TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Monday, August 20, 2012

How Big Government and Big Business Squeeze Entrepreneurs

Wall Street Journal op-ed:  How Big Government and Big Business Squeeze Entrepreneurs, by Chip Mellor (President, Institute for Justice):

Wisconsin's Elmer Kilian wants the chance to earn an honest living. So do Nevada's Lissette Waugh, Florida's Silvio Membreno and countless other entrepreneurs who have the drive and ability to put themselves and others to work.

Standing in their way are regulations imposed at the federal, state and local levels—regulations designed not to protect the public's health and safety but to protect politically powerful private businesses from new competition. These regulations are in many cases unconstitutional uses of government power, and in all cases they are unwise uses of public resources at a time when unemployment rates have lingered above 8% for 41 straight months, the longest such streak since World War II.

For decades, Elmer Kilian has prepared tax returns for his friends and neighbors on his lace-covered dining room table. He is typical of more than 350,000 American tax preparers who may now be put out of business because of an IRS power grab.

Under new regulations imposed last year—without congressional approval—the IRS now requires all paid tax preparers to become "registered tax return preparers" by paying extra fees, passing a government exam, and taking continuing-education classes annually. (Exempted from the mandate are attorneys, CPAs and politically powerful "enrolled agents.") Big tax-preparation firms such as H&R Block and Jackson Hewitt supported the licensing scheme, as did lobbying groups representing CPAs and others who are exempted from new regulation.

This new regulatory burden falls most heavily on independent tax preparers, who may soon be forced out of business. Compliance, especially for seasonal preparers like Mr. Kilian, is both expensive and time-consuming. Out-of-pocket costs of up to $1,000 for continuing-education courses, plus the travel and time required to take the classes, would make Mr. Kilian's venture unprofitable.

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Seriously. "Politically powerful enrolled agents" are exempt from these tax preparer regulations. Perhaps, it's because enrolled agents have far stricter credentialing requirements: at least 24 CE units per year, and an additional fee for the EA license on top of the PTIN fee now paid by all tax preparers. As soon I read that fact challenged statement, I dismissed the whole article.

Posted by: Richard Dulin EA | Aug 20, 2012 9:42:19 AM

I still am mad about paying a stupid fee to the IRS to do it a favor of helping people to comply with the tax laws. Typical government -- rather than deal with the few who are problems, regulate everyone.

Posted by: Woody | Aug 20, 2012 2:04:23 PM