NSA News

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  • 26 Sep 2011 10:08 AM | Anonymous
    Alexandria, VA, September 20, 2011 – John Ams, Executive Vice President of the National Society of Accountants (NSA) for more than a decade, was named to the 2011 Accounting Today magazine list of the “Top 100 Most Influential People” in the accounting profession.

    As the NSA chief staff officer, Ams played a critical role in guiding the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as it implements its new tax preparer registration program. He represented the interests of the accounting profession while supporting standards that protect taxpayers.

    “We are thrilled to see John Ams recognized with this honor,” says NSA President Sharon E. Cook, EA, ABA, ATA, ATP, ARA. “His leadership this past year has been remarkable. He helped the IRS understand the demonstrated proficiency that credentialed tax preparers already provide to individuals and small businesses, while supporting the need to implement standards for less experienced tax preparers. As a result, the IRS has developed standards that will strengthen our profession.”

    “I am truly honored to be recognized in this elite group of accounting professionals,” Ams says. “It is a testament to the hard work and diligence of NSA members in working tirelessly through our board of governors, committees, and state societies to demonstrate the proficiency and integrity of ‘Main Street’ accountants to the IRS, legislators, and the public.”

    Ams was named NSA Executive Vice President in 2001. He was previously Senior Vice President of Financial Affairs for the Interstate Natural Gas Association, Director of Federal Tax Programs for the National Association of Realtors, and an attorney in the IRS National Office.

    He earned his J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center in 1975 and a B.A. from Michigan State University in 1972.

    For more information about NSA, visit www.nsacct.org.

    # # #

    NSA and its affiliates represent 30,000 members who provide accounting, auditing, tax preparation, financial and estate planning, and management services to approximately 19 million individuals and business clients. Most members are sole practitioners or partners in small- to medium- size accounting firms. NSA protects the public by requiring its members to adhere to a strict code of ethics. For more information, visit www.nsacct.org.

  • 15 Sep 2011 10:09 AM | Anonymous

    Alexandria, VA, September 15, 2011 – Accounting professionals who have made strong contributions to the accounting profession were honored at the recent National Society of Accountants (NSA) 66th Annual Meeting in Anchorage, Alaska. Several NSA Affiliated State Organizations (ASOs) were also presented with major awards.

    Accountant of the Year – This award was presented to Paul V. Thompson, EA, ABA, ATA, ARA, of Alexandria, VA. The award is given to an individual member in recognition of outstanding achievement and service to NSA, the accounting and tax profession, the state society, and the community.

    Thompson has been a speaker on tax and accounting issues and is currently Chair of NSA Federal Taxation Committee. He has participated in meetings with the IRS in Washington, DC to discuss tax issues affecting small businesses and individuals. He recently participated on the IRS Advanced Circular 230 Ethics Panel at an IRS Tax Forum and frequently testifies before the IRS representing NSA members, taxpayers, and tax preparers.

    Distinguished Service Award – This award was presented to Curtis Banks Lee Jr., ATA, ATP, of Raleigh, NC, in recognition of his significant and exemplary contributions for the betterment of NSA and its membership as well as the accounting profession. The Distinguished Service Award recognizes continuous service, loyalty, and dedication to NSA. He was just re-elected to a second one-year term as Administrative Chair of the NSA Right to Practice Committee, which is responsible for accounting standards, federal taxation, and state regulation and oversight.

    Norma Kraus State Director Award – This award went to Christine Freeland, CPA, ABA, ARA, CFP of Chandler, AZ. It recognizes an outstanding state director for excellence in carrying out the many duties of a state director, including leading their state society, recruiting members, promoting seminars, and serving as a liaison between NSA and their state society.

    Affiliated State Organization (ASO) of the Year –The Oregon Association of Independent Accountants won this award. This special award was created in 2000 to honor the overall achievements of an ASO and its work in promoting and implementing NSA programs, including membership recruitment, member services, seminar and education sponsorship, legislative activity, and financial stability.

    Keith Billings Memorial Award – This award was presented to two outstanding ASO publications, including The Free State Accountant, published by Maryland Society of Accountants, and The Kansas Public Accountant, published by Public Accountants Association of Kansas. They are judged according to the importance of topics, coverage of activities, timeliness of articles, format, and overall appearance.

    National Editorial Award – Recognition for this award included two individuals who were honored in separate categories. Gloria Juhl Raney was honored for Best Original Article for her story, "Ethics, Mountain Climbing & Fishing in the Gulf," which appeared in the September 2010 issue of The Kansas Public Accountant. John E. Iacono, CPA, of Iacono and Iacono, Inc., received the award for Best Series of Articles for his series of stories about “Ethics and Ethical Behavior,” which appeared in the Minnesota Association of Public Accountants newsletter, The MAPAN.

    Tax Talker of the Year Award – The NSA “Tax Talker” bulletin board is a tremendous resource for tax professionals and has attracted more than 1,000 participants. Of all the contributors, one person has posted over 3,818 responses since 2006, often citing the Internal Revenue Code section that applies to a question and delivering targeted answers, and deferring to others when they have answers that may be more on point. This award went to that person, William Delaney, EA, ATA of Westwood, MA.

    Charles W. McAllister Award – This award was presented to ASOs in four categories honoring them for the highest net increase in NSA membership during the past year. For Division I (fewer than 100 members), the award went to the Mississippi and South Dakota; for Division II (100-250 members), it went to Iowa; for Division III (250-500 members), the award went to Florida, and for Division IV (500 members or more), the award went to California.

    Best ASO Website – This award was presented to ASOs in two categories. For Division I (fewer than 300 members), the award went to the Arkansas Society of Accountants, and for Division II (300 or more members), the award went to the Washington Association of Accountants.

    For more information about NSA, visit www.nsacct.org.

    # # #
    

    NSA and its affiliates represent 30,000 members who provide accounting, auditing, tax preparation, financial and estate planning, and management services to approximately 19 million individuals and business clients. Most members are sole practitioners or partners in small- to medium- size accounting firms. NSA protects the public by requiring its members to adhere to a strict code of ethics. For more information, visit www.nsacct.org.

  • 11 Jul 2011 4:21 PM | Anonymous

    In response to IRS Notice 2011-48, NSA on June 7 submitted comments to the IRS on the makeup and administration of the tax preparer competency examination expected to be available sometime this fall.

    Highlights of NSA’s comments:

    • The examination has been frequently described by various IRS officials as testing tax knowledge to ascertain “minimal competency.” It should not be confused with, or be equivalent to, the Enrolled Agent examination, the CPA examination, or other examinations that clearly test for knowledge that is beyond minimal competency.
    • NSA believes the level of expertise expected by the IRS when approving VITA volunteers is one of at least minimal competence. We are comfortable with this expectation and believe the same standard should be used for determining minimal competence by paid preparers. Accordingly, the examination should be no more difficult than the examination given by the IRS to select VITA volunteers.
    • The areas of tax law that should be covered by the examination should include only those covered in Publication 17, basic areas covered in Publication 334 and the ethics, penalty and education provisions of Circular 230.
    • The exam results should be reported to the applicant with a pass/fail indicator when completed. However, both those who pass and those who do not should be provided a document showing the number of correct/incorrect responses by area of tax law.
    • The examination should be offered on a monthly basis.

    A copy of NSA’s comment letter to the IRS is available in the NSAlert Document Library. Click here to go there now.
  • 11 Jul 2011 4:18 PM | Anonymous

    Be careful what you ask for. When the IRS requested comments by July 7 on the competency examination, I am sure it was hoping for more thoughtful responses than some that have been submitted. For example, one commenter took the view that the IRS should force all return preparers to get an accounting degree. We are confident this commenter had earned an accounting degree and believe that only preparers created in his own image are sufficiently worthy to preparer returns for others.

    Thankfully, some comments were more thoughtful. The middle ground in the comments seems to be that the competency test should be mainly multiple choice, should focus on common errors found in the Form 1040 series, and be offered frequently enough that preparers who fail can take the test again quickly. Preparers also said they did not want to have to travel too far to take the test.

    CPAs, attorneys, and enrolled agents, who have always had to pass a test at the state level or with IRS, are not subject to the new IRS testing scheme. They were not hesitant, however, to express their views on the standards that should apply to their tax return preparation competitors.

    Enrolled agent Lawrence Rogers said the test should be very hard. “If it is not, there is no reason to have people take it at all,” he said. Perhaps in response to Mr. Rogers’s comment Susan Santora, a tax preparer from Santa Monica, Calif., wrote in: “This is a competency test, not the enrolled agent exam.” Right back at you, Larry!

    Individual taxes, sole proprietors, and Circular 230, are the top three areas that should be tested, said Anthony Curatola, a professor of tax and accounting at Drexel University. In addition to a general multiple choice format, he recommended some tax calculations requiring a person to pull up tax tables or specific forms such as an earned income tax credit checklist. Furthermore, since many of the registered tax preparers are using tax software, he suggested some questions be geared toward an understanding of the concept associated with tax liability instead of just calculations.

    The New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants strongly believes that a practical section involving the preparation of a sample return is essential. In addition there should be one short essay question to test the applicant's ability to communicate tax concepts to clients, President Richard Piluso said. [NSA comment: there will be no essay questions on this examination].

    Maria Taylor, of Abington, MA, commented that she has been preparing her neighbors’ and family members’ taxes for 30 years, and said if IRS wants to eliminate small practitioners, it is now moving in the right direction. She wrote that she tries to keep informed about all the changes as best as possible. Should I be required to take courses, she asked? “If it can be done free of charge & like we do now with the Webinarsundefinedyes! If not forget it.” She concluded that, if the real aim is to improve the services offered to the public, the answer is to just enforce the regulations that are in place now. NSA note to Ms. Taylor: “Forget it” may not be sufficient with respect to continuing education. See the mandatory annual education requirements in the revised Circular 230.

  • 11 Jul 2011 4:16 PM | Anonymous
    National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson blasted budget cuts to the IRS's taxpayer service and tax compliance, saying the agency cannot meet its increased responsibilities with fewer resources without “cutting corners,” in a report to Congress released June 29.

    The report identifies priority issues the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) will address during the coming fiscal year, but focused on Olson's concern about the impact of IRS budget cuts on service and tax compliance, along with IRS lien-filing practices.

    Olson pointed out that the IRS is being asked to implement new laws like the Economic Stimulus Payments, First-Time Homebuyer Credit, and Making Work Pay Credit, among other complex tax benefits that are challenging for taxpayers. These complicated provisions led to a rise in taxpayer inquiries and problems. However, the agency has reduced its ability to respond to phone calls and letters from taxpayers. The percentage of unanswered correspondence classified as “overage” at year's end increased by 135 percent when comparing the last week of fiscal years 2004 and 2010, according to the report, Fiscal Year 2012 Objectives.

    Cuts to IRS's budget means the agency will lack resources to ensure all taxpayers have paid their taxes, and it will be unable to meet the service needs of taxpayers, the report said. “In recent years, the IRS has been given more and more tasks, but it is not receiving the resources it needs to fulfill these tasks without cutting corners,” the report said. “And when the IRS cuts corners, taxpayers can be harmed and revenue collection may suffer.”

    The report also addressed other areas TAS will focus on in next fiscal year:
    • Taxpayer impact of a possible government shutdown;
    • Tax reform and complexity;
    • Earned Income Tax Credit improvements;
    • Tax-related identity theft; and
    • Innocent spouse relief.
  • 11 Jul 2011 4:15 PM | Anonymous
    The IRS has decided not to go forward with a proposal to allow taxpayers to use a portion of their tax refund to pay for tax preparation services.

    David Williams, director of the IRS return preparer office, said June 28 that although the Service had announced last year that it would explore the concept, it would not pursue it at this time. “Since then, the IRS has conducted outreach to numerous parties, including consumer advocates and industry groups,” Williams said. “During that outreach, the IRS heard a variety of views, some supporting this additional option for consumers, with others raising operational and/or policy concerns.” Ultimately, the decision was made not to go forward at this time.

    The possibility of steering a portion of a taxpayer's refund directly to the preparer was announced last year. Consumer groups were opposed to the proposal because of concerns that “predatory tax preparers” might be encouraged to charge more for tax preparation because a taxpayer's refund will not be as visible or accessible once it has been turned over to the tax preparer.

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