Ca. Tax Lawyer Summer 2015, Volume 24, Number 2

Message from the Chair

By Robert S. Horwitz

In my opinion, being a tax attorney is the best profession one can have. A recent poll reported that the practice of tax law has the highest job satisfaction rating of any legal practice.1 The work is interesting and intellectually stimulating; and tax attorneys have the satisfaction of helping their clients achieve a positive outcome.

Unless you work in a low-income taxpayer clinic or a Tax Court pro bono program, most of the clients with whom you deal probably are in the upper-income brackets. With the exception of pro bono cases, many tax attorneys rarely represent or advise people who are not affluent. Yet lower-income taxpayers often are the most abused taxpayers in the country—abused not only because they are low-hanging fruit ready to be plucked by over-zealous tax collectors, but also because they often fall victim to scammers, SIRFers (i.e., stolen identity refund fraud criminals) and unscrupulous or uninformed return preparers. It is my hope that in the coming months, members of the Taxation Section, in conjunction with the State Bar of California and the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS") National Taxpayer Advocate’s Office ("NTAO"), will be able to help these abused taxpayers.

As tax attorneys, most of the return preparers we come in contact with are the CPAs or enrolled agents who have prepared our clients’ returns. If you drive through any low income or immigrant community between January and April, you will see that return preparation "chop shops" have sprung up like mushrooms in a forest following a rain. Often, these return preparation services are run by people who are unqualified, unethical or both. Return preparer fraud has been repeatedly on the IRS list of "dirty dozen" tax scams.2 While criminal prosecutions of accountants from major accounting firms (e.g., KPMG, Ernst & Young and BDO) get the headlines for their role in marketing abusive tax shelters, most criminal prosecutions of return preparers are of those who prey on both poor communities and the IRS.

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