- 1 Tax Organizer Risks Taxpayer Confidentiality
- 2 Tax Organizer is (Usually) Not Required for Current Clients
- 3 Is there Attorney-Client Privilege Confidentiality
- 4 Confusion with Tax Organizer Questions
- 5 Foreign Asset & Account Reporting in a Tax Organizer
- 6 Too Much Information Provided in Tax Organizer
- 7 Golding & Golding: About Our International Tax Law Firm
Tax Organizer Risks Taxpayer Confidentiality
Tax Organizer Risks Taxpayer Confidentiality: When a taxpayer is under audit, the IRS may able to gain access to personal and confidential of the taxpayer. This is often the case when the taxpayer uses a tax professional who provided them with a tax organizer to complete. Tax organizers are used by CPAs, Enrolled Agents (EA) and accountants to prepare tax returns for their clients. Sometimes these documents are upwards of 50+ pages. The purpose of the tax organizer is for the accountant or tax preparer to obtain background information from the taxpayer who is having their tax returns prepared. Unfortunately, the tax organizer can be one of the most dangerous client documents that can ever end up in the hands of the IRS.
The reason why the tax organizer is so dangerous is because sometimes the client inadvertently includes statements, clarifications and questions in the response, which may be confidential in nature. Conversely, if the taxpayer does not provide adequate responses on matters involving offshore assets, accounts, investments and/or income and is later audited by the IRS — it could lead to further problems for the taxpayer on issues involving willfulness.
Here are five (5) reasons why a tax organizer is very dangerous.
Tax Organizer is (Usually) Not Required for Current Clients
Let’s take the (unfortunate) common example: Michelle has been working with the same tax preparer for 10 years. Michelle has foreign accounts but she was unaware she was supposed to report them to the U.S. government. In addition, the taxpayer never asked her about foreign accounts.
But, starting this year the tax preparer began using a tax organizer. Since he knows Michelle’s tax history, he only asks Michelle to complete the form if anything has changed.
Nothing has changed from Michelle’s perspective, so she does not complete the form.
Sometime down the line Michelle is audited by the IRS. She is asked whether she received a tax organizer from her CPA.
She explains that she did, but never completed the form. The IRS agent may misconstrue this standalone fact to mean Michelle intentionally never reported her foreign accounts to her CPA — even though technically her CPA sent her an organizer, and technically she had an opportunity to report it to the CPA.
Is there Attorney-Client Privilege Confidentiality
There is no attorney client privilege between a tax preparer and their client. This includes Certified Public Accountants (CPA), Enrolled Agents, and other accountants or tax professionals.
If the tax preparer is also an attorney and the tax returns are being used as part of a larger offshore or voluntary disclosure submission, the attorney-client privilege may apply.
Otherwise, if the sole purpose of the representation is for non-delinquent tax return preparation, it may be hard to claim attorney-client privilege.
Confusion with Tax Organizer Questions
Many times when a taxpayer receives a tax organizer, they only complete the information relevant to their own return.
If they have questions about the organizer, they will either just skip the question or keep it blank.
If it turns out that the taxpayer did not complete the form fully — or included inaccurate answers because they misunderstood the question — it could lead to further problems in the future if the taxpayer is audited.
Foreign Asset & Account Reporting in a Tax Organizer
International tax and offshore reporting compliance are two of the most highly enforced and penalized areas of tax law.
Even for first time violations, the IRS has been known to issue significant fines and penalties.
When it comes to tax organizers and offshore tax and reporting, many times we have found that organizers themselves were inaccurate.
For example, we have seen organizers that ask whether the taxpayer has more than $10,000 of foreign income (not in account balances) — which confuses the taxpayer about the reporting and disclosure requirements,
Too Much Information Provided in Tax Organizer
Sometimes a taxpayer may ask write specific questions (or ask for clarifications) directly within the tax organizer form that should not be asked of the CPA — since the information may impact client confidentiality.
If the taxpayer is audited and the IRS agent asks for any organizers or other documents sent to the CPA (noting the IRS agent can send a request directly to the CPA), the information that should have been confidential with an attorney will now be exposed to the IRS.
Golding & Golding: About Our International Tax Law Firm
Golding & Golding specializes exclusively in international tax, and specifically IRS offshore disclosure.
Contact our firm today for assistance with getting compliant.