In the wake of our nation’s most troubling economic recession since the Great Depression, regulatory committees, corporations, and small businesses alike have begun waves of compliance testing meant to provide financial oversight and some measure of protection against liability for their transactions. Of particular interest are the new measures taken by the IRS and the large corporate banks who deal in providing income tax refunds and their related services.
Knowing the potential for financial instability inherent in any series of large-scale transactions, in particular the now almost-extinct Refund Anticipation Loan market, financial regulators seek to curtail the effects of this latest challenge to our country’s financial woes by introducing sweepings reforms to the practices of income tax preparers. In prior years, the vast majority of income tax preparers were held to no professional standards, nor were they required to hold any level of documented competency in income tax preparation.
Those days are now long gone. While a preparer can choose to run a tax business without following the standards set by the IRS and the banking institutions, doing so is a disservice to your clients and the integrity of the industry as a whole, while putting the office at risk for legal action and unnecessary liability.
Compliance training and testing – while daunting or even intrusive to some – is a ‘necessary evil’ for working in today’s tax preparation industry. Not only is its intention to safeguard against the depredations of those taxpayers intent on fraudulently manipulating the system, it also adds an air of legitimacy to your business by allowing you to conform to the highest professional standards available.
Compliance training and testing serves two main purposes. The first and most important is reducing your liability for the information provided by your clients.
Imagine, if you will, an audited taxpayer claiming that you placed fraudulent information on their tax return, or that you never had permission to file their return in the first place. Such a scenario is preventable simply by following the compliance guidelines provided by the IRS. At the very least, complying with the guidelines allows you separation from the information and contents of the returns you prepare. You are, after all, paid to put in the information that your clients specify.
Secondly, compliance training and testing provides knowledge about an institution’s procedures and the steps they take in their financial process, along with an explanation or grasp of why. For instance, most banking compliance testing involves a highly interactive learning and testing process that gives the preparer a bevy of information on exactly how the bank conducts its business to provide taxpayers with their money. This is useful in the sense that you can be prepared to knowledgeably answer your clients’ questions, as well as understanding what to expect in the case a problem arises.
In essence, following compliance guidelines not only confers professional responsibility and legitimacy to your business, it also protects you from many scenarios where you actually risk losing your ability to provide specific banking services, or even be barred permanently from income tax preparation services entirely. The IRS and banks are very serious about their newest series of mandates on tax preparation and bank product services, and just by following compliance guidelines – often as simple as maintaining copies of certain documents, signature pages, and identification – you can prevent yourself and your tax practice from a world of trouble.