H&R Block Backs Voluntary Tax Certification Program

H&R Block Inc. has taken the forefront to elevate industry standards in tax preparation by supporting a new voluntary certification program initiated by the Internal Revenue Service.

Tax preparers who voluntarily enroll in continuing education courses covering basic tax filings, tax updates, ethic of tax preparation and other related issues will now receive a record of completion noting their efforts. The purpose of the IRS program is to help taxpayers find qualified individuals to prepare tax returns and to help them avoid unethical practices. A study indicating that 42 million Americans have used a tax preparer with no credentials and who operates under no state regulations or minimum standards is the impetus for this program. That figure represents about 54 percent of all returns prepared by someone other than the tax filer.

In a letter supporting the program, H&R Block CEO Bill Cobb encourage the United States government to continue promoting voluntary certification actions, indicating that his company believes the U.S Congress should set standards for professional tax preparers. Until Congress passes such legislation, however, Cobb believes a voluntary certification program is essential to protect the concerns of consumers. Such a program should also include components of the Registered Tax Return Preparer Program that the IRS previously implemented, including registration, competency measures, screenings and continuing education.

Cobb has previously commented that on an appeals court ruling that the IRS cannot regulate tax preparer, indicting that the ruling hurt honest taxpayers who are entitled to basic protections.

Kansas City-based H&R Block is one of few companies that requires minimum standards from its staff. All company tax preparers must have at least 75 hours of tax law and tax return courses in the first year of employment with 15 hours of continuing education for each subsequent year. Also required is 35 hours of system, policies and procedural training.

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