The world is a scary place, and Congress makes it even scarier for taxpayers with the insanity called the tax code.
And of course, there is much more to life than tax. (Many are likely shocked to hear me say it.) To function with so much variety in life, our modern economy relies on specialization of labor, so that different people become educated and trained in different things, and we trade.
Each day, we decide what to trade for. Perhaps the most important decisions we make are related to choosing service providers: doctors, dentists, lawyers, accountants, and so forth. These can also be the most challenging decisions because human beings are much more variable and unpredictable than a simple widget.
When you choose a service provider, you do your best to find the right person, and hope you choose wisely.
The more time I spend in our profession, the more I come to realize that clients are looking for someone to trust. That's why referrals are usually the most successful way to generate new business. Stacie Clifford Kitts has a good post on the topic of referrals.
Of course, the biggest hurdle most people face is that they cannot afford the best service providers. And some people who can afford them are just too cheap. And so, for everything from medicine to tax, people turn to the Internet.
Robert Flach provides and interesting discussion on the issue of tax advice online in his post: Who can you believe? Jim Maule also provides a great discussion in Tax Illiteracy as a Threat.
Alas, I do not have the answer for how to ensure people get access to credible tax information. Robert provides some good tips for people to use in evaluating whether a person espousing tax advice is trustworthy. If I didn't need to earn a living by charging for the value of my services, I could spend all of my time combating tax illiteracy. Instead, I'll need to settle for doing what I can to educate in my own communities while working around "my day job."
I do hope that people can start to do a better job of simply using good judgment. It's amazing how much trouble can be avoided by making good decisions.
In a barely related note, often when I think about choosing wisely or poorly, I remember the line at the end of this gruesome scene from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. "He chose poorly." Gotta love the understatement.