Thursday, December 31, 2009

The IRS has issued further guidance on issues related to Code Sec. 7216. The IRS had previously issued final, temporary and proposed regulations that provide updated guidance concerning the disclosure and use of tax return information by tax return preparers under Code Sec. 7216 T.D. 9478.

Notice 2010-4

In Notice 2010-4, the IRS addressed three issues with respect to the use of taxpayer information to solicit new business from previous or existing clients.
Changes in law that could result in amended returns. A tax return preparer may use tax return information to contact taxpayers to inform them of changes in tax law that could affect the income tax liability on the taxpayers’ returns that were previously prepared or processed by this tax preparer. Code Sec. 7216 does not prohibit the use of tax return information to prepare a "tax return," and, under Reg. §301.7216-1(b)(1), a tax return includes an amended return. Accordingly, the preparer could use client tax return information to identify affected taxpayers, inform them regarding the change in tax law, advise whether it would be appropriate for them to file amended income tax returns, and assist in the preparation and filing of any amended returns.

Accountant or lawyer seeking to give compliance advice. A tax return preparer who is also an accountant may use tax return information to determine who might be affected by a prospective tax rule change in order to contact potentially affected taxpayers for whom the accountant/preparer reasonably expected to provide accounting services in the next year. The contact would notify these taxpayers of the change, explain how the change may affect them, and advise them with regard to actions they may take in response to the change. Reg. §301.7216-2(h)(1)(i) allows a preparer who is lawfully engaged in the practice of law or accountancy to use tax return information to provide other legal or accounting services to the taxpayer, and such services could include advice related to current and future income tax compliance.
Disclosure of taxpayer list to auxiliary service provider. Finally, tax return preparers may disclose their taxpayer lists kept under Reg. §301.7216-2(n) to a third party service provider holding itself out as providing services that include creation, publication, and distribution of newsletters, bulletins, or similar communications to taxpayers whose tax returns the tax return preparers have prepared or processed containing tax information and general business and economic information or analysis for educational purposes or for purposes of soliciting additional tax return preparation services for the tax return preparer. Although restrictions apply to transfers of taxpayer lists under Reg. §301.7216-2(n), a preparer is allowed under Reg. §301.7216-2(d)(1) to disclose, without taxpayer consent, tax return information to another tax return preparer located in the United States for the purpose of obtaining auxiliary services in connection with the preparation of any tax return, so long as the services provided are not substantive determinations or advice affecting the tax liability reported by taxpayers. The service provider, is prohibited from the further use or disclosure of the tax return information for purposes other than those related to the provision of the auxiliary services or as otherwise expressly permitted under Code Secs. 6713 and Code Sec. 7216.
Rev. Rul. 2010-5

In Notice 2010-5, the IRS discussed disclosure of information to tax return preparer insurance carriers. The IRS held that tax return preparers will not be liable for criminal penalties under Code Sec. 7216 and civil penalties under Code Sec. 6713 with respect to certain disclosures of tax return information made to the preparer's professional liability insurance carrier. Under Reg. §301.7216-2(a)(1), a tax return preparer may dislcose, without taxpayer consent, tax return information to another tax return preparer located in the United States in order to obtain auxillary services, not involving substantive determinations or tax advice. Disclosures, without taxpayer consent, may also be made to an attorney for the purpose of obtaining legal advice under Reg. §301.7216-2(g).
A professional liability insurance policy purchased by a return preparer is an auxiliary service provided in connection with the preparation of tax returns; thus, the insurance carrier is a tax return preparer. Accordingly, disclosures necessary for price quotes or to otherwise obtain or maintain professional liability insurance coverage will not result in penalties. This could include a list of client names and description of the services provided, Similarly, disclosures made to the insurance carrier as required for purposes of reporting and investigating claims or for the carrier's selection of an attorney to represent the return preparer will not result in penalties. This could include client names, a description of the services provided, a description of the claim or potential claim, and if necessary, copies of returns relevant to the claims. In both cases, disclosures beyond those that are necessary for the provision of the auxiliary services are prohibited. Finally, a return preparer may make disclosures to the selected attorney related to the claim or potential claim or in seeking legal advice from an attorney who is not a representative of the carrier, without taxpayer consent.

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