Unethical tax preparers are getting rich preying on poor people in the US, and it's time Congress did something about it, writes NYU law student Alex Levy in the New York Times. Just four states—Oregon, California, New York, and Maryland—currently regulate preparers, meaning pretty much anyone can hang out a shingle and declare himself to be an expert. And too many are doing just that in low-income neighborhoods, the better to swoop in and take a big chunk from any money their clients are getting back. Considering that many such clients qualify for the earned-income tax credit, the results are devastating.
It's time for national regulations, argues Levy. Small-government activists led by the Koch brothers have successfully kept such rules from materializing, but Levy sees this one as a political no-brainer. "Republicans have long been tough on fraud in the earned-income tax credit program," he writes. "And Democrats should stand up for vulnerable families victimized by tax preparers." Cracking down on fraudulent tax preparers would help both causes. Maybe we'll get a simplified tax code some day, concludes Levy, but until then, "Congress must act to protect low-income Americans from swindlers posing as tax professionals." Click for his full column.