DEAR ABBY: Regarding your column of April 12, 2010, and the letter about the man who refuses to file tax returns, your answer was only partially correct. In addition to enrolled agents, tax returns are also prepared by other licensed professionals.
Certified public accountants are regulated by the various states and do a great deal of tax preparation.
Some tax attorneys may prepare income tax returns. The failure to file a tax return could be a crime, in which case the individual would need a tax attorney to represent him in trying to avoid a jail sentence. Communications to tax attorneys may be covered by the attorney-client privilege.
In addition, there are practitioners who are qualified both as attorneys and as CPAs. While many enrolled agents may also be CPAs, or even attorneys, you should not have restricted your recommendation to enrolled agents only. -- SYDNEY S. TRAUM, JD-CPA, MIAMI BEACH, FLA.
DEAR SYDNEY: My thanks to you and the countless other CPAs and attorneys who wrote to correct me. I apologize for the omission. After wading through the tidal wave of mail, I contacted the National Association of Enrolled Agents (NAEA) for clarification and was told:
"There are many outstanding tax practitioners who are attorneys or CPAs, some of whom are members of NAEA. We do not wish to imply in any way that they are less qualified or capable in the field of taxation. We just want to call attention to the profession of enrolled agents and let the public know that they are the only tax practitioners SPECIFICALLY licensed by the Department of the Treasury."
Readers, I hope this straightens out any confusion. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: I was intrigued by the letter from the woman whose boyfriend has refused to file tax returns for eight years. In addition to the civil ramifications of refusing to file the tax return as articulated in your response, it is a federal crime not to file one.
An individual who has the requisite income is punishable for up to three years in prison for failure to file a tax return for each year in which he or she is responsible for filing one. Additionally, it can be construed by the government as tax evasion, for which the maximum penalty includes five years imprisonment for each year in which the tax is evaded. -- DENNIS C. KAINEN, MIAMI BEACH, FLA.
DEAR ABBY: My 12-year marriage to someone just like the man in that letter became a financial disaster. Even though I did file separately, I co-signed home, car and credit card loans with him. It has taken me more than 10 years to regain my good credit and restore my dignity.
If she does marry him, he will display immaturity in other areas -- as a husband, a father, an employee -- and she will look back (as I did) and realize what a horrible mistake she made. She should not ignore this important signpost! Please warn her to wake up before it's too late. -- BEEN THERE, DONE THAT, ROCHESTER, N.Y.