and pros as OPs, then it would be merely one click the first time into the forum to get to the desired section. I understand, however, that many people want everything together because they do not care who the OP is.

Therefore, on Nov 1 I suggested that Tim create a "mash-up" of the two forums similar to the "Discussion Forum Index" page at http://www.taxalmanac.org/index.php/Discussion_Forum_Index - there are eight separate forums plus one "All Topics" forum that mashes together the other eight.

What could be done is to create the two separate forums along with the mash-up of the two combined. (If eight could be mashed together then two certainly can.) Once that is accomplished, then all three scenarios are covered and these discussions could come to an end.

The three scenarios: 1) I want to only look at pro OPs; 2) I want to look at only SP OPs; and 3) I want to see all OPs.

I do not see how that is exclusionary. I see it as leveraging off the power of technology to become as useful and efficient a tool as possible for all users.

Beengel (talk|edits) said:

November 4, 2006
How do you keep posters from posting in the wrong category?

PGattoCPA (talk|edits) said:

4 November 2006
Beengal: Part of the above thread is that people would have to complete the profile section and check a box that they are a tax professional. If they are not a professional, then the Wiki would not allow them to post in the pro section. Likewise, a pro who did not complete the profile also could not post in the pro section.

Tdoyle (talk|edits) said:

November 4, 2006
PGatto and others:

I have been reading and continue to carefully consider all of your comments. I understand the various viewpoints and am looking for a solution that will meet everyone's needs. Depending on the changes required, a solution could either be very quick and easy for me to implement, or could take additional time and resources. I want to thank everyone for contributing to this discussion and for caring enough to help make TaxAlmanac an even better resource.


- Tim Doyle, TaxAlmanac Moderator - Talk to me 16:51, 4 November 2006 (CST)

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