As an independent tax preparer, ethics are very important. Before offering any service to a client, you should be up to date on current laws and regulations regarding tax ethics, as well as government rules on such practices. Your clients are trusting you with sensitive information and it is vital to your business that you practice proper ethical codes. Adhering to these rules is more than just a courtesy to your client. If you break them, you could be breaking the law.
People come to you because they may not feel comfortable doing their own taxes, or they may not have the time to devote to them properly. Sometimes people will come to you because they know they have a problem or a complicated tax year to file and they seek expert assistance. It is your duty to comply with the law fully and completely and to protect your clients, as well as their personal information.
On July 26, 2005 the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) adopted proposed Ethics and Independence Rules as they apply to tax services. The PCAOB works to establish auditing and related attestation standards, quality control standards, and ethics standards to be used by registered public accounting firms and independent tax preparers. This is intended to help prevent fraud in the tax business. This is also very useful in situations where a tax audit is pursued in order to show proof, documentation and who is at fault, should there be a mistake.
The AICPA Independence & Ethics Guidance is another resource that can help you understand ethics and what is expected of you to comply with guidelines and rules. These guidelines discuss matters such as bookkeeping, client and preparer responsibilities, storing of important documents, providing sound advice to the client, providing information regarding best tax practices to the client, researching and responding to the client’s questions and concerns regarding a tax matter and more.
To stay up-to-date on all ethics standards for tax preparers it is highly recommended that you take advantage of the IRS Annual Filing Season Program course. The IRS designed the AFSP to keep tax return preparers informed and up to speed on all the changes made to tax law each year. The AFSP encompasses an Annual Tax Refresher course with a curriculum distributed directly by the IRS. This guarantees that all courses have the appropriate material to keep all tax preparers current with all the changes and additions to the tax laws each year. Upon completing the course, participants earn a record of completion and earn the privilege of being placed in a directory of tax return preparers on the IRS website. For more information on the AFSP go to: http://www.irs.gov/Tax-Professionals/Annual-Filing-Season-Program.