Poll finds support for reforming tax preparation industry

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Broad public support exists for reforming the paid tax preparation industry, according to a survey commissioned by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA).

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Nearly nine in 10 survey participants supported requiring paid preparers to provide an upfront printed list of fees before they conduct any work, according to the CFA's report on the survey, released Wednesday.

Four out of five respondents also said they supported requiring paid tax preparers to pass a government-administered test, and 83 percent said they support requiring preparation businesses to be licensed by a state agency.

Fifty-six percent of respondents, meanwhile, said that paid preparers should have special training in tax preparation but do not need to have a college degree, while 31 percent said preparers need a college degree in accounting, according to the report.

The survey comes after the Government Accountability Office in 2014 sent undercover investigators to 19 tax preparer offices and found that only two of the 19 preparers computed the correct refund amounts.

Four states have since enacted tax preparer reforms, and lawmakers in other states and the federal government have also proposed reforms, the CFA said.

“State legislatures have the authority to implement common sense protections for taxpayers. This new national poll shows that taxpayers want the protection and peace of mind that their preparer is held accountable and is upfront about the fees that they charge,” said CFA Senior Policy Advocate Michael Best said in a statement.

At the federal level, some members of Congress have shown interest in legislation authorizing the regulation of preparers following a federal appeals court ruling in 2014 that the IRS had overreached in its rules. But some congressional Republicans have expressed concerned about giving the IRS more authority in the wake of the political group-targeting scandal.

The CFA contracted with ORC International to conduct the poll. The results are based on telephone interviews of 1,011 adults living in the continental United States. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.08 percent.

Nearly half of those surveyed said they had used the services of a tax preparation company in the past five years, and 28 percent of respondents said they had used such a company in each of the last five years.