The IRS lost its appeal to institute competency exams for as many as 700,000 paid tax preparers. The federal court said the IRS lacked the authority to impose the new rules without congressional authorization. While this argument would not likely hold water as concerns additional licensing requirements for lawyers, the arguments used rang a bell.
For example, i) the proposed regulations were onerous; ii) the proposed regulations would have put thousands of mom-and-pop tax preparers out of business. On the other side of the coin, the IRS needed to weed out ill-trained and incompetent tax preparers.
Paid tax preparers fill out 60% of all U.S. tax returns and the government has found significant problems over the years by the work done by this group.
The arguments are all to familiar and can be super-imposed on the legal profession where more than 60% of the practitioners are solo.
The question always is "how good does good have to be?" What would these people do if they couldn’t find a tax preparer (substitute attorney) at a price they could afford to pay for work that was substantially correct,even if not perfect?
I would like perfection … but even the best lawyers from major law schools (in my experience) are not perfect … are always at a price that most of us can’t afford to pay. As one of my mentors has said, don’t shoot for perfection; when you’re 80% good, go!
Related to this, though by a stretch, I listened to an NPR program in the last couple of days that talked about teenage suicide, a growing epidemic. The psychologists maintain that the stress caused by our current generation seeking perfection, and then realizing they can’t reach that goal, is the catalyst for many suicide attempts.
To the IRS and to the Bar: Define "competence" so our professionals can attain the standard and the average American citizen can afford to engage professional assistance.
Justice should be free. However, the State of California has just cut the budget of its court system by more than $500 million! Litigants will be left to fend for themselves. One blogger suggests that private judges are not expensive when comparing the speed of justice in a private matter with the delays and increased costs of the public judicial system.
In the 1960s and 1970s, the State of California began changes to its pension system, which culminated in a major change in 1994. Judges elected or appointed before that year could with qualifications retire as early as age 60 at 75% of salary, but if they stayed on the bench after age 65 the percentage went down. Judges who assumed their jobs after 1994 got a further reduction. Many of these judges found it more advantageous to retire and hire themselves out as private judges. Thus began the two-tier system of justice, one for the rich who could afford to move quickly with a private judge, and the other for everyone else.
The recent budget cut further exacerbates the problem by giving incentives to even more people (who can afford it) to enter into the private judging world … a boon for them and a catastrophe for the average citizen with an average matter who can’t afford the added expenses of a private judge.
Our Constitution says everyone is entitled to right to counsel. In at least one instance, this applies to civil matters as well as criminal matters. Shouldn’t this right also include that everyone is entitled to the right to be judged by a competent and objective individual, paid by the state? Private judging sounds too much like the old vigilante justice. Am I unfair when I ask whether these judges will be influenced by which lawyers use their services more? If this is a question raised in my mind, I wonder what the litigants might wonder …. And that is not how justice ought to be delivered or viewed.
As a postscript, there are already those who predict that the national system of health care under the now-validated Affordable Care Act will lead certain physicians to opt out of the system and care only for wealthy individuals who can afford them. Would such doctors refuse to see or treat a patient who could not demonstrate the required level of net worth?
Lincoln famously observed that a house divided against itself cannot stand. Ultimately the same can be said about a society divided against itself, between those who can pay and those who can’t.