Friday, December 7, 2012


I do believe that comments to blog posts are not provided the same “attention” as the original post.  Rarely will I return to a post I read yesterday or a few days ago or last month, however interested I was in the subject, to check out the comments.  Therefore when I do receive a comment, or comments, of value I like to feature it, or them, in a separate post.

I received one such comment in response to my discussion of tax preparer “privacy” rules from Enrolled Agent Diane Offutt, Enrolled Agent of Woodstock, Georgia.  Here is what Diane had to say –

I just came across this very informative Blog and will promise to visit more often.

My comment is on the issue of we EAs are NOT allowed to say "so and so is a client of mine" when running into people we know.

At first when I heard this from one of the instructors at NATP I thought forget that, if asked how I know so and so I will just say so and so has been a client for years. However, I started really thinking about it and I can see a reason. We are professionals and like lawyers or doctors, they also would not just come out and say "oh I know so and so for they are a client". It could lead to trouble. What if it is a divorce lawyer...or a GYN doctor...or a cancer specialist? Just a few examples.

In our case, an EA...well, maybe they do not want a family member to know who the tax professional is for some reason. Or maybe they have an ex that is trying to snoop around for personal information (not that we would ever indulge it).

Bottom line, I figure since we EAs ARE professionals, like doctors and lawyers, then in the event I am asked "how do I know so and so" my answer will be simple - "I have known so and so for years and consider him/her a great acquaintance/friend". If I am questioned further as to HOW I know the person I will just counter the question WITH a question " WHY do you ask?" Hopefully THAT will shut the person up.”  

Here is my response to Diane -

Thank you for your comment.

First of all – FYI, I am NOT an Enrolled Agent.  I am a member of the “previously unenrolled”, who will, by the end of next year, be a RTRP.

Obviously the context of the question and the person asking it is an important factor.  

If a friend or fellow client asks the question in casual conversation I do not see a problem.  If a stranger comes up to me out of the blue and asks if and how I know a client I will be on my guard and, as you suggest, ask why they want to know.  And if a stranger, to me, or only a casual acquaintance, comes up to the two of us and asks how we know each other I will let the client with me respond first and take my lead from him/her.

As “professionals” we (well not me any more) have “waiting rooms”, which are often crowded during the tax season.  We do not segregate individual clients in individual waiting areas so they do not see each other, or ask them to wear masks while sitting in the waiting room.  Often in the past I had a client enter my waiting area and be surprised to see a friend or co-worker sitting there.  Nobody ever ran out of the office in fear because they were seen there.   

It is different with a doctor, whose specialty may “betray” personal medical information that the client does not want known.  And perhaps, for the same reason, with certain lawyers, such as the divorce attorney you use as an example.  But there is nothing revealing in the mere fact that a person uses a professional to prepare his/her tax return, other than the intelligence of the person.   

The issue of privacy applies to what the client tells us about their personal finances, and not the fact that they are clients or friends.

I hope you will continue to visit THE TAX PROFESSIONAL, and continue to comment on my posts.

Does anyone want to add to this discussion?


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