Unscrupulous tax preparers come in all kinds: tax attorneys, CPAs, Enrolled Agents (EAs), unlicensed preparers. Everyone should try and avoid a preparer who lacks integrity. Tax bloggers provide good advice for choosing a preparer, including Joe Kristan, Trich McIntire, Bruce The Tax Guy, Robert Flach, Peter Pappas, the IRS Hitman, and many others.
Upon reading the news of this suspended CPA, I thought this might perhaps lead to more debate on the topic of whether a CPA is more qualified to prepare a tax return than an unlicensed preparer. There's been so much written on the topic in the past few months, that I'm honestly not sure where the discussion left off. (One post that includes links to many others can be found at The Missouri Taxguy.)
I posted my thoughts on tax preparer regulation a few months back, and find my opinion has not changed much since then. I do, however, have some new thoughts on the matter of how such a topic is debated.
When reading about this CPA who was suspended, I thought: "Oh dear, I hope people don't start thinking he is representative of all CPAs."
I think most people agree that one bad apple is not representative of the entire bunch. But when in the throws of an argument, we often give undue attention to the one bad apple in an effort to make a point. This happens in debates about matters ranging from types of tax preparer, gender, race, nationality, and perhaps most of all religion. Since people tend to disagree in all such matters, I suggest we can learn from how others address the challenge of engaging in productive debate. Perhaps the most debated topic of all: religion.
The world reknowned theological and scholar Dr. Krister Stendahl is credited with creating Stendahl's three rules of religious understanding, which are:
- When you are trying to understand another religion, you should ask the adherents of that religion and not its enemies.
- Don't compare your best to their worst.
- Leave room for "holy envy." (By this Stendahl meant that you should be willing to recognize elements in the other religious tradition or faith that you admire and wish could, in some way, be reflected in your own religious tradition or faith.)
This may seem to you completely unrelated to the topic at hand, and that is quite all right. I have a tendency to see connections everywhere, and perhaps may even imagine them. I like connecting the dots, even if I'm the only one who sees the line!