Thinking Things Over

By : Ray McGarrigle | Comments Off on Thinking Things Over

5th Dec 2010

I’ve chosen the above name for this nascent blog as an homage to Vermont C. Royster, who was the Editor of The Wall Street Journal when I started to read it. Following his retirement in 1971, he wrote a column for The Journal with the above title.

Recently I’ve had a long exchange with a well known CPA firm concerning the preparation of an amended Form 990 for a local not-for-profit organization. As you may know the form has had a major revision and this was the first time the organization had to use it. In all we had three rounds of comments covering 22 items in the draft. The exchanges point out the great difficulty that not-for-profits (and taxpayers for that matter) have in complying with the tax laws. Some of the items in question had no instructions and one question prompted the CPA firm to contact the IRS for guidance.

All of which has brought to mind a series of articles that Money Magazine ran several years ago. Each year for five years they had created a test fact pattern and invited firms to prepare a tax return based on it. Every time I tell this story orally, I pause here to ask what percent of preparers you think got the correct answer. Since the time of of these articles the tax law and regulations have only gotten more and more byzantine. There have been more than 100 new laws changing thousands of provisions. They have almost gotten unknowable.

Whenever we take on a new tax matter, we ask to see the last three years’ tax work. It is remarkable how many times we find that previously filed returns should be amended. At least one tax instructor I know says that all returns that are filed are wrong. While we do not claim perfection, we do take great care to get it right. If you have some question about your tax returns, please contact us. The quote from Judge Learned Hand that you see on our front page sums up our philosophy and approach to tax practice.

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