Discussion:Tax Questions posed by Taxpayers (non professionals)

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Discussion Forum Index --> TaxAlmanac Feedback --> Tax Questions posed by Taxpayers (non professionals)

WillyB (talk|edits) said:

24 April 2006
I am seeing an increase in frequency of non professionals posing questions to the forum:

I would like to see a separate area, maybe "ask a taxpro" for taxpayers to pose questions to tax pros. Or perhaps this is forum should be just for tax professionals. (period)

I feel that questions from non professionals are generally inappropriate because the questions are often elementary, usually provided without adequate detail to frame a response, therefore lead to general responses based on so many assumptions that meaningful answers and discussion are difficult.

Also, one answers a tax question from a tax professional from a framework of basic or more advanced tax knowledge. The answer to a taxpayer needs to be different to make sense to the taxpayer.

This is ,by the way, one of the reasons I have been advocating for users introducing themselves to the forum.

I would like to know others response on this.


____________________________________________________________

the introduction to TaxAlmanac is as follows:

Welcome to TaxAlmanac!

Welcome, and thank you for coming! TaxAlmanac is an online community for tax professionals to share their tax knowledge and expertise. It is written collaboratively by many of its readers - lots of people are constantly improving TaxAlmanac, and all changes are recorded on the page history and the Recent Changes page. " ____________________________________________________________

JR1 (talk|edits) said:

24 April 2006
Yeah, but those folks are more fun, Willy! If they were separated, we'd just avoid them. I actually snagged a client from that group this year. Had no idea that that would even be possible...but one thing led to another...

And, don't forget, we've got some real rookie accountants on here, or non-accts. even, who need to know the answers to those easy questions, too...

Skasselea (talk|edits) said:

24 April 2006
The more the general public posts questions, the more garbage you will find from tax protesters. If you want that nonsense, I suggest you answer questions on misc.taxes on Google Groups. Here is the url:

http://groups.google.com/group/misc.taxes

WillyB (talk|edits) said:

24 April 2006
Wow! Do you really think that is the future for this forum? I followed your link. It looks pretty grusome.

Dennis (talk|edits) said:

24 April 2006
We are under no obligation to answer questions. This site has professional sponsorship and an active moderator. Further, it is a Wicki, which means that a lot of what it will be is what we make of it.

Taxea (talk|edits) said:

25 April 2006
Thank you, Willy B, that's exactly what I said except I didn't say it that clearly. I think many of us pro's would like to see these types of questions referred to Pub 17 or the 1040 instruction booklet. Or at least have some notation next to their name that indicates they are "Joe Citizen".

It really would be helpful to know whether they even have a clue about tax prep. Maybe a checklist on login that asks whether they are a self-preparer, a paid-preparer (which doesn't make them a professional), or some means of determining their level of knowledge.

JR1 (talk|edits) said:

25 April 2006
But why can't you just ignore them, rather than segregate them or ban them? They provide learning opportunities for all of us.

Vince Lombardi would start each year by holding up a football, and saying "Gentlemen, this is a football." Coach Wooden of the hated-UCLA bruins spent the first two hours each season teaching his young men how to properly put on a pair of socks. The basics are always useful to return to.

Mtmckeecpa (talk|edits) said:

25 April 2006
If someone poses a basic question or elementary question I have two choice: I can either respond in a way that is helpful or not, or I can move on, my choice.

I like this forum the way it is. I am glad I found it...it has helped me a great deal. Thanks.

Tdoyle (talk|edits) said:

25 April 2006
Hello everyone:

First, I'd like to say that I very much like seeing this discussion. You, the TaxAlmanac Community, are discussing the future direction of the site, and that's a good thing.

I think that Dennis and JR1 are on the right track. While non-professionals are currently free to use the site, no one is under an obligation to answer questions. I would suggest that you think of other ways in which you could direct them to an answer. For example, why not just answer their questions with a link to Publication 17 or other articles on TaxAlmanac which cover the basics?

I do think it is a good idea for everyone to identify themselves on their user page. Who are you? What are your qualifications? How long have you been in business? Are you an Enrolled Agent or a CPA? In order to help you to do this, I have created logos for both EA and CPA which everyone is free to use on their pages.

Image:CPATemplate.JPG
To add this to your user page, simply select your username from the very top line of any TaxAlmanac screen (after logging in), select the edit tab, and add the text {{CPA}} to your page, then save.
Image:EATemplate.JPG
To add this to your user page, simply select your username from the very top line of any TaxAlmanac screen (after logging in), select the edit tab, and add the text {{EA}} to your page, then save.

JR1 (talk|edits) said:

25 April 2006
So where's my Notre Dame Fighting Irish leprechaun? Or the Green Bay Packers logo?

JR1 (talk|edits) said:

25 April 2006
Or.. Proud to NOT be a CPA thanks to Enron, Anderson, Waste Management, Global Crossing, WorldCom, and too many others to enumerate....

Tdoyle (talk|edits) said:

25 April 2006
Here's another...
Image:PTPTemplate.JPG
To add this to your user page, simply select your username from the very top line of any TaxAlmanac screen (after logging in), select the edit tab, and add the text {{PTP}} to your page, then save.

Tess (talk|edits) said:

25 April 2006
What requirements are there to be a Professional Tax Preparer?

JR1 (talk|edits) said:

25 April 2006
I dunno, but I'm the first!

As I sent to Tim privately, my concern with 'credentials' is that they often imply things that they aren't. I passed the accounting parts of the CPA exam and then went to the small biz/tax side of the street and didn't finish it up. Many CPA's I know do not know tax. Many EA's on this board don't know an S corp from an LLC. And many tax preparers aren't accountants at all. How to explain all that in a logo? The only thing that might come close to describing me would be small biz and tax accountant designation, but it's wordy.

Tdoyle (talk|edits) said:

25 April 2006
Although others might jump in with an answer, my suggestion would be if you do tax returns in exchange for money, you're a professional tax preparer.

Note that all of these are 'self identified', so anyone could put them on their user page, but I'm hoping people will be honest.

Any other thoughts?

- Tim Doyle, TaxAlmanac Moderator 10:48, 25 April 2006 (CDT)

Tess (talk|edits) said:

25 April 2006
reminds me of a client I had. I do not have any degree for accounting although I have taken credited courses and that has been my profession for many, many years and i have been preparing tax returns for 25 years. anyway, this client decided he needed a "regular bookkeeper". needless to say he was back in a couple years. in his case he didn't need a CPA firm for his accounting needs. I am not afraid to admit it when i get a client that I feel is going beyond my knowledge. I agree that a tax professional would be someone that prepares returns for money, and besides that attends seminars and is knowledgeable of the laws and, while no one can know everything, they know where to find the answer.

WillyB (talk|edits) said:

25 April 2006
I would like to respond to suggestions about "why not just ignore question if it is from

a non professional" I posted this to TDoyles discussion board about a week ago:

being excerpt: [On my user info crusade: I recently got a question on NOL limitations under corporate ownership changes. ON my urging, the poster told that he was a business owner, owned the business with a large NOL. Not a tax professional. Well, this would have been a tremendious omitted data had I responded to the post thinking the poster was a CPA or tax pro. Totally changed my response. So yes, I am trying to force this in. Also, I feel that if I am going to spend some of my valuable time helping someone, they can at least identify themselves.] end excerpt

So in that case I did not know it was a business owner, non professional posing a question about NOLs limitations in combining corporations (the section 382 limits, etc.) Not a question that instantly identifies the "asker" as a non professional.

On JR1's points about Certifications sometimes being misleading about tax expertise: I totally concur. But one CAN tell of his / her experence and training on the userpage. I know of many tax consultants TO CPAs who are not CPAs or EAs, but are very expert in their own rights. But more data is better than less. We are all learning, that is why most of us participate here (true for me anyway), but it helps to know more background of who is posting. I participate on another forum where amoung particpants who have identified themselves, one fellow is the author of The Partnership Operations portfolio for BNA (amoung other critentials). When the guy "opins" about his area , or most any area, I know his position is likely to be textbook correct. Anyone new to the forum can see this. He stills gets challenged occasionally , but It saves time to know who is talking.

Dennis (talk|edits) said:

26 April 2006
Another point to ponder -- How often do we respond because the answer will benefit the community as a whole or because the point at issue needs further inspection? Who asks the question can be less relevant than what the question is.

Martineo (talk|edits) said:

26 April 2006
Tax Almanac is providing a "Forum Awards" -

Nice Did you see the logo???

Mkwills (talk|edits) said:

26 April 2006
I am new to TaxAlmanax, but am enjoying this discussion. I am new to the tax preparing world, but know enough to know that I know very little. I was thrilled to find a website to glean info from those seasoned in the business. With that, I will go ahead and apologize for the posts that most of you may find boring. I am simply looking for anyway possible to learn as much as possible about the unbelievable tax laws we have. I am currently working for a private CPA and working on my masters in order to fulfill the Texas requirements to sit for the CPA exam. I think the logo's are a good idea...

Jdugancpa (talk|edits) said:

27 April 2006
I see Dennis received one of those awards, so I better watch how I respond to his posts in the future. :)

Dennis (talk|edits) said:

27 April 2006
Completely undeserved ♫

Tdoyle (talk|edits) said:

27 April 2006
The Forum Awards are a simple way of saying 'thank you' to someone who has been doing a good job of answering people's questions in the forums. Anyone can give an award to someone by adding the text {{Award|Forum}} to the recipient's user page, though I would encourage you not to be toooo liberal with them. Don't wait for me to hand them all out - if you think someone deserves it, by all means do so!

- Tim Doyle, TaxAlmanac Moderator 22:50, 26 April 2006 (CDT)

Skasselea (talk|edits) said:

29 April 2006
I disagree with the Professional Tax Preparer designation. Unfortunately, only two states require a tax preparer to be licensed, California and Oregon. Otherwise, ANYONE can claim to be a Professional Tax Preparer. I believe that the three professional organizations, NAEA, AICPA and ABA are on record as supporting licensing for tax preparers, but until that is done, I wouldn't use anything of the sort. I have also seen an organization using a term Certified Tax Resolution Specialist for those that have passed a course involving representation of delinquent taxpayers. I find that one extremely offensive as it implies a legal designation which obviously doesn't exist. Bottom line, if it isn't state or Federally approved, I don't like it.

Martineo (talk|edits) said:

29 April 2006
Good point.

A question for Tdoyle. My view: It is hard to find a "fair" designation , as someone notice. And participants need to have some designation. My example. I'm EA... Am I really really good? My coworker said "He is an expert--... Smile!! Being EA or CPA does not mean anything. I think I'm good filing personals, but just intermediate level personals returns. If I have to deal with a complicate return...please, help me. Also, working in insurance-- I have not too much time for the tax code But, in that case, I will do my best - and a lot or research to file a good tax return. I passed that test . My business degree help me a lot to understand concepts- And after 40 years taking tests after testsI'm very good taking exams--- Bye , see you

Sandysea (talk|edits) said:

29 April 2006
I agree with credentials but only to the extent that they put clients minds at ease or demand higher fees. Labels of any kind (here I am on a soapbox) can be postive or negative. The fact of the matter is...if you are so inclined, you can do anything and learn anything. It takes work and patience. Many cannot get a Masters degree and thus cannot sit for a CPA exam in Florida or some other states but these same individuals are preparing taxes, working for CPA firms and even filing tax returns on their own. Can they then demand 200.00 per hour as a CPA in this area can? No, but do they have the knowledge that comes with the designation, yes!!

I think that we as a community here need to say thank you to the people who have so many answers...Dennis, Riley, JR. I don't know what their designations are, but I am certain even without any, they are tops in my book.

Yeah, Yeah...I have the diplomas and the certificates and many of my peers in this city do as well, but it does not make me omnicient. I have learned much from so many here and will continue to learn...but lets not forget that without the "labels" we are still all individuals...just people trying our best to make a living...

Off my soapbox now :)

Taxea (talk|edits) said:

30 April 2006
How about the registration page being required and including checkboxes for CPA, EA, LTP Licensed Tax Pro, NLTP Non Licensed Tax Pro, ITP individual taxpayer; and another list to select how many years at this level. If codes with this info are placed after their user name that could be very helpful to all of us.

Many states do not require tax pros to be licensed...which means that these people are also not required to do any continuing education to maintain or better their skills. Hawaii is one of these states and we have numerous "storefront" preparers who have taken a basic course, opened a business and are doing returns that are way over their heads.

I have never understood why people pay CPA prices when they are recognized accounting experts, not recognized tax experts. Nor have I understood why anyone without a basic tax course behind them would even attempt a return more complicated than an EZ. I guess they don't stop to figure out that the money they think they are saving by paying a good pro is probably being more than lost in not knowing what they are doing.

Personally, I have referred them to the IRS instructions or Pub 17 but without reference pages...if they don't know how to find the answer through the index, they sure won't understand it when it is pointed out to them.

I am sure there are enough of us pros out there that we would take the time to help when we have it.

PGattoCPA (talk|edits) said:

30 April 2006
Well, here's my opinion. Disagree with it, disregard it or ponder it as you see fit. The thread started as a question regarding self-preparers asking questions; however it has evolved into areas. I will address each; read my long-winded post at your discretion.

1) The PTP (Professional Tax Preparer) label should be deleted from Tax Almanac. A person can be a professional via licensure, but not be professional in demeanor, while another person can be a professional in demeanor, but not in licensure. Additionally, as Skasselea points out, only CA and OR license tax preparers. If a person is not licensed, then they are just a paid preparer. (Don't get your hackles up - see #2 below. Also see #4 for alternative designations.)

2) GOOD experience is better than BAD licensure. There are many legitimate reasons why a preparer may have decided not to obtain a license. Although I believe the attainment and upkeep of a license says something about the individual holding it, good experience is key. You tend to have seen more varied situations and/or you have created real expertise in some key areas. You know which areas to stay away from due to a lack of knowledge and you know how to obtain the knowledge you need.

3) I believe questions from self-preparers should be in a separate area. Well, really I believe they should not be on Tax Almanac (TA) at all. When I first found TA, and then when I spoke to Tim Doyle, it was represented as a place for tax people to gather together and share their knowledge and expertise with each other. However, this being the "dubya.dubya.dubya" you would have to have password access to keep others out - and that is just not in the cards for TA. Thus, a separate section that can be ignored more easily by those who want to ignore it. There are good, moderated places frequented by tax preparers where self-preparers can ask questions. Two are http://groups.google.com/group/misc.taxes.moderated (moderated by Dick Adams, a retired accounting professor from the University of Maryland) and http://fairmark.com/forum/ (moderated by Mr. Kaye Thomas, a tax lawyer, consultant and author of many books).

4) I agree with Taxea that the registration page should be required to be filled out before a person can post (either ask or answer). With "cookies" I would think it would be easy (just as I cannot post without having logged in). I like the checkbox idea; however, I would amend it to say that the "P" in LTP and NLTP stand for Practitioner rather than Professional. (See reasoning in #1 above.) And, since CA and OR do offer licenses, boxes for those licenses could be added as well. Additionally, if they check the Self-Preparer box, the cookie will only let them post in the "Ask a Tax Practitioner" section.

5) I especially like the idea about experience that Taxea brings up. The glitch is that a person could have 14 years experience as a tax practitioner, but have been a CPA for only 5 years (me!) - so you have to be careful on how to set it up. You would also want to have an option for people to show their work history (but not have it be required). For instance, I worked at a Big 6 firm in two separate stints for a total of four years and left at the manager level. I have worked at three separate companies in private industry. I was the Director of Taxation at a mid-sized company and am currently a Tax Manager at a large company. So something like "Highest Level" and "Current Level" might be something to consider.

6) To those who say "just ignore the self-preparer questions" (including Tim), I say it is just as legitimate to say have a separate area. If you really find those questions interesting and informative, you will not ignore them and go to that section. I believe the separation would make it easier and more efficient to use the site. If a practitioner who is ansering questions in the Ask a Tax Practitioner section thinks the thread has evolved sufficiently, they could always post a link in the Tax Practitioner section (Practitioner to Practitioner or P2P?) directing people to the thread.

7) To JR1 - I am glad you brought up the Coach Wooden and the *beloved*-Bruins story. (How to properly lace sneakers was also part of the drill.) However, that was college ball and this is the Big Show. If one wants a refresher on the fundementals and is not a self-preparer, then they can ask in this forum. After all, that was the initial reason for starting TA; i.e., for tax people to share their experience with other tax people.

8) To Taxea - Just because I am a CPA does not make me an accounting expert; in fact, I am not. In CA you do not have to maintain your accounting expertise to keep your license. I take mostly tax-related continuing education courses and only take the Accounting and Auditing (A&A) course that interest me. What that means is I cannot opine on F/Ss, prepare a compilation, etc. So, just as I would not assume that an EA has the tax expertise that my situation requires, I would not assume that a CPA does not have the tax expertise my situation requires. You always need to do your due diligence when hiring someone to do a job.

If you got this far, thanks for reading even if you disagree with everything I have said.

Lalva (talk|edits) said:

5 May 2006
Maybe instead of Professional Tax Preparer it should say Pay Preparer so no one is offended.

WillyB (talk|edits) said:

5 May 2006
PGattoCPA's points are very well founded and well put.

Except, as I continue to point out.. on 6). it is often difficult or impossible to know when it is a self-preparer who has posed a question. There is no big neon light on it. Ususally such a question is either: a: extremely elementary, or.. b) more technical but lacking the background facts required to address the question. Made-up example: "What is the best way to buy out a partner who owns half of the business?" Trying to answer this goes on and on ... a waste of time due to inability of The non-pro to know how to ASK the question so that it is a good tax question.

But I agree.. self-preparer questions should be in a separate area, or not on this forum.

JR1 (talk|edits) said:

5 May 2006
Maybe we need to ask what our purpose is, on this site. As a pro, I'm coming here for some camraderie (and many of you are woefully short in that...! :) ), to add to my own knowledge, and to add to others. Think of some of our more neophyte folk who have not had a lot of experience, and won't get it at the arm of a veteran. Don't you think that there is value in them watching how we pose a continuing line of questions to taxpayers in order to get to a place that we can answer? There's an opportunity for them to be apprenticed. I don't think we should miss that. If this is just about coming here to prove how smart we are (guilty at times...), then we don't have the right motives. But if it is to teach and to learn, we're getting somewhere. They'll also begin to quickly recognize the folks that they should show the exit, who aren't worth the trouble.

WillyB (talk|edits) said:

5 May 2006
I am totally fine on helping neophyte tax practitioners. That should be one of the purposes of the forum, if it is not.

And I am not all that concerned about designations.. (beginning preparer, EA, CPA, CFP, etc, etc). It is just NON tax pros posing questions anonymously which I am "agin".

PGattoCPA (talk|edits) said:

5 May 2006
To WillyB: I agree with your concern. Further, we really cannot tell if a self-preparer is claiming to be a paid preparer. Hopefully, if we had a separate forum, most people would be honest and not claim to be a paid preparer when they are not.


To JR1: As I mentioned, I believe the purpose of the site should be a "practitioner to practitioner" forum. You bring up an extremely valid issue regarding the inexperienced practitioners having a chance to see which questions are asked, how they are asked and how lines of questions develop. However, in an office of more than a few people you would not have the new people involved with every single issue or following around every single experienced person in the office so as not to overly reduce the efficiency / effectiveness of the experienced people. You would expose them to issues over time in order for them to develop. Similalry, with a separate forum the inexperienced people have a place to be apprenticed (in all the ways you correctly mention) if they so wish and the experienced people can avoid the area when they wish and participate when they wish without having to look at every single post to determine the original poster.

Dennis (talk|edits) said:

5 May 2006
I took the time to investigate the sites mentioned by Ser Gatto. The Google site seems to have a good moderator, but the responses to questions are spotty. The site is poorly programmed and difficult to use because in most cases the questions are overwritten by advertising. All posts have to be vetted and there can be a day or so difference between your reply to a question and the point it actually appears on the site. The Fairmark site is particularly poor in relation to questions on estates and trusts and one particular response applying the §121 exclusion to a person described as a non-resident alien made me question the moderator's

involvement.

PGattoCPA (talk|edits) said:

6 May 2006
I agree re the Google version of the misc.taxes.moderated (MTM). However, if you have newsreader software (like in Outlook Express) and have access to a server that has the site, then you don't have to worry about the advertising.

Also, as Dennis points out, it will take at least a day for a posts to appear because of the vetting process. However, Dick Adams created a "white list" of "trusted" participants whose posts do not have to be vetted so they appear as soon as the server hosting your newsreader posts propogates it. (I probabl;y have the vernacular incorrect). If you use the free Google site, then even the white list posts will take a while because Google builds in a delay.

The advantage of having the moderator, though, is that you don't end up with a worthless site. Skasselea posted a link to the non-moderated site misc.taxes - it is a wasteland of vitriol and tax protestors.

Finally, regarding the quality of the posts. Just as with this forum, you need to go on it for more than a short period of time to see which particpants you can trust and in which areas they have expertise.

As for the moderators' involvement regarding the correctness of posts, I don't believe (although I could be wrong) either moderator (Dick or Kaye) looks to see if the answers are correct. Their involvement is in keeping inappropriate posts off of the site and to ensure people are treating each other relatively respectfully.

Merebekah (talk|edits) said:

2007-04-11
Hello. I'm trying to figure out this site. Need a business consultant/ tax consultant, though I prefer to do bookkeeping. Someone with capacity to be reasonable for a low-maintence client very-much wanted to learn/do all the work, via: professional guidance. I have QuickBooks Premeir Accountants Edition (have used it for years for clients, generally sub-contracted by a J.D.,E.A. not currently available due to medical problems). I seek a professional for situation, as follows: S-corp (2 shareholders) inactive since 2005, CEO liable debt guarantor, asset liquidation, filing delinquent tax, whie working towards dissolution... Sounds like a lot, but books are done (if not allocated properly re: draws/salary/asset I'm eager to make appropriate changes! Researched options but hope a pro could simplify pros/cons of each.) My Location: Los Angeles / Relation: Wife of former CEO, a 50% shareholder of 2party S-corp. email: rebekah@quickbooks-consultant.biz . Consideration/quotes appreciated. Cheers.

JRSLATER (talk|edits) said:

11 April 2007
One small point about California's preparer requirements. CA emphatically and constantly reminds - YOU ARE A REGISTERED tax preparer, not a LICENSED preparer. I belong to CSEA, Ca Society of Enrolled Agents as a "professional associate." I won't use the logo that Tim posted, I would rather have a check off box on my info page. My expertise is stocks, bonds, publicly traded derivatives and the like. I know the difference between a S and C corp, but would not even begin to handle anything like that. With the people I have dealt with, I would send them to an EA or CPA, and I would help them find the most qualified. Just because my name comes up when you search CTEC site for a "Tax Preparer in your area," does not realy mean a thing as to my ablilities.

Laticiaw (talk|edits) said:

12 April 2007
I don't start getting irritated until around this time of the year when I am dealing with questions at the supermarket about when they have to file and if an extension will cause them to be audited. So when I come to this site I'm sorta hoping for a repreive from the assinine questions I get everyday in wal-mart from the cashiers.

Dennis (talk|edits) said:

13 April 2007
The irritation threshold does get rather low this time of the year, however, unlike the cashier the questions you find offensive are not directed at you. You neither have to read them or answer them. Asinine is in the eye of the beholder. I still babysit a number of CPA firms and yesterday I answered the same question from the same CPA for the fourth year in a row.

Laticiaw (talk|edits) said:

13 April 2007
Yeah, I know...just gets irritating when I see a question that no tax professional would ask and I have to sift through everything. Also, I don't want to find myself liable for giving out advice to someone that I have no personal connection to...at least at Wal-Mart I can see their face and have a little more to go on (facial expressions, body language, and general attitude) to determine whether or not I could find myself slapped with a lawsuit for giving out more information than April 17th, file an extension.

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