July 1, 2014

We can FINALLY remove those pesky IRS Circular 230 disclosures from our email messages!



If you've received an email from an attorney, accountant, or tax preparer in the past several years, it almost certainly included some barely-comprehensible fine print about tax advice, often with the caption "IRS Circular 230 Notice." The number of trees killed as a direct result of the extra pages of printed email messages resulting from these notices probably numbers in the millions.

Section 330 of title 31 of the U.S. Code authorizes the Secretary of the Treasury to regulate professionals who practice before the Treasury Department, such as attorneys and accountants. The Secretary published regulations governing practice before the IRS in 31 CFR part 10 and reprinted the regulations as "Treasury Department Circular No. 230."   Circular 230 says that regulated professionals must meet certain standards of conduct with respect to written tax advice or face suspension or disbarment.   In layman's terms, the IRS said "if you provide tax advice to your clients that we don't like, we will take away your livelihood."  The warning was an over-reaction a reaction to the tax avoidance schemes of the 1990s.  The language of Circular 230 was so broad, and the fear of the IRS's wrath so widespread, that regulated professionals started putting a disclaimer on every single email message--automatically.  Everything from friendly jokes, to emails scheduling appointments, to actual tax advice bore the disclaimer that "this does not constitute tax advice upon which you can rely."

Mercifully, those days are now behind us.  New rules issued by the IRS in June include this statement: “Treasury and the IRS expect that these amendments will eliminate the use of a Circular 230 disclaimer in e-mail and other writings.”

 

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