I just returned from the last of the six IRS Nationwide Tax Forums in San Diego, which had about 2,000 attendees. The previous Forum in Las Vegas had over 6,000 attendees. The first two Forums in Atlanta and Chicago in late June and early July were uneventful. Then the flood gates opened in Orlando and New York City with 3,000 attendees each. Beginning with Orlando, our booth has been swamped with tax professionals and tax business owners seeking solutions to their needs for tax education. A growing number of tax professionals are concerned about complying with the new tax preparer regulations (link to videos).
At the NY Forum I met privately for 90 minutes with the IRS Return Preparer Implementation Project Lead for Testing and Continuing Education to provide input on curriculum standards. He indicated that IRS plans to review the content of each Continuing Education (CE) program of every approved provider. This process will be a major project and will most likely result in the Continuing Education requirement being delayed until 2012 instead of 2011. CE Providers will be assessed program review fees, which will result in higher prices for CE. At the Orlando Forum I talked with the director of the IRS Office of Professional Responsibility who is leading the IRS Tax Preparer Regulation program. She is committed to eliminating unqualified tax preparers including, ultimately, CPAs and attorneys who prepare tax returns without adequate education in the tax laws. I also had discussions with the director of the IRS National Public Liaison office who is a member of the IRS team for Preparer Regulation.
The tax industry vendors in the Expo Hall included the usual tax software companies, service bureaus, franchisors, financial services firms and providers of various resources for tax professionals, including bank products. Notably, several new vendors surfaced that provide stored value credit cards as an alternative to traditional RALs and RACs. In San Diego we were next to one and directly across from another. I recommend looking into the Get It Prepaid MasterCard from ADVENTafs firstname.lastname@example.org. This RAL/RAC alternative will enable you to collect your fees and your clients to get their refunds quickly at a very low cost. With the elimination of the Direct Deposit Indicator, the price of RALs will increase and fewer taxpayers will be approved. However, RALs will not go away. Who will provide RALs and what they will cost is still not determined. We may not have details on all the available options until November.
IRS should be announcing preparer registration procedures soon after Labor Day. We can also expect an announcement about Continuing Education during September. As far as we know, the IRS Exams are still scheduled to be available by July 2011 and preparers will have until 12/31/2013 to pass the test. Anyone who is not registered as a tax preparer by this December 31st will not be able to prepare tax returns during the 2011 tax season. Therefore is you will need to hire tax preparers, you should recruit them and get them trained and registered before the end of this year.