New Haven, since you ask. A 25-year-old New Haven man was arrested Monday on public indecency charges after he unzipped his pants and exposed his genitals to an employee at Jackson Hewitt Tax Service, police said. […] According to Capt. Ronald Smith, [Anthony] Randolph walked into the Jackson Hewitt office at 1338 Dixwell Ave., and […]
Call it the discount 1040 wars (or something):
Jackson Hewitt Tax Service Inc sued H&R Block Inc to stop a new advertising campaign that it said misleads customers about tax refund loans and disparages Jackson Hewitt’s competence.
How disparaging? How about “two-thirds of the tax returns are wrong” disparaging:
According to the complaint, H&R Block falsely claimed that its “Second Look Review” program, which reviews past tax returns prepared by rivals, found that two-thirds of prior returns prepared by Jackson Hewitt contained mistakes.
“H&R Block’s 2 out of 3 claim necessarily implies the false claim that two out of three Jackson Hewitt customers who are entitled to refunds have been short-changed due to Jackson Hewitt errors or incompetence,” the complaint said.
BP Completes Cementing Macondo Oil Well From Top [Bloomberg]
“BP Plc completed a cement plug at the top of its Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico, sealing off the source of millions of gallons of oil spewed into the sea after a drilling rig exploded in April.
The procedure completes the so-called t stage for BP is to finish a relief well to inject cement at the bottom and ensure there’s no leakage inside the 13,000-foot-long (3,962 meters) well bore beneath the seabed, National Incident Commander Thad Allen said yesterday.”
Ten Signs It’s Time to Leave Your Job: The Finance Edition [FINS]
Check yourself for some of these symptoms: “You’ve been holding back from voicing your grievances.”; “You have no clue where the company is headed.”; “You start to believe you can’t do better.”
And that’s just in the first five listed.
Altus completes PricewaterhouseCoopers deal [Bloomberg BusinessWeek]
PwC sells their real estate appraisal management for, what we can only assume to be, a decent chunk of change.
H&R, Jackson Hewitt shares fall on new IRS rule [Reuters]
“Shares of top two U.S. tax preparers H&R Block Inc (HRB.N) and Jackson Hewitt Tax Service Inc (JTX.N) fell Thursday on the Internal Revenue Service’s decision to eliminate debt indicator for tax-refund loans.
On Thursday, the IRS said starting with next year’s tax filing season it will no longer provide tax preparers and associated financial institutions with ‘debt indicator,’ which is used to facilitate refund anticipation loans (RALs).”
Two UHY LLP Partners Recently Named to Prominent Standard-Setting Implementation Groups [Market Wire]
“The national CPA firm of UHY LLP announced today the recent appointment of Houston-based partner Ana Denena to the International Accounting Standards Board’s (IASB) Small and Medium-sized Entities Implementation Group. In a separate appointment, the firm announced that Maryland-based partner Jennine Anderson was named to the Financial Accounting Standards Board’s (FASB) resource group on non-profit entities.”
PCAOB Adopts New Risk Assess. Stds; Issues Release on Failure to Supervise [FEI Financial Reporting Blog]
As we mentioned yesterday, the PCAOB has been busy. Francine McKenna guest-blogged over at FEI and gives the rundown.
Fannie Quarterly Loss Is Smallest Since 2007 [WSJ]
FTW? “Fannie Mae posted a $1.2 billion net loss for the second quarter, the smallest loss in three years, amid signs that the massive wave of souring loans that brought down the mortgage-finance giant may be easing. But Fannie still asked the U.S. government for an additional $1.5 billion.”
District Court Issues Order in Snipes Case [TaxProf Blog]
Just when you thought it was over.
If you’re not getting cloud computing you’re a loser [AccMan]
That is, you’ve got almost nothing to lose by going for it.
Deloitte leadership race reduced to two hopefuls [Accountancy Age]
“he contest to replace John Connolly as leader of Deloitte in the UK will involve just two members of the firm’s board.
The contenders vieing for the top job are Martin Eadon, head of audit, and David Sproul, head of tax. Sproul joined Deloitte when the firm acquired Andersen in the UK on the back of the Enron crisis
Both candidates gave presentations at the firm’s partner conference on 6 July but no further campaigning is expected.”
Lehman case “backs” accounting convergence [Reuters]
Philippe Danjou, a board member at the IASB has been quoted as saying that Repo 105 would not have been allowed under IFRS, “From an IFRS perspective I would suspect that most transactions would have stayed on the balance sheet. It makes a case for convergence, it makes a case that we should not have different outcomes under different accounting standards when you have such big amounts.”
The G-20 asked the sages at both the FASB and the IASB to converge their rules by June-ish 2011 but some people don’t se c, as there are too many disparities on treatment of key issues between the two boards.
The Real Reason Behind Danny DeVito’s Crazy Eddie Movie Project Meltdown [White Collar Fraud]
Danny DeVito wants to make a movie based on the Crazy Eddie Fraud, which was perpetrated by, among others, Eddie and Sam Antar. The project has run aground primarily because of Eddie Antar’s life rights and the potential profit he would reap from the making of the movie. Danny D is disappointed by the developments and has sympathy for Eddie, discussing it in s recent Deadline New York article:
“He’s gone through tough times, and he’s not the aggressive tough guy they paint him to be,” De Vito said. “He’s in his 70s and the past has come back to bite us all in the ass. Peter [Steinfeld] and I told him we think there is a terrific story there, but we can’t do it with you involved, in any way. We’ve taken a breather, but we’re figuring out how to jump back in.
Sam Antar is not amused by this and chimed in with his side of the story:
Eddie Antar is plainly still in denial about his cowardice towards his own family and investors. There actually is a “family dynamic” that “explains Antar’s fall” as DeVito claims. However, Eddie Antar and other members of his immediate family are simply unwilling to give a truthful account of what really happened at Crazy Eddie, while Danny Devito is willing to accept Eddie Antar’s bullshit excuses for his vile behavior.
As Chipotle Sizzles, CFO Sells Stock [Barron’s]
Ten thousand shares at $144 and change will buy a bunch of burritos.
Medifast Lawsuit: Anti-SLAPP motions filed [Fraud Files Blog]
Back when we discussed forensic accounting, the aforementioned Sam Antar said that forensic accountants can look forward to “making many enemies in the course of their work and must be unhinged by the retaliation that normally follows uncovering fraud and other misconduct.”
Tracy Coenen, no stranger to this retaliation, is now fighting back against Medifast who has sued her and others for saying not so flattering things about the company:
SLAPP stands for Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. It’s basically when a big company tries to shut up a little guy with expensive litigation. In my opinion, Medifast sued me and others in an attempt to get us to stop publicly analyzing or criticizing the company and it’s multi-level marketing business model.
In filing an anti-SLAPP motion, we are essentially asking the court to rule in our favor and in favor of free speech. Consumers should have the right to discuss, analyze, and criticize companies without the fear of expensive lawsuits.
JPMorgan May Quit Tax-Refund Loans, Helping H&R Block [Bloomberg BusinessWeek]
Bloomberg reports that JP Morgan may discontinue its financing of 13,000 independent tax preparers, a move that will benefit H&R Block, according to a competitor:
“Block is the biggest winner in this,” said John Hewitt, chief executive officer of Liberty Tax Service, a privately held company in Virginia Beach, Virginia, that also may benefit…
The reason HSBC is exiting this industry, even though they’re making $100 million a year in profit from it, is because of reputation risk,” Hewitt said in an interview. “Bankers don’t like the consumer advocacy groups picketing outside their offices.”
Refund anticipation loans (RALs) are attractive to clients that need cash immediately, based on their anticipated refund. The business is controversial because the high interest rates can drive people further into debt and consumer groups oppose them vehemently.
Funding for smaller shops that offer these loans will likely lose the business altogether as large banks like JP Morgan discontinue the financing, thus driving the business to franchise tax prep shops like H&R Block, Jackson Hewitt, and Liberty.
Having mastered all of its other responsibilities, the IRS was getting restless. Seeking a new challenge, they are now going to run a testing and continuing education bureaucracy for unenrolled preparers.
When a bureaucracy takes on a new role, the smart question to ask is: who wins?
The big franchised tax preparers are the biggest winners &R Block, Jackson Hewitt and Liberty Tax will now get to put little neon signs saying “IRS Licensed” in their windows. Yes, they will have to take on some responsibility in administering continuing education and employee testing, but they will be able to spread that cost across a nationwide business. They will find ways to streamline things so their employees will miraculously achieve government-approved competence with amazingly little effort. And they will be able to afford fixers and lobbyists to unravel any glitches that happen in the IRS preparer bureau.
This process isn’t just hypothetical. It is just another variation of what happened in the accounting industry after Sarbanes-Oxley and PCAOB. Smaller firms who would take on small public companies before PCAOB could no longer justify the regulatory costs, and the public companies are now captive clients of the big firms.
Over time, the IRS regulatory function will undergo the inevitable process of regulatory capture by the big players. The result – regulations that don’t much bother them but which make life difficult or impossible for their little competitors.
Fixers and lobbyists – See above.
Congresscritters and their staffs – Especially those on tax writing committees. Their new friends Henry, Robert, Jackson and Hewitt will enrich their PACs and make sure that the needs of their new overlords are attended to.
IRS staffers – Once public service palls, the bureaucrats who oversee the programs will have cushy new homes awaiting them at the franchised tax shops.
When there are winners, there are losers. These include:
Small tax prep shops – A solo practitioner will have to manage the new bureaucracy alone, while his giant competitors will have full-time fixers. When a little guy’s competency exam gets lost by the IRS bureaucracy, he might lose a season’s worth of business; fixers and lobbyists will make sure nothing like that happens to the big boys. And of course the inevitable capture of the IRS bureaucracy by the big players will continue to squeeze the little guys.
Enrolled Agents – Now that the IRS will be creating a new lesser level of licensing, these professionals will have a harder time distinguishing their much higher standards to a confused public.
Consumers – The most obvious result will be an increase in prices, both to pay for the new compliance costs and because the rules will run smaller preparers out of the market. Supporters of the regulations will say that it will be worth it because the new standards will improve quality. That’s a pipe dream. A bozo test and a few hours of CPE won’t turn a quack into a brain surgeon.
Low income consumers will, of course, not have to pay for the fancy “licensed” preparers. There will still be plenty of folks with pirated copies of Turbotax preparing unsigned returns in their cars and apartments, and the higher prices of the licensed competitors will send them more business. Other consumers will either struggle through their own returns without benefit of CPE or drop out of the tax system entirely.
So what would be a better approach? – The real problem is Congress. A simple tax law without fraud-inviting refundable credits wouldn’t have preparer problems. At the very least, we should require Congresscritters to face the consequences of their own work. Every one of them should be required to prepare their returns themselves in a live (and archived) webcast. If they use software, their screens should be visible on the webcast. What about their privacy? They make us give them all of our personal information, so fair is fair.
Editor’s note: Joe Kristan is a tax shareholder for Roth & Company, a Des Moines, Iowa CPA firm, where he works with closely-held businesses and their owners. Prior to helping start Roth & Company, he worked for two of what are now the Final Four CPA firms. He writes the Tax Update Blog and is available for seminars, first communions, Bar Mitzvahs, etc. You can see his debut post for GC here.
Any tax preparers out there that got their stripes by virtue of an 8 hour course in the basement of a church will have to start hitting the books. Today, the IRS announced that it is putting a stop to all the amateur 1040 jockeys out there by issuing new requirements for all paid tax preparers.
The new requirements came after complaints from taxpayer rights’ groups who wanted stronger oversight over the industry. Apparently there are too many “tax professionals” that can’t tell the difference between a W-2 and a sack of doorknobs.
[S]tarting in 2011, all paid tax preparers will have to register with the IRS and include a unique identification number on any returns they prepare. Preparers will be given three years to pass a competency exam in either individual or small business taxation.
Attorneys, certified public accountants and enrolled agents will not be required to pass the competency tests. They will remain subject to the requirements of their respective licensing bodies.
But the exams and new annual, continuing education requirements will impact likely hundreds of thousands of preparers, from employees of chain preparation firms like H&R Block Inc. and Jackson Hewitt Tax Service Inc. to mom-and-pop storefronts that offer tax preparation as one of several services.
Three years to pass an exam? Even the dimmest of CPA Exam candidates manage to finish in 18 months. Also, we’re curious as to what diabolical plot the H&R Blocks and Jackson Hewitts of the world will devise in order to speed their professionals into compliance.
Regardless of the shortfalls, Doug “Don’t expect me to apologize” Shulman said that the new requirements were ‘long overdue’. He also said that the Service will be forming a task force to look into determining the accuracy of tax prep software for possible future standards over that industry.
One thing is for sure, somewhere Doug’s boss is asking his friends if they know any good CPAs.