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Low-Income Taxpayer Clinics-Definition of Income Tax Return Preparer

Document Details

Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

Published Document

This document has been published in the Federal Register. Use the PDF linked in the document sidebar for the official electronic format.

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AGENCY:

Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Treasury.

ACTION:

Final regulations.

SUMMARY:

This document contains final regulations that exclude certain Low-Income Taxpayer Clinics (LITCs) that qualify for grants under section 7526 of the Internal Revenue Code from the definition of income tax return preparer under section 7701(a)(36). These final regulations also exclude certain persons who are employed by, or volunteer for, such clinics.

DATES:

Effective Date: These regulations are effective December 18, 2002.

Applicability Date: These regulations apply to returns that are prepared on or after December 18, 2002.

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Brinton T. Warren, at (202) 622-4940 (not a toll-free number).

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

This document contains amendments to the Regulations on Procedure and Administration (26 CFR part 301) relating to the definition of the term income tax return preparer under section 7701(a)(36) of the Internal Revenue Code (Code). On June 11, 2002, a notice of proposed rulemaking was published in the Federal Register (67 FR 39915). One comment was received in response to the notice of proposed rulemaking. No public hearing was requested or held. After consideration of the comment, the proposed regulations under section 7701(a)(36) are adopted.

These regulations have been promulgated in furtherance of the purposes of Section 3601(a) of the Internal Revenue Service Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998, Public Law 105-206 (112 Stat. 685) (1998) (RRA 1998). Section 3601(a), which added section 7526 of the Code, provides grants to qualified LITCs. Qualified LITCs represent taxpayers in controversies with the IRS and operate programs to inform individuals for whom English is a second language (ESL taxpayers) about their rights and responsibilities as taxpayers (ESL outreach). Qualified LITCs are either clinical programs run by accredited educational institutions that allow students to represent low-income taxpayers, or tax-exempt organizations that provide representation to low-income taxpayers.

Section 7701(a)(36), defining the term income tax return preparer, was enacted by section 1203 of the Tax Reform Act of 1976, Public Law 94-455 (90 Stat. 1520) (1976) (TRA 1976). TRA 1976 also enacted many of the provisions of sections 6694 and 6695, which impose penalties for certain acts and omissions by income tax return preparers.

The preparer penalties enacted by TRA 1976 reflect the concern of Congress with improper practices within the commercial tax services industry. See H. Rep. No. 94-658, 94th Cong. 1st Sess. 274 (1976), 1976-3 (Vol. 2) C.B. 966. Consistent with the commercial focus of the legislative history, the definition of an income tax return preparer requires that the tax return or claim for refund be prepared “for compensation.” Persons who do not receive compensation are not income tax return preparers for purposes of section 7701(a)(36) regardless of the extent to which they are involved with the preparation of a return or claim for refund.

Under section 7526(b)(1)(A)(i), a qualified LITC may not charge more than a nominal fee for its authorized services (except for reimbursement of actual costs incurred). These final regulations, consistent with the notice of proposed rulemaking, specify the circumstances in which an LITC may receive a nominal fee that will not be considered compensation for purposes of section 7701(a)(36).

Explanation of Revisions and Summary of Comment

These final regulations adopt the proposed amendments without substantive change. Under these final regulations, qualified LITCs, as defined by section 7526, and employees and volunteers of such LITCs, that provide assistance with a tax return or claim for refund will not be treated as income tax return preparers if two requirements are satisfied.

First, any such return preparation assistance must be (i) directly related to a controversy with the IRS for which the LITC is providing assistance or (ii) an ancillary part of an LITC's ESL outreach program. Second, the LITC cannot charge a separate fee or vary a fee based on whether the LITC provides assistance with a return of tax or claim for refund, or charge more than a nominal fee for its services. The regulations apply to Start Printed Page 77419returns prepared on or after December 18, 2002.

The commentator focused on the scope of the direct relation requirement that applies to LITCs that represent taxpayers in controversies. The commentator observed that, for a nonfiler to obtain the benefits of an offer in compromise or installment agreement, it is sometimes necessary for an LITC to prepare a number of the nonfiler's returns for prior years. The commentator requested clarification as to whether preparation of the prior-year returns is directly related to the nonfiler's controversy with the IRS. As in the commentator's example, in cases where the preparation of a taxpayer's return is required to resolve a controversy for which an LITC is representing a taxpayer, such preparation would be treated under these final regulations as directly related to that controversy.

These regulations do not address the definition of a nominal fee. The Treasury Department and the IRS specifically requested comments on the need for a definition of a nominal fee and the factors that should be considered in defining a nominal fee. No comments were received on this topic. The Treasury Department and the IRS conclude that the definition of nominal fee should not be addressed in these regulations at this time. The final regulations do not specifically address the qualifications of an LITC under section 7526. The Treasury Department and IRS reiterate the view, originally stated in the preamble of the proposed regulations, that a qualified LITC may not provide return preparation assistance other than assistance directly related to a controversy with the IRS or assistance that is an ancillary part of an ESL outreach program.

Special Analyses

It has been determined that this Treasury decision is not a significant regulatory action as defined in Executive Order 12866. Therefore, a regulatory assessment is not required. It also has been determined that section 553(b) of the Administrative Procedure Act (5 U.S.C. chapter 5) does not apply to these regulations, and, because these regulations do not impose a collection of information on small entities, the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. chapter 6) does not apply. Pursuant to section 7805(f) of the Code, the notice of proposed rulemaking preceding these regulations was submitted to the Chief Counsel for Advocacy of the Small Business Administration for comment on their impact.

Drafting Information

The principal author of the regulations is Brinton T. Warren of the Office of Associate Chief Counsel (Procedure and Administration), Administrative Provisions and Judicial Practice Division.

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List of Subjects in 26 CFR Part 301

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Employment taxes, Estate taxes, Excise taxes, Gift taxes, Income taxes, Penalties, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

Adoption of Amendments to the Regulations

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Accordingly,

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PART 301—PROCEDURE AND ADMINISTRATION

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Authority: 26 U.S.C. 7805 * * *

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1. Removing the language “and” at the end of paragraph (a)(7)(iii).

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2. Removing the period at the end of paragraph (a)(7)(iv) and adding a semicolon in its place.

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3. Adding paragraphs (a)(7)(v) through (a)(7)(viii).

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The additions read as follows:

Income tax return preparer.
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(a) * * *

(7) * * *

(v) Any individual who provides tax assistance as part of a qualified Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC), as defined by section 7526, subject to the requirements of paragraphs (a)(7)(vii) and (viii) of this section; and

(vi) Any organization that is a qualified Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC), as defined by section 7526, subject to the requirements of paragraphs (a)(7)(vii) and (viii) of this section.

(vii) Paragraphs (a)(7)(v) and (vi) of this section apply only if any assistance with a return of tax or claim for refund under subtitle A is directly related to a controversy with the Internal Revenue Service for which the qualified LITC is providing assistance, or is an ancillary part of an LITC program to inform individuals for whom English is a second language about their rights and responsibilities under the Internal Revenue Code.

(viii) Notwithstanding paragraph (a)(7)(vii) of this section, paragraphs (a)(7)(v) and (vi) of this section do not apply if an LITC charges a separate fee or varies a fee based on whether the LITC provides assistance with a return of tax or claim for refund under subtitle A, or if the LITC charges more than a nominal fee for its services.

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David A. Mader,

Assistant Deputy Commissioner of Internal Revenue.

Approved: December 11, 2002.

Pamela F. Olson,

Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy.

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[FR Doc. 02-31855 Filed 12-17-02; 8:45 am]

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