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KAREN BREHMER: I see it is the top of the hour, so let's get started. Welcome to today's webinar, Ethical Guidelines for Tax Professionals Under Circular 230. We're glad you're joining us. My name is Karen Brehmer, and I'm a Stakeholder Liaison with the Internal Revenue Service and I will be your moderator for today's webinar. And today's webinar is slated for 60 minutes.

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All you have to do is enter your question in the text box and click, Submit. But please, I can't emphasize this enough, do not enter any sensitive or taxpayer-specific information in that, Ask Question, box. Moving along with our session, let me introduce today's speaker. Linda Cieslak has been with the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, or TIGTA, since 2016, investigating cases of waste, fraud and abuse at the Internal Revenue Service. Prior to her current role as a special agent, Linda worked as an IT auditor conducting security audits of the IRS' public facing application. Linda is part of TIGTA's Oakland group which has responsibility for all of Northern California. Linda is a member of TIGTA's cyber-investigative cadre. She has her Masters Degree in Accounting and she is a Certified Public Accountant.

Linda, to begin the presentation. Linda, the floor is yours. LINDA CIESLAK: OK, great. Thank you, Karen, and let me also just welcome everyone today. We're so happy to have you all here for this topic. Let's first just take a look at what we're going to be covering today. So we're first going to talk about TIGTA, who we are, our role in protecting the integrity of the tax administration, and then we're going to go into kind of difference between TIGTA and IRS, make it kind of clear what we do. We will also discuss the preparer ethics under Circular 230, and then we will go a little bit into IRS impersonation scams and what to do if you are a victim of one or any of your clients is a victim of one. Talking about Circular 230, so both enrolled and unenrolled practitioners are subject to the rules under IRS Circular 230 and able in order to be able to practice before the IRS. So Circular 230 is titled Regulations Governing Practice before the Internal Revenue Service, and today, this session is kind of going to go into detail about Circular 230 and the details under it. But before we get started, I do want to mention that there is a difference between an enrolled preparer and unenrolled preparer. And that difference is unenrolled preparers, which can also be known as a return preparer, are only allowed to represent a taxpayer for a certain designated year. It has to be a year that they either prepared or signed the return or a claim for a refund. Unenrolled practitioners cannot represent a taxpayer before either IRS appeals or national offices, and there's more details of Circular 230 about what unenrolled preparers can and cannot do in order to practice in front of the IRS. However, in this presentation, we're going to mostly focus on enrolled practitioners who are subject to IRS Circular 230 and all the regulations under it. The IRS has the ability, under Circular 230, to admit a representative to enrolled practice after showing that they have good character, good reputation, necessary qualifications and the competency to practice before the IRS. So who is TIGTA and who am I? I am a special agent with the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, which is known as TIGTA. We are the agency that is responsible for all of the oversight of the IRS. We investigate all crimes that affect the integrity of the service. We are an agency within the Department of the Treasury, but we are separate from the IRS. This enables us to report directly to the Secretary of the Treasury instead of reporting to the IRS Commissioner which lets us be free of bias, because we don't have to report up through the IRS and we can report on their systematic issues to Secretary of the Treasury. TIGTA agents, we are specials agents such as the FBI, the Secret Service, the DEA. We all fall under the same government job series and we go to the same academy as they all do. TIGTA differs from IRS Criminal Investigation, which is also known as IRS CI, in kind of a confusing way; I know it can get a little hard to understand what we do and what they do. CI's jurisdictional priority is really criminal tax fraud. And that is what they touch on; whereas TIGTA's jurisdictional priority is protecting the IRS both from internal and external threats. TIGTA's responsibilities sort of in some places can overlap with CI which is like I said gets confusing. IRS, like I said, handles all tax fraud, however, we have a memorandum of understanding with IRS CI, that details, what they take and what we take to know if a case comes to us if it's in our jurisdiction or not. And when IRS employees commit tax fraud, those cases are in overlapping jurisdictions, so we work them in conjunction with IRS CI. We do TIGTA does have a role in investigations into tax practitioner misconduct even though a lot of that is the responsibility of IRSCI. But we'll go in this presentation into more detail about when that falls under IRS and when that falls under TIGTA. In regards to the IRS employee misconduct, we investigate everything from employee staff, like theft of government property to sexual harassment at the IRS and we even investigate rude and unprofessional conduct with the IRS. In regards to threats and assault, TIGTA does respond to sometimes with lights and sirens and investigates threats and assaults made on IRS employees. One good example of this is that we recently had an IRS revenue officer who was in the field who was attempting to collect from a taxpayer. The taxpayer come to the door with a shotgun, said something along the lines of leave me the expletive alone. We went out to the taxpayer's residence, confronted him, explained to him that it's a federal offense to threaten an IRS employee in the course of their duties. We are able to mark his account so that IRS taxpayers know that it could be dangerous to contact him, and then in the future, they can go about their interactions with him differently. Continuing with TIGTA's responsibilities, while I work for the investigative branch of TIGTA, we also have an audit function that audits IRS programs. And I know this can be confusing to the public because we do not do audits of taxpayers for the IRS. We do audits of the IRS and audits of IRS systems. A well-known audit that TIGTA conducted was in 2013. There was the allegation that IRS used inappropriate criteria to identify political groups. This audit, the final findings of it can be found on TIGTA's website. And it is our job, it's audit's job it's the audit's job to recommend actions that help the IRS resolve systematic deficiencies and these reports, like I said, are posted on our website for the public to view and they are also sent to Congress to review and hopefully they help the IRS to deal with some of their internal control issues or systematic deficiencies that they have. TIGTA is broken up into five regional field divisions and then these are further broken up into our own areas of responsibility. So looking at this map, like I said, I am in Northern California. I am in Oakland, so my post of duty is Oakland, we have a Sacramento office and a Honolulu office that are all part of my group. So we cover Northern California and all of the Pacific territories. So if you look at this map and you see wherever you are in the country, you see which field division you should contact for TIGTA if you come across an issue. And on our website,, you can find contact information for your local office. BREHMER: Hey, Linda, I'm going to interrupt you there and ask you a question. CIESLAK: Yes BREHMER: You just were talking about the website, if you go to the website and you're trying to find that link for local offices, can you help us figure out where on the website people will find that? CIESLAK: Yes. So on our website, you go to the homepage which, again, is, scroll down to the bottom of the page and you'll find three boxes that say for citizens, for researchers and for tax preparers. If you click on the for citizens box, it has a link to local office information and contact information. BREHMER : OK great. So you go to the website, scroll down, look for the box that says for citizens and that's where you'll find that link to local offices. CIESLAK: Yes, exactly. BREHMER: Great, thank you, Linda and I will turn it back over to you. CIESLAK: OK great. So continuing on, TIGTA likes to use this triangle performance model to help explain what we investigate, our investigative program. In the middle, the OI program we call the Office of Investigations, OI, so these are our investigative focuses. It's broken down in three parts, employee integrity, employee and infrastructure security and then external attempts to corrupt tax administration. When we're talking about TIGTA's jurisdiction related to tax professionals, this falls under the external attempts to corrupt tax administration part of our triangle. Like I stated earlier, we do have shared jurisdictional authority of tax professionals with IRS CI. And our internal memorandum of understanding with them helps to provide guidance as to what our specific responsibilities and then what's theirs, and we'll kind of go over this more in detail after our first polling question. So Karen, why don't we stop here and do our first question. BREHMER: That would be a great idea. Hey, Linda, one thing real quick, one question came in. Could you just tell us again what the acronym TIGTA stands for, what's the whole name of your organization? CIESLAK: Yes. So my agency that I work for is the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration which I know is a mouthful, so. BREMER: OK, all right. Thank you for doing that. OK, audience, we are going to have our first polling question now. It is one, which one of the following is a responsibility of TIGTA? A, audit or examination of tax returns, B, investigate threats to the IRS, C, regulation of foreign investments or D, administration of Tax Cuts and JOBS Act? So I'm going to give you a few more seconds here to read the question again, look at the answers again, and then click on the radio button that you believe most closely answers this question. And we'll give everyone a few more seconds and make your selection. And we're going to stop the polling now, and we'll share the correct answer on the next slide. And the correct answer is B, investigate threats to the IRS. And I see that 90 percent of you responded correctly, that's great. Thank you, audience and thank you, Linda for explaining things well, because they are getting it. And I will turn it back over to you, Linda, to discuss Circular 230. CIESLAK: OK great, thank you so much, Karen, good job. So let's move on and talk about Circular 230.

Hopefully you are all somewhat familiar with it, but we're going to go over it in a little bit of detail. Circular 230 is a 44-page document that's published by the IRS. It details who is allowed to practice as an enrolled practitioner, who can practice while being unenrolled, and what the scope of their duties are. It notes that not everyone is able to practice in front of the IRS. And furthermore, it outlines the eligibility requirements and scope of practice for each type of enrolled practitioner. It also outlines the rules governing practice before the IRS as well as the process for sanctions and punishments for violating the rules. All of the folks that are listed on this next slide are covered in Circular 230 and are eligible to practice in front of the IRS when the conditions covered in 230 are met. I should mention, when we talk about types of professions who practice in front of the IRS, we generally pretty loosely interchange the terms tax professional, tax preparer, tax practitioner and enrolled agent.

However, it should, to be clear these terms really can and do mean different things even if we use them kind of interchangeably. A tax professional or tax preparer can be an unenrolled agent, however, a tax practitioner specifically must be an enrolled agent. By definition a tax practitioner encompasses all the types of enrolled agents that are listed on this slide and the term enrolled agent, lower case E, lower case A also covers all of them Let's talk about the people who are not entitled under Circular 230 to practice before the IRS. First, just because you fall into one of the professions that was listed in the last slide does not mean that you automatically have the right to practice before the IRS. For example, if you're an attorney and your license has been disbarred or suspended, you are not eligible to continue practicing before the IRS, and the same kind of thing goes with CPAs or any other profession. Also, any current employees of the federal, judicial, legislative or executive branches of government, even if their duties do not at all relate to the administration of taxes, are ineligible to practice before the IRS. Specifically it should be stressed that current IRS employees cannot practice before the IRS either as an enrolled or unenrolled agent; however, we do see despite it being against these rules, despite it being against the IRS employee ethics rules, it's not uncommon that IRS employees will engage in tax preparation as like a side hustle where they prepare as a ghost preparer, which means they refuse to sign the return as the preparer even though they prepared it. When an IRS employee's do this and engage in tax preparation in a way that they shouldn't, it is TIGTA's responsibility to investigate. And then finally state employees whose duties relate to the administration of tax laws even if they are state tax laws are not eligible to practice before the IRS. As I mentioned earlier, there are instances though where unenrolled agents can practice before the IRS. These situations are outlined really clearly in Circular 230. So if you have questions about if you can or cannot practice and what you can or cannot do, you should go find Circular 230 and read it However, to be able to practice in front of the IRS, unenrolled agents still need to follow all of the rules that are outlined in Circular 230.

Just because they're not enrolled doesn't mean they don't have to. And generally, a taxpayer a tax preparer I'm sorry can represent a taxpayer if they're given the proper authority by the taxpayer which is done via IRS form 2848 called the power of attorney and declaration of representative form. They also can represent a taxpayer if the taxpayer is physically present with them. Continuing on with reasons that make an individual ineligible to practice before the IRS. First, any individual who has been convicted under the revenue laws of the United States, federal felonies under Title 26 of the US Code which is the Internal Revenue Code, generally have a six-year statute of limitations and then any misdemeanors under Title 26 generally have a three-year statute of limitation. To make it a little clearer for those who don't really know the difference, a felony offense and a misdemeanor offense are really different base off the possible jail time that can be enforced for the crime because felonies are often much more serious crimes. They have possible imprisonment of one year or more and the misdemeanors which tend to be less serious crimes have a possible imprisonment of less than one year. We should talk about the Title 26 which again, I said, is the Internal Revenue Code. It's different than Title 18 of the US Code which is the main criminal code for the federal government. Under Title 18, the main criminal code, felonies have a general five-year statute of limitations and misdemeanors have a general one-year statute. So just to make it perfectly crystal clear, the Internal Revenue Code generally has a longer statute of limitation for all crimes than the regular criminal code, federal criminal code. As I mentioned earlier, continuing on with people who may not practice in front of the IRS, if you've had your professional license to practice disbarred as far as revoked, you can no longer represent clients in front of the IRS. And along those same lines, if the IRS' Office of Professional Responsibility, which we call OPR, suspends your practice under Circular 230, then you are no longer eligible to represent your clients in front of IRS. I should add, when you talk about being disbarred or suspended, be careful if you're receiving assistance from someone and they had been disbarred or suspended, they cannot provide assistance to you on any paperwork that will be filed with the IRS. Also, to practice before the IRS, your application for enrollment must have been approved. Just because you have applied to be an enrolled agent, but you haven't heard back, does not mean you can start to practice before the IRS. Additionally, if you've been denied permission to become an enrolled agent, then you may not act as one. If you refuse to comply with any of the revenue procedures under Circular 230 or you break an ethics rule, then it's most likely that OPR will not allow you to practice anymore either. And finally, as I have said in the past, all federal employees no matter their duties are barred from practicing in front of the IRS. So, Karen, I think this is a good time to stop for another polling question.. BREHMER: Yes, it is a good time for another polling question. OK. Audience, here is our second polling question, based on the information that Linda just shared, who may not practice before the IRS? Is it A, tax attorneys; B, appraisers; C, IRS employees; or D, certified public accountants? And, again, we're looking for who cannot practice before the IRS. So take a minute, look at the question, look at the answers again. And then click in the radio button that you believe most closely answers this question.

Give you a few more seconds to make your selection. We're going to stop the polling now and we'll share the correct answer on the next slide. And the correct is C. IRS employees may not practice before the IRS. And I see that 87 percent of you responded correctly. That's pretty darn good. Hey, Linda, a question did come in. Could you please repeat the website for TIGTA?

Can you just tell us again what it is? CIESLAK: Yes. So our website is and that's spelled T-I-G-T-A. And at the end of slideshow, there will also be a slide that has all of our contact information on it. BREHMER: OK. Great. Thank you. All right. Polling question done. I will turn the floor back over to you for our next topic. CIESLAK: OK. Great. Sounds good. So we're going to talk a little bit more now about unenrolled preparers. As I mentioned earlier, unenrolled preparers' conduct still falls under Circular 230. This slide kind of shows a little bit of what they are not allowed to do. Unenrolled preparers have a very strict rule of what practice they're allowed before the IRS. And they may not perform any of the actions that are listed on this slide. Continuing on to the next slide, here are more duties that are beyond the scope of the enrolled preparer. And so what I want to talk to you all about is if you're aware of an unenrolled preparer who is committing any of these violations, doing any of the things that are outside the scope of their duties, the best thing to do is to either alert TIGTA or to alert IRS' Office of Professional Responsibility, which we call OPR. The contact information for OPR, like I just mentioned, will be on a slide at the end of this PowerPoint. I also want to say, there are instances when penalties that are imposed by the IRS on a taxpayer or a tax preparer require the IRS office that imposed them to refer it internally to IRS OPR. And these include instances like promoting abusive tax shelters or aiding and abetting in understatement of tax liability along with others. As we've been discussing, unenrolled preparers have very limited authority. While they can act as a representative with a signed Form 2848, which again is a power of attorney form, or if they are accompanied by the taxpayer, they can only represent before an examining IRS officer. They cannot represent a taxpayer before either the appeals or national office. The IRS's Office Professional Responsibility is the office that has been designated on behalf of the IRS Commissioner not only to determine who is eligible to practice before the IRS but also to set and enforce standards of competency and integrity for all practitioners. Besides what we've already discussed, there are some other instances of misconduct that should be referred to OPR and now we're going to go over what instances you refer to our to our office, to OPR, and to the IRS CI. So TIGTA's role as special agents, as a special agent at TIGTA, my job is really to be a fact finder.. And this is true in all of our investigations. This is our investigations on tax practitioners, on IRS employees, no matter what we do, our role in relation to violations of Circular 230 specifically is that we conduct an investigation to determine the facts of the violation. We write a report on what we found and then we refer the report to OPR, the Office of Professional Responsibility. We do not have the authority to take any IRS disciplinary action or sanction on tax practitioners. Only IRS OPR has this power. However, we do have the power for criminal matters involving tax practitioners to refer the case to the United States Attorney's Office for potential prosecution. An instance of how help OPR, we recently investigated a man who was claiming to be a CPA. He used the CPA designation on his Form 2848 and I think he got away with it for quite a few years, and at first we got this case that looks like he was using an expired CPA license so it was which is not as big of a deal, but it looked like he just hadn't renewed it. And as we investigated, we eventually discovered that he actually never passed the CPA exam even though he tried many times, and he just happened to have a really common name and he found a CPA in another state and started using that man's CPA license number. Unfortunately for him, the real CPA passed away and his license eventually expired, and this is how we ended up catching him. And this was a case that we did refer to OPR to deal with Now we're going to go through some quick examples of disreputable conduct in the Circular 230 for which a practitioner could be sanctioned by OPR, or disciplined in another way, and then we're going to talk about who you should contact if you become aware of any of these violations. So not only is a conviction of a criminal offense under any of the revenue laws of the US Code considered disreputable conduct, but also a conviction of any criminal offense, which involves honesty or breach of trust is also considered disreputable conduct. All of these violations, if you know of them, will be handled by OPR.

Additionally, as an enrolled practitioner, you have a responsibility to furnish information to the IRS when they request it. If you knowingly give false or misleading information to any Treasury employee, this is a violation of Circular 230 and should either be, if it is criminal, reported to IRSCI or it should be reported to OPR for administrative purposes. Circular 230 covers advertising and solicitation restrictions for enrolled practitioners, talking about what you all are allowed to do to get new work, to advertise for new clients. Specifically, it says that a practitioner may not, with respect to any IRS matter, use any form of solicitation for work containing false, fraudulent, or coercive statements or misleading and deceptive claims.

Since doing this is a violation of Circular 230. If you see other tax preparers, tax practitioners doing this, it should be reported to IRS OPR. I do want to mention one case even though I want to make it clear, I am not OPR, I do not work for OPR. I do not I cannot speak to their regular practices. We recently saw a case where OPR imposed both a monetary penalty and 12-month suspension followed by five-year probation for what they consider deceiving solicitation for employment. In this specific case, the practitioner created false advertising that was designed to mislead potential clients to believe that the firm successfully helped thousands of taxpayers, that they employed multiple attorneys, enrolled agents, CPAs, and even former IRS employees. In reality, the firm was just one practitioner, it was an enrolled agent and he was the only practitioner at the firm, so he was obviously inflating what he what he can do. The advertising also falsely inflated the chances of tax relief for clients by falsifying the percentage of clients that received offers and compromise. And this was a case, as I said, that OPR decided to take action on. Along these lines, you also cannot lead your clients to believe that through any way you will be able to obtain special permission from the IRS for them, either because you have relationships with employees or for any other reason. You cannot gain clients by telling them that you can do something because of your relationship with the IRS that someone else can't. These violations, if you know of them, should be reported to TIGTA to investigate. Karen you want to say something? BREHMER: Yes, I was just going to well, this is interesting stuff you're sharing about the kinds of things that can go wrong and where they should be reported, but I was just wondering, if people are listening and they're maybe getting confused about where to report this thing or where to report that thing if your office gets something that should go to a CI or should go to OPR or if those guys get something that should go to your office. Do you guys forward this information to each other in some way? CIESLAK: Yes. So we do as part of our memorandum of understanding that we have with IRS, we do have a process in place that, if we receive a complaint that we believe should belong to one of the IRS offices, we will forward it to them. So don't worry too much about who you should be reporting things to, I'm just trying to help you all understand our jurisdiction and what we do. BREHMER: Yes. OK. Very interesting. All right. I think you have more things to explain, so I will give the floor back to you. CIESLAK: OK. Moving on. Both of these violations on the slide of Circular 230 are not only violations to Circular 230 but are also criminal offices. So as an enrolled agent, if you willfully fail to make a federal tax return, if you attempt to evade federal taxes either for yourself or for your clients or if you suggest an illegal plan to evade taxes, you're going to have major problems with IRS CI. Not only are these criminal offenses that should be referred to IRS CI for potential criminal charges, but they will also be sent to OPR to determine if the tax professional should be disqualified from practicing in front of the IRS. I do want to point out, and I think this is important to talk about, bullet point number two, you as an enrolled practitioner practicing in front of the IRS, what you do on your own taxes and how you handle your own taxes can affect your job. If you attempt to conceal your own assets, if you try to find another way to avoid paying taxes, this could definitely allow or lead OPR to think that you are unfit to represent your clients before the IRS. Specific types of enrolled practitioners before the IRS have the ability to collect funds from clients and remittance to the IRS for payment. If you misappropriate or fail to remit these funds properly, this is an investigation that TIGTA will look into. Specifically, misappropriation is a criminal offense and we typically see this when tax professionals divert funds from their clients that are intended to pay their own taxes into an account used by the tax professional and use them for their own use. So I think now, Karen, we are ready to stop for our third polling question.

BREHMER: Yes, it is time for our third polling question. And, audience, I'll give you a few more seconds to respond this time than I have for the first two. The question is, what IRS office determines eligibility to practice? A, Employee Conduct and Compliance Office; B, Office of Professional Responsibility; C, Office of Employee Protection; or D, Taxpayer Advocate Service. So take a look at the question again, look at all the answers, figure out which you think is the best. And then click on the radio button that you believe most closely answers this question. We'll give you a few more seconds to make your selection And we're going to stop the polling now. And we'll show you the correct answer on the next slide. And the correct response is B, Office of Professional Responsibility. And I see that 93 percent of you responded correctly, that's great. Linda, I'm just going to turn it right back over to you. CIESLAK: OK. Sounds good. Then we will just keep moving on. Thanks, Karen. We are going to keep talking about Circular 230 and issues under Circular 230, but we're going to move on and talk about ethics and conduct, which can cover more about your personal life and not just your professional life. So first, let's talk about as a tax practitioner before the IRS. You are expected to conduct yourself in a reputable manner both professionally and personally.

Disreputable conduct under the Ethics Section of Circular 230 includes conduct that is not specifically tied to your professional duties. So this could include like an arrest, for example, if we have seen a practitioner who had driven drunk and has been cited with a DWI, this is considered disreputable conduct in your personal life. Additionally, disreputable conduct includes anti-government or anti-IRS published opinions. I want to be really clear, this doesn't mean that you can you aren't allowed to like you're your political views on your Facebook, that's fine. This is more talking about things like if you write an article that's published about overthrowing the American government, or if you write an article making yourself out as a tax protester and publishing articles about the legality of the tax system. These types of violations, OPR would probably look at. Circular 230 also covers rules for fees that unenrolled and enrolled practitioners are allowed to charge. They say specifically that they are not allowed to charge an unconscionable amount. So what does that mean, right?

Unconscionable specifically means that it's a shock to conscience. So you should not be charging your clients an amount that seems completely unreasonable or unfair. You should be charging them with the what the profession considers an honest fee for your work. As we have discussed also, by being granted permission to practice in front of the IRS, enrolled preparers agree to follow Circular 230 which states that a practitioner must, on a proper and lawful request by an IRS employee, promptly submit records of information to any matter that is before the IRS So practitioners who violate this rule, if you know of any, should be reported to OPR and they will look into it. Practitioners also are not supposed to interfere with the lawful and legal efforts by the IRS. Interference could be anything from abusive language in the presence of an IRS employee, making a false accusation about an IRS employee, threatening an IRS employee, or giving false opinions or incompetent opinions on questions that arise in front of an IRS employee. All of these violations will be investigated by TIGTA. They fall under our jurisdiction because they affect the integrity of the service. Bullet point number two on this slide, Circular 230 states that a preparer who becomes aware that a client has not complied with the tax law must advise the client promptly of that error. So just make sure if you're seeing anything that you go ahead and do this. Next slide. I'm sure that you all hear about due diligence often enough. I'm not going to harp on this, but it should be obvious to make sure that you're exercising your due diligence in your preparation, approving, and filing of returns.

If you are aware of a tax preparer or tax practitioner who is recklessly neglecting their due diligence, this is something that you should think about reporting to OPR. And I think we're going to have a few examples of ethics and conduct but first, Karen, why don't we do one more polling question? BREHMER: Yes. Let's do one more polling question. And audience, this is our last polling question. According to Circular 230, disreputable conduct includes A, failing to promptly remit a client's tax payments; B, accidentally making an error on client's tax return; C, knowingly date or cohabitate with an IRS employee; or D, conviction for driving under the influence? So you guys should be pros at this by now, you know the drill. Take a moment, look at that question again, look at those answers again, and then select the radio button that you believe most closely answers the question. We'll give you a few more seconds to make your selection and I'll be quiet for a few seconds. And we're going to stop the polling now. And we'll share the correct answer on the next slide. And the correct response is D, conviction for driving under the influence falls under conduct not specifically tied to a practitioner's professional duties. And let's see what came in here for the response. OK, 51 percent. That was a tricky question. Linda, would you take a moment and explain why D is the right answer?

CIESLAK: Yes, I will. And I think that we kind of thought this one would have this kind of answer. And it's I think it's a it's a tricky question. So when we're talking specifically here about disreputable conduct, we were talking about in someone's personal life. So I think looking at the answers, we can automatically rule out B and C. You are welcome to date an IRS employee if you'd like to. Option A is considered a disreputable conduct issue under Circular 230, but we were specifically talking about in a tax professional's personal life. And so that's why option D is correct, that this is considered disreputable conduct as a tax practitioner as part of your personal life, not your professional life. Does that make sense, Karen? BREHMER: Yes, that makes sense. Yes. So you're we're just reminding people to point that they to be careful of things they do in their personal life as well as things they do in their professional life because there are certain things a person might do in their personal life that would be a problem under Circular 230. Is that a fair statement? CIESLAK: Yes, that is a fair statement.

BREHMER: OK. Great. All right. Well, thank you for clarifying that and I will turn the floor back over to you. CIESLAK: OK. Sounds good. We are going to continue on with a few examples of ethics and conduct violations under Circular 230. So first, as a tax practitioner, you may not unreasonably delay any matter in front of the IRS, and any violations that you know of this happening should be reported to OPR to handle. Additionally this is interesting if you happen to be a registered notary public, which some of you may be, if you have a document that you have either prepared or assisted in preparing, you may not act as a notary public and sign this document. Please find a different notary public who has not worked has not worked on preparing it to provide those services for it. If this is seen on any IRS documents, it will be reported to OPR to handle. So as an enrolled practitioner you have special access to tax return information and to IRS systems that the general public doesn't have. With this level of responsibility comes the responsibility to safeguard tax information, in the same way that IRS employees and that I have the responsibility to safeguard tax information. You are responsible for stopping unauthorized disclosures of return information. If you either unlawfully disclose the tax return information in a way that you shouldn't, or if you attempt to gain access to return information that you should not have the authority to access, both of these are criminal offenses, and TIGTA will investigate and potentially bring charges against you. One good example that we have of this is a case that we not so recently had of a tax professional, who, during the last election, attempted to persuade and harass employees to turn over then-candidate Donald Trump's tax returns. If the IRS employee had done it, this obviously would have been a crime for the employee. We would have opened a case on them, but they didn't and the tax preparer who very seriously attempted to convince them to do it was investigated by TIGTA. So enrolled agents have pretty specific rules about representing clients with conflicting interest.

This can only be done if the practitioner has the ability to do so without bias, and they have express consent through their clients of both parties and have signed consent from both parties.

If not, if you know someone who is representing without this, it should be referred to OPR to handle. And talking about an OPR case, again, which I again want to mention I am not OPR, I cannot speak to their normal practices, but we did see a case where OPR censured a tax practitioner for violating a conflict of interest rule. The practitioner in this case had been retained by a client to take specific actions required by a settlement agreement between the client and a third party. The settlement agreement directed transfers from the client of the third party, and the practitioner was aware of those terms. The practitioner then knowingly provided misleading information to the third party, upon which the third party relied, and such reliance and resulting harm to the third party was definitely foreseeable by the practitioner.

OPR decided that because he knowingly provided misleading information, the practitioner breached the duty of care that was owed to the third party. And like I said, they did censure him. As we discussed Circular 230 covers solicitation rules for tax professionals attempting to get new businesses which is the second bullet point on here. Violations of any of these rules should be reported to OPR. One example that we've had recently, moving on to the next slide, continuing to talk about soliciting and advertising, we had an example recently of a firm that was sending out a letter soliciting new clients but made it look as if the firm was part of the IRS. They had a logo on it that looked like a government agency logo even though it was definitely not the IRS' logo. The letter said that the taxpayer owed thousands of dollars. The letter called the firm something like the claims office, making it sound like it was the IRS. And while it wasn't a fraudulent letter, they never said they were the IRS. It was definitely misleading and convinced clients to call who probably wouldn't have called because they thought it was the IRS.

And so, this is a matter that would be looked into by OPR. So that is the last of our examples.

Let's just recap now who you should contact and what we cover. Hopefully this chart kind of makes it a little clearer for you if it wasn't clear yet. TIGTA, that is my agency, we are the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. IRSCI, is the IRS' criminal arm, criminal investigative arm, and then IRS OPR is the Office of Professional Responsibility. They are the ones who oversee all enrolled agents. Our contact information for all three offices is down at the bottom here. When contacting TIGTA there are a few things that you should know. First, you are allowed to remain anonymous when you call us or when you send us a letter. If you wish to do this, just please make sure that you include everything you can think of related to your complaint because it's hard for us to investigate if we can't contact you and we don't know what you are talking about. This is our hotline, the 1-800 number. This is our mailing address in D.C., even though we are all over the country. So the last thing I want to mention is TIGTA's website,, has an online complaint form. And this is the form where if you or a client has been a victim of an IRS impersonation scheme this is where you should go and fill out the form with all of your information, and then someone from your local office will be contacting you to get further details about what happened. BREHMER: OK. Well, thank you, Linda. We are going to do the Q and A section next. First, I just want to thank everyone for attending today's presentation on Ethical Guidelines for Tax Professionals Under Circular 230. And Linda is with us and she is going to be answering your questions in a minute. If you haven't input your questions, there's still time. Go ahead and click on the Ask Question button, type your question and click Submit. Now one thing before we start I know we are not going to have time to answer all the questions submitted, but we will answer as many as time allows. If you are participating to earn a certificate and related continuing education credit, you will qualify for one credit by participating for at least 50 minutes from the official start time of the webinar.

And that means the first few minutes or so of chatting that we did before the top of the hour does not count towards that 50 minutes. OK, Linda, let's get started so we can get to as many questions as possible. CIESLAK: OK. BREHMER: One question that came in, yes, how many taxpayers who threaten IRS employees have ever been prosecuted or do they just get warned? CIESLAK: Yes, so I guess I can't really give you a number of exactly how many have been prosecuted. I can tell you that it depends on the case. Any of them we will bring and present to the U.S. Attorney's Office for prosecution. And then it's really up to the U.S. Attorney's Office if they want to prosecute or not. I can say that we have seen a good amount of them that have been prosecuted, but usually the taxpayers really regret what they said, and they didn't understand what they were doing was illegal, and so, we go out and we explain it to them and it kind of handles the situation. So it really, it depends on how bad the threat was I guess. BREHMER: OK, all right, all right, that's interesting to hear that answer. This question came in, you mentioned the fake letters and stuff, does TIGTA investigate scams involving someone impersonating an IRS employee or generating a fake IRS letter? CIESLAK: So we definitely do. This is a huge part of our jurisdiction. All of the IRS scams that you hear about, the big phone scams, TIGTA is the sole agency that investigates those, and we have had some good press lately about shutting down the big call centers in India that are running these scams. And we also though definitely have smaller, like local scams with people generating fake letters, fake IRS letters, and those also fall under our jurisdiction and we will, if we can, figure out who it was and try to prosecute.

BREHMER: OK, great. And you did again mention the phone scams more than once here, but would you tell us again how do people report the phone scams when they get those calls from people that say they are from the IRS? CIESLAK: Yes, absolutely. I think any way that you want to report it to TIGTA is fine. The easiest way is on our website, which is We have a complaint form that is specifically for phone scams. And it just asks you for like all the information you have, who called, what they said their name was, what number they called from, how you paid them, how much you paid them, and then basically that goes to our national office, and we keep a database of all of them to see if we can see the larger picture of these scams, but then each individual one is referred out to a local office to contact the victim. I will say, put it out there, it's very hard to get any money back from these scams. BREHMER: Yes. I have heard that too. My niece actually lost a few hundred dollars to one of those phone scams, unfortunately. CIESLAK: I'm sorry to hear that. BREHMER: She didn't call her aunt first, I guess. So when people get the phone scam and they know it's a scam, so they hang up, they didn't lose any money. Does it still benefit them or benefit TIGTA to report those things, so that you can look in to where those are coming from? CIESLAK: Yes. So like I said we keep a database of all of the phone scam information, that we get to see if there's any correlation between calls.. So I don't think it's really worth it taking the time to call, so just insert, like put in a quick form online with the number that calls you, so that we have it in our records. That can definitely be helpful because you never know. But if you are not a victim it's not as much of a priority for you to report it. BREHMER: OK, all right, that's helpful.

Linda, a question came in, a number of questions came in and I happen to know the answer to this question. CIESLAK: OK, go for it. BREHMER: So it's OK, I am going to do this one. A number of people were asking question about the difference between unenrolled return preparer and enrolled return preparer, Circular 230 preparer, or people who have the annual filing season program participants. And they are wanting to know who could they represent and before which parts of the IRS? So if any of you folks are wondering about that there is a page on I am going to give you the title of this page because it's kind of long and I'll repeat it a few times. The page is understanding tax return preparer credentials and qualifications, OK. So the page again is understanding tax return preparer credentials and qualifications. You can go, enter that entire phrase in the search box and you'll find this page. And the reason it's going to help you out is that it tells you about unlimited representation rights that enrolled agents, CPAs and attorneys have. It talks about limited representation rights for annual filing season program participants, and PTIN holders or un-enrolled preparers. So for those of you that have that question, it's answered in great detail on this page. A second place to go is the instructions for Form 2848, there's similar and detailed information there for that question. So I covered that one. Let's go back to the questions for you here, Linda. CIESLAK: That was great. That was helpful. Thank you, Karen. BREHMER: OK, you are welcome CIESLAK: Go ahead. BREHMER: I worked for the Social Security Administration as a claims representative intern. Would that have disqualified me from practicing before the IRS? CIESLAK: Yes. This is an interesting question because if you are an ex-government employee it can really depend. So while you were working for the Social Security Administration it would have disqualified you at the time However, my guess is, working for the Social Security Administration you did not handle tax matters. So after you left, it would not be as difficult for you to start practicing now.

I don't want to really go into specifics because it's pretty detailed, but Circular 230 is where I am going to point you to. It has rules for when someone leaves the federal government and goes into private practice, what they are allowed to do and what they aren't. Specifically if they worked for the IRS and they worked on specific tax matters how long after they left government service can they start working on that matter in the private sector, and like what kind of period of waiting do you need between. So that's a good place to go and read if this applies to you. BREHMER: OK. All right, great. Thank you. Linda, some people asked me to repeat the name of that page in, I am going to go back to you for questions. CIESLAK: Go read. BREHMER: The page on is understanding tax return preparer credentials and qualifications. I said that too fast. Understanding tax return preparer credentials and qualifications, there's good information there. OK. Back to you, Linda. I like this question I have to ask you CIESLAK: OK. BREHMER: Do TIGTA agents carry weapons? CIESLAK: We do carry weapons. Yes. BREHMER: OK. CIESLAK: I have my weapon right now. We are just like any other special agents out there, we have full law enforcement capabilities, so we execute warrants, we have arrest powers, we carry weapons. I know that it's not as full standing as FBI, but we still got it. BREHMER: That's right. OK. A number of people asked questions about the notary public matter, again, can you explain that, when they can and can't sign the document as the notary? CIESLAK: Yes. If you worked on a document, if you worked on preparing or contributed to preparing a document that will be filed with the IRS then you cannot sign as the notary public on that document. You must find a different notary public to do it. So if you had input to the substantial matters on the document, and if you need more clarification, again, as always I am going to point you to Circular 230 to go and read the rules, and make sure you are in compliance. BREHMER: OK, great, thank you. Another question, if a tax preparer has past clients or non-client who have committed tax fraud is there anything in the ethics guidelines that prevents the tax preparer from reporting what they know to the IRS or TIGTA, or OPR? CIESLAK: OK, this is a hard question. I don't want to speak incorrectly on it. I don't 100 percent know the answer to that. I think that OPR would probably be the right place for you to ask if this is something that you were working on. I know that especially as attorneys you have more, it's harder for you because you have attorney-client privilege, so I don't want to tell you, yes, it's OK, or no it's not OK. I would say either contact your licensing board and do what they say, or contact OPR for information on that. BREHMER: OK, and that's fine. I'm sorry that I stumped you with a question that wasn't. CIESLAK: That's OK. BREHMER: That's fine. You told people where to go where they can find out those answers, so that's great. Another question that came in quite a few times was people have seen those advertisements on TV or the radio about lowering your tax liability with the IRS. And they kind of want to know is that a violation or maybe you can explain the kind of things that TIGTA would look at when you are doing that investigation, determine if the company has gone too far, or if it was, no, not that bad, it was OK CIESLAK: Yes, I mean, you are allowed to advertise of course, right? It's the question of how misleading you are being in your advertising, or how much you are talking yourself up in things that didn't really happen. So if you are saying like all of our clients reduce their liability by 30 percent, and that's really not true, or by over half something you are really greatly exaggerating that's when it becomes a lot of an issue. There are really specifics in Circular 230 about what you can and cannot say for advertising. And I would say if you are advertising on TV, really make sure you've read that and understand what you can and cannot do.

But I mean just advertising on TV is not a violation, it's just about being careful with what you're saying. BREHMER: OK, all right. Another question that came in here, I don't know if you can tackle this one, should a CPA contact OPR if they are convicted of a DUI? I don't know. You know what I am certain that question can pass, that's OK. CIESLAK: No, I mean, I will say I would guess that OPR has a stance on that. I do not know what the stance is, but I mean, if you are a CPA and you had a DUI conviction, then you definitely should be contacting your local accountancy board, I think. Don't quote me. I don't know that a 100 percent. And so, it may be the same with OPR, but I don't know their stance 100 percent. I know if they find out about it, they will look into it. BREHMER: Yes, OK. And that's interesting, again, even your answers to our questions or reminding us, TIGTA, you look at what happened, you are fact finders, you create a report, you send it off to OPR and they are the ones who decide, so your answer actually helped solidify what your role is and where your role ends and OPR's role begins.

CIESLAK: Well, good, I am glad. BREHMER: Yes. And that's all the time we have for questions.

So I want to thank you again, Linda, for sharing your knowledge and your expertise in answering the questions. CIESLAK: Thank you having me. BREHMER: Yes, we do want to give you a chance to tell us some key points that you want to leave with the audience. CIESLAK: OK, sounds good, so there's a couple that I want to go over pretty quickly, so I know we are running low on time.

First, you as a tax preparer, as a tax professional you are the first line of defense against fraud and corruption in tax administration because you are out there working with taxpayers. If you do see something, we ask you to please report it to us. We also will say you are uniquely positioned to identify problems with the IRS systems and with their processes. If you see systematic issues or something that looks like an internal control issue that is happening with the IRS, please report that to TIGTA and maybe we can help get it fixed. Also report to TIGTA any wrongdoing by your employees or by IRS employees, I'm sorry, or by fellow tax preparers And then additionally report to TIGTA any allegations of potential risk to IRS employees' safety. If you are have a taxpayer that you are working with or a client you are working with who says something like, if that employee comes in and talks to me, and like I am going to hurt them, I am going to do something and you are really worried that they are actually going to do something, please report it to us. And then finally warn your clients about the phone scams, make sure they know who to contact and make sure they know the IRS will not be calling you and they understand what the scams are, especially we've seen a lot of the scams lately targeting either the elderly or immigrants. So if you have clients that belong to these categories, just make sure you are warning them. And that's about it, so back to you, Karen. Thank you for having me today.

BREHMER: OK, great. Thank you so much, Linda. And audience we are planning additional webinars throughout the year. To register for any upcoming IRS webinars please visit and use the keyword words webinars, and then you can select webinars for tax practitioners, or webinars for small businesses. And yes, we will be offering certificates and CE credit for other upcoming webinars. And you may also visit the IRS video portal at We want to remind you the continuing education credit or certificates of completion are not offered if you view an archived version of any of our webinars after the live broadcast, including when you view the IRS video portal. Again, a big thank you to Linda for a great webinar, and I also want to thank you our attendees for attending today's webinar, Ethical Guidelines for Tax Professionals Under Circular 230. If you attended today's webinar for at least 50 minutes after the official start time you will receive a certificate of completion that you can use with your credentialing organization for one possible CPE credit. If you are eligible for a continuing education from IRS and registered with your valid PTIN your credit will be posted in your PTIN account. If you are eligible for continuing education from the California Tax Education Council your credit will be posted to your C-TECH account. If you are registered through the Florida Institute of CPAs your participation information will be provided directly to them. If you qualify and have not received your certificate or your credit by September 19th please e-mail us at . And the e-mail address is shown on the slide as well. If you are interested in finding out who your local stakeholder liaison is you may send us an e-mail using the address shown on this slide and we'll send you that information. There is a survey and we would appreciate it if you would take a few minutes to complete a short evaluation before you exit. If you'd like to have more sessions like this one let us know. If you have thoughts on how we can make them better, please let us know that as well. If you have any requests for future webinar topics or pertinent information, you'd like to see in IRS fact sheets, fact tips or FAQ on just put those suggestions in the comments section of the survey. Anyone who clicked on the survey button on the left side of your screen to begin, if it doesn't come up check to make sure you have disabled your pop-up blocker. It's been a pleasure to be here with you. And on behalf of the Internal Revenue Service and our presenter Linda we would like to thank you for attending today's webinar. It's important for the IRS to stay connected with the tax professional community, industry associations, federal, state and local government organizations and individual taxpayers. You make our job a lot easier by sharing the information that allows for proper tax reporting. Thanks again for your time and attendance, and we wish you much success in your business or practice. You may exit the webinar at this time.