The Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) goal is to regulate conduct and make determinations regarding alleged misconduct in violation of Circular 230, Regulations Governing Practice before the Internal Revenue Service. OPR announces recent disciplinary sanctions involving attorneys, certified public accountants, enrolled agents, enrolled actuaries, enrolled retirement plan agents, appraisers, and unenrolled/ unlicensed return preparers (individuals who are not enrolled to practice and are not licensed as attorneys or certified public accountants). Licensed or enrolled practitioners are subject to the regulations governing practice before the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), which are set out in Title 31, Code of Federal Regulations, Subtitle A, Part 10, and which are released as Treasury Department Circular No. 230. The regulations prescribe the duties and restrictions relating to such practice and prescribe the disciplinary sanctions for violating the regulations. Unenrolled/unlicensed return preparers are subject to Revenue Procedure 81-38 and superseding guidance in Revenue Procedure 2014-42, which govern a preparer’s eligibility to represent taxpayers before the IRS in examinations of tax returns the preparer both prepared for the taxpayer and signed as the preparer. Additionally, unenrolled/unlicensed return preparers who voluntarily participate in the Annual Filing Season Program under Revenue Procedure 2014-42 agree to be subject to the duties and restrictions in Circular 230, including the restrictions on incompetent or disreputable conduct.
The disciplinary sanctions to be imposed for violation of the applicable standards are:
Disbarred from practice before the IRS —An individual who is disbarred is not eligible to practice before the IRS as defined at 31 C.F.R. §10.2(a)(4) for a minimum period of five (5) years.
Suspended from practice before the IRS —An individual who is suspended is not eligible to practice before the IRS as defined at 31 C.F.R. §10.2(a)(4) during the term of the suspension.
Censured in practice before the IRS —Censure is a public reprimand. Unlike disbarment or suspension, censure does not affect an individual’s eligibility to practice before the IRS, but OPR may subject the individual’s future practice rights to conditions designed to promote high standards of conduct.
Monetary penalty —A monetary penalty may be imposed on an individual who engages in conduct subject to sanction, or on an employer, firm, or entity if the individual was acting on its behalf and it knew, or reasonably should have known, of the individual’s conduct.
Disqualification of appraiser —An appraiser who is disqualified is barred from presenting evidence or testimony in any administrative proceeding before the Department of the Treasury or the IRS.
Ineligible for limited practice —An unenrolled/unlicensed return preparer who fails to comply with the requirements in Revenue Procedure 81-38 or to comply with Circular 230 as required by Revenue Procedure 2014-42 may be determined ineligible to engage in limited practice as a representative of any taxpayer.
Under the regulations, individuals subject to Circular 230 may not assist, or accept assistance from, individuals who are suspended or disbarred with respect to matters constituting practice (i.e. , representation) before the IRS, and they may not aid or abet suspended or disbarred individuals to practice before the IRS.
Disciplinary sanctions are described in these terms:
Disbarred by decision, Suspended by decision, Censured by decision, Monetary penalty imposed by decision, and Disqualified after hearing —An administrative law judge (ALJ) issued a decision imposing one of these sanctions after the All either (1) granted the government’s summary judgment motion or (2) conducted an evidentiary hearing upon OPR’s complaint alleging violation of the regulations. After 30 days from the issuance of the decision, in the absence of an appeal, the AL,J’s decision becomes the final agency decision.
Disbarred by default decision, Suspended by default decision, Censured by default decision, Monetary penalty imposed by default decision, and Disqualified by default decision —An AU, after finding that no answer to OPR’s complaint was filed, granted OPR’s motion for a default judgment and issued a decision imposing one of these sanctions.
Disbarment by decision on appeal, Suspended by decision on appeal, Censured by decision on appeal, Monetary penalty imposed by decision on appeal, and Disqualified by decision on appeal —The decision of the Al was appealed to the agency appeal authority, acting as the delegate of the Secretary of the Treasury, and the appeal authority issued a decision imposing one of these sanctions.
Disbarred by consent, Suspended by consent, Censured by consent, Monetary penalty imposed by consent, and Disqualified by consent —In lieu of a disciplinary proceeding being instituted or continued, an individual offered a consent to one of these sanctions and OPR accepted the offer. Typically, an offer of consent will provide for: suspension for an indefinite term; conditions that the individual must observe during the suspension; and the individual’s opportunity, after a stated number of months, to file with OPR a petition for reinstatement affirming compliance with the terms of the consent and affirming current fitness and eligibility to practice (i.e. , an active professional license or active enrollment status, with no intervening violations of the regulations).
Suspended indefinitely by decision in expedited proceeding, Suspended indefinitely by default decision in expedited proceeding, Suspended by consent in expedited proceeding —OPR instituted an expedited proceeding for suspension (based on certain limited grounds, including loss of a professional license for cause, and criminal convictions).
Determined ineligible for limited practice —There has been a final determination that an unenrolled/unlicensed return preparer is not eligible for limited representation of any taxpayer because the preparer violated standards of conduct or failed to comply with any of the requirements to act as a representative.
OPR has authority to disclose the grounds for disciplinary sanctions in these situations: (1) an AU or the Secretary’s delegate on appeal has issued a final decision; (2) the individual has settled a disciplinary case by signing OPR’s “consent to sanction” agreement admitting to one or more violations of the regulations and consenting to the disclosure of the admitted violations (for example, failure to file Federal income tax returns, lack of due diligence, conflict of interest, etc.); (3) OPR has issued a decision in an expedited proceeding for indefinite suspension; or (4) OPR has made a final determination (including any decision on appeal) that an unenrolled/unlicensed return preparer is ineligible to represent any taxpayer before the IRS.