National Consumers League

Groups' letter to Congress in support of Taxpayer Service Standards legislation

September 23, 2019

The Honorable Chuck Grassley
Chairman
Committee on Finance
United States Senate
219 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-6200

The Honorable Richard Neal
Chairman
Ways & Means Committee
United States House of Representatives
1102 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

The Honorable Ron Wyden
Ranking Member
Committee on Finance
United States Senate
219 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-6200

The Honorable Kevin Brady
Ranking Member
Ways & Means Committee
United States House of Representatives
1102 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Chairman Grassley, Ranking Member Wyden, Chairman Neal, and Ranking Member Brady:

We are writing to express our support for much-needed Taxpayer Service Standards legislation to protect Americans from tax return preparers who do not meet basic standards of competency, training or ethics. In 2014, the GAO found widespread and significant errors during a “secret shopper” test on paid preparers, with only about 10 percent of preparers calculating the correct refund amount. The Federal Trade Commission ranked tax preparer fraud in the top 30 most common types of fraud in 2017. And yet, the IRS has had little authority to prevent bad actors from becoming tax preparers or remove them once they’re in the system.

We urge Congress to take action to provide some basic protections that will ensure the well-being of American taxpayers and equip the IRS with the tools it needs to do so. 

For many Americans, a tax return is their most significant financial transaction all year. According to the IRS, nearly 60 percent of taxpayers seek help with their taxes from paid preparers. As important as a tax return is, there are actually no basic standards in place to protect taxpayers from incompetent, unethical or sloppy tax preparation services. Yet the consequences of a mistaken tax return can be devastating. For these reasons, we are supporting legislation before the Senate and the House to set taxpayer service standards, allow the IRS to spot and remove habitually bad tax preparers from the system, and protect taxpayers from fraudulent, dishonest and incompetent tax preparers. Specifically, we support –

  • H.R. 3466, introduced by Congressman Estes (R-KS) and Congresswoman Sewell (D-AL). This bill would give the IRS the authority to revoke PTINs from fraudulent, incompetent and unethical preparers.
  • S. 1192 and H.R. 3330, the Taxpayer Protection and Preparer Proficiency Act. These Senate and House companion bills, introduced by Senators Wyden and Cardin and Congressmen Panetta (D-CA) and Yoho (R-FL), respectively, would establish minimum standards for tax return preparers.

Currently, the only requirement to become a paid tax preparer is to obtain a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) from the IRS. The agency identified nearly 20,000 registered preparers who were potentially non-compliant with their tax filing and payment obligations, with $375 million in taxes due from these preparers as of January 26, 2015.[1] As of May 2017, however, only about 1,700 of 1.3 million PTINs issued had been revoked – 0.001%. Even today, the IRS accepts returns from preparers with expired or invalid PTINs. What’s more, 58% of active PTIN holders have no professional credentials at all, unlike CPAs, attorneys and enrolled agents. This is unacceptable and exposes taxpayers to fraud, incompetence and fees and penalties through no fault of their own.

We thank you for your attention to this important issue and urge you and your colleagues to support S. 1192/H.R. 3330 and H.R. 3466 to protect American taxpayers who unknowingly may be using unqualified or dishonest tax preparers.

Sincerely,                                                                                                   

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
Consumer Action
MANA – A National Latina Organization
Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition
National Consumers League
Prosperity Now
Virginia Citizens Consumer Council

[1] Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, August 27, 2015.