Circular 230 contains rules governing the recognition of tax attorneys, certified public accountants, enrolled agents, and other persons representing taxpayers before the IRS. The first part of Circular 230 establishes the Office of Professional Responsibility IRS (“OPRIRS”). The Director of the OPRIRS is appointed by the Secretary of the Treasury and acts on applications for enrollment to practice before the IRS; makes inquiries with respect to matters under the Director’s jurisdiction; institutes and provides for the conduct of disciplinary proceedings relating to practitioners and appraisers; and performs other duties as are necessary. Circular 230 also provides for who may practice before the IRS. Practice before the IRS includes, but is not limited to, preparing and filing documents, corresponding and communicating with the IRS, rendering written tax advice, and representing a client at conferences, hearings and meetings.
The second part provides the duties and restrictions relating to the practice before the Internal Revenue Service. The main duties include:
- Information to be furnished by the practitioner to the IRS, including any knowledge of client’s omission and diligence as to accuracy of information provided;
- Prompt disposition of pending matters;
- A prohibition on assistance from or to disbarred or suspended persons;
- Restrictions on the practice by former government employees;
- Restrictions on fees;
- The return of client’s records;
- Conflicting interests;
- Solicitation; and,
- Requirements for covered opinions.
Future articles in Ethics Edge will expand on each of the above duties and restrictions.
The third part of Circular 230 allows sanctions for violation of the Regulations. The Director of the ORIRS, after notice and an opportunity for a proceeding, may censure, suspend, or disbar any practitioner from practice before the Internal Revenue Service for the following:
- The practitioner is incompetent or disreputable;
- The practitioner fails to comply with Circular 230; or
- The practitioner, with intent to defraud, willfully and knowingly misleads or threatens a client or prospective client.
Any discipline from the IRS is public and the IRS swill notify the practitioner’s professional association, such as a state bar association.
The last part of Circular 230 provides the rules applicable to disciplinary proceedings. In general, the Director of the OPRIRS may first have a conference with a practitioner, which may result in voluntary discipline. The institution of a formal proceeding begins with the preparing and service of a complaint against the practitioner with an administrative law judge. The practitioner may answer the complaint. The failure of answering the complaint constitutes an admission of the allegations of the complaint and a waiver of the hearing. The IRS and practitioner may file motions and requests as well as provide evidence. At least one hearing before the administrative law judge is required. The decision of the administrative law judge follows the hearing. An appeal of the decision of Administrative Law Judge can be timely filed with the Secretary of the Treasury. Lastly the practitioner may petition for reinstatement after the expiration of 5 years following such disbarment or disqualification.
These rules ensure that tax lawyers and other professionals comply with a strict regulatory scheme designed to protect the public and ensure the integrity of the IRS.