Monday, February 4, 2013

Dear Tax Preparers, Stop Misleading Us!

Dear Tax Preparers, Stop Misleading Us!
All tax preparers (and/or tax preparation software) are not created equal. And in a free market society, one should expect fierce competition as preparers attempt to differentiate themselves. However, that doesn’t and shouldn’t mean stretching the truth or duping the folks they purport to serve with bogus information.
If you’ve paid attention, most of the advertising seems to suggest that if you employ “them” or use “their” software, you will somehow get “more” money back – money you wouldn’t otherwise receive. Is this really true?
One particular ad got my attention – in a negative way. It features a lady who claims to have read the entire ObamaCare Act and is therefore so familiar with it that she will (in this case, it’s her company and their software) “save” her clients money “this year” (i.e., on their 2012 tax returns). I’m singling this one out because it’s such a stretch!
Not that I’m an expert on ObamaCare by any measure, but I don’t know of any aspect of that law for which we are filing taxes on “this year” – 2012. In early January, I attended a workshop organized by the Maryland Society of Accountants on the ins and outs of this law. What was unique about this particular workshop compared to all the others I’ve attended on this subject is that it was led by three esteemed attorneys, one of whom is the nation’s foremost expert on healthcare law.
Guess what? He’s still trying to decode all the ramifications of the "Affordable Care Act." In fact, the IRS is still developing the framework, writing the tax rules, and getting things ready for the 2013 tax season, by which time this law will really have kicked in. Which leaves one to wonder what, exactly, the lady in that ad might be talking about – and as a result makes it a very bogus ad.
Of course, tax prep is a crowded field, and the bigger one’s market share in any industry, presumably the better. But shouldn’t we at least begin with candidness? While an experienced preparer who knows what they’re doing will make a difference, by and large, there’s absolutely no magic that will give you more money than is legally due you under IRS rules – unless you and/or your preparer are willing to commit tax fraud.
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