The Tax Attic with Jerry Coon — March 18, 2010

Prayer never hurts, on the course or in the office


Jerry Coon, Enrolled Agent

I attend church services at Rockford Reformed Church. My minister is Reverend Richard (Rick) Tigchon. I like Rick. His sermons are Bible-based, understandable, and very down to earth. He also likes fishing, which just happens to be one of the sports that I enjoy. In fact, I would say that Rick is passionate about fishing. I, on the other hand, do like to fish but I think there are also a few other sports that are worth pursuing such as bowling, golfing, playing softball, and hunting.

Even though I’m a decent bowler, I have never bowled a 300 game. I’m a better golfer than Charles Barkley, but I have yet to get a hole-in-one. I have played softball and baseball most of my life, but I have never hit a grand slam home run. Finally, I have plenty of deer horns in a box in my garage but none of them are bigger than 8 points, so no Boone and Crockett size bucks have wandered in front of me and my trusty rifle.

Last Sunday, Rick’s sermon was on prayer. Prayer is a conversation with God, our Heavenly Father, and Rick said we should ask God for anything. Now, I don’t know about you, but I have never asked God to let me bowl a 300 game before. I have been close and I still didn’t think to ask God for those last few strikes. I feel it might be a bit presumptuous of me to ask for such a thing.

Now, Rick has thrown another consideration into the mix when he says we should ask for anything. Where do I start praying for those strikes? Do I have to start out a game with two or three strikes or five strikes before I start praying? I think I have seen a guy or two I’m bowling against bowing their head while I’m going up to bowl, but I never considered they were praying that I would throw a bad ball. Now I’m not so sure. This summer, every time I get up to a par 3, should I pray for that hole-in-one? I still think it’s a little presumptuous, but if I’m having a pretty good ball striking day, I might just pause for a moment. The guys will just think I’m stopping to gather that little bit of extra concentration, but I might just be praying for a straight shot that flies right into the cup.

Of course, Rick had to bring me back to earth after the sermon. He says God has four ways of answering our prayers. One is “Yes.” Two is “No.” Three is “Not now.” The fourth and final one is “You’ve got to be kidding!” think praying for a 300-game, a hole-in-one, a grand slam, and a monster buck probably fall into category four. I’ll keep plugging away but I certainly won’t be blaming God if none of them happen down here in this lifetime. After all, I will have all eternity to keep trying.

Beginning next fall, a few tax preparers might be doing a little praying. The Internal Revenue Service continues to clarify their plans to regulate all tax preparers.

Currently, only Enrolled Agents like me, Certified Public Accountants, and Attorneys are regulated. By “regulated,” I mean these three groups have to take a proficiency test to get into their profession; are required to annually take a certain number of Continuing Professional Education (CPE) credits; and are subject to the ethical, penalty, and professional provisions of Circular 230.

Non-regulated tax preparers make up the majority of tax preparers and yet are not required to take a test to begin preparing tax returns; are not required to take any annual CPE credits; nor are bound specifically to the Circular 230 rules.

This is all changing. Starting later this year, all compensated tax preparers will have to register with the IRS; will have to begin taking a minimum of 15 CPEs per year; will be specifically bound by the provisions of Circular 230; and will have to pass a competency test in order to prepare tax returns. Initially, there will be two tests.

The first test will cover wage and non-business Form 1040 returns. The second test will cover Form 1040 business returns with Sch. Cs and Rental income.

Eventually, there will be a third test covering corporate and partnership tax returns. Without passing these tests, preparers will not be allowed to prepare tax returns. That’s where the praying part comes into play.

Say you are a 50 year old preparer who has been preparing returns for 25 years. You haven’t taken a test in 25 years and, in the last few years, haven’t been attending many seminars either. You may have been depending upon your preparation software more and more.

Now, without passing at least one competency test, you will be barred from preparing returns.

In reality, you will have to pass both the first

and second competency tests in order to keep your business operating.

Can you feel the blood pressure rising just thinking about taking those two tests? Praying is an option but I wonder which of the four answers might be forth-coming. This is Jerry Coon signing off. See you at the Expo on Saturday.

Jerry Coon is an Enrolled Agent. Action Tax Service is located on Northland Dr in Rockford. Contact Jerry at Action’s website at

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