Tax Pros’ Duty of Competence With the New Tax Law

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One of the first thoughts that likely occurred to any tax professional upon first hearing about the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act — passed late in 2017 and the most substantial change to the Internal Revenue Code in 31 years — was, “Oh, goodie, now I get to become familiar with 700 pages of new and revised tax statutes!”

For some, the second thought was, “Do I really need to learn all of this? What would happen if I didn’t?”

If you are a tax professional who prepares federal returns, chances are you are bound by a set of rules of professional conduct governing everything from your relationships with clients to what you can say in TV ads and email signatures.

For the four most common types of tax professionals — CPAs, attorneys, enrolled agents and Annual Filing Season Program participants — there is a single, generally uniform concept that answers the question, “Do I really have to learn all of this stuff?” That concept is the duty of competence, and for the most part, it’s a fairly simple standard to meet.

Who Defines Competence?

Competence is defined and explained differently by the different authorities that oversee tax professionals, but the various rules generally agree.

CPAs and attorneys are governed at the state level by boards of accountancy and state bar associations, respectively, and may subject themselves to additional oversight by professional associations, including state CPA societies and voluntary bar associations.

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About Chris Bushong

Chris Bushong

Chris Bushong is a tax attorney and economist working in the Intuit Strategic Partners Group. Prior to joining Intuit in June 2017, Chris worked in a number of tax roles in-house and in private practice in the U.S. and Canada. His primary areas of expertise are business tax planning and cross-border transactions.

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