Today I read this headline in Accounting Today: “Tax Preparer Sentenced to 18 Months“. This kind of thing always sends a shiver through my body, because, what if I make a mistake? Or what if someone lies to me
I am a terrible liar. Ask my mother. Ask my husband. Ask my children. I giggle, I sweat. I am a really, really bad at it. That’s, in part, why I went into this line of business. One of the rules when you become an Enrolled Agent is to be truthful to the best of your ability. The penalty is much greater than lying to your mom about where you were last night.
There is a prevailing assumption that a tax preparer or accountant can “fix” things, or can somehow make taxes irrelevant to you. When I see Wesley Snipes and Lauryn Hill on the front pages for tax evasion, I’m embarrassed for them and pissed at their financial advisors. How could anyone persuade a client to go through that?
In the end, this woman who was sentenced willfully falsified returns for her own personal gain. I hate to sound righteous, but taxes haven’t been about personal gain since Nottingham and Sherwood Forest.
We pay taxes so the society around us can be clean and orderly. We pay for education so we can all understand and do business with one another. We pay for the roads and rails for our cars, buses and trains. We pay for a government, which is allegedly by and for us. (We would be doing better if we could rely on taxes to pay our officials more than corporate “donations”.)
Lying about taxes takes food out of the mouths of the needy and destroys playgrounds. It allows hurricanes and blizzards to destroy homes and lives. It puts our society’s well-being into the hands of an uber-wealthy few. And most of those people don’t really care how you’re living.
You probably do have a refund coming to you. Most of us overpay during the year. And we do it honestly. Payroll percentages are sometimes incorrect. There are lots of tax breaks and incentives for parents and artists and small businesses and just about everyone. The tax code is complicated. Enrolled Agents are there to help.
I wouldn’t lie to you about that.