The Scrapbook had no idea legal briefs and decisions could provide as many laugh-out-loud moments as a P. G. Wodehouse novel. But a welcome update to our item last week on a federal court’s ruling that the IRS’s unprecedented scheme to license independent tax preparers was “an invalid regulatory regime” did just that.
“This is an unlawful power grab that exceeds the authority granted to the IRS by Congress,” is how the Institute for Justice’s Dan Alban, lead attorney on the case against the agency, put it—and the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia agreed. The IRS submitted a desperate motion to stay Judge James Boasberg’s injunction ending the program. Last week, the court denied it.
Judge Boasberg’s latest decision in Loving v. IRS is refreshingly commonsensical—“why should tax-return preparers continue to pay into a system the Court has found unlawful?”—but the IRS’s final brief provides the laughs. Government lawyers whine, “Rather than address the merits . . . the Plaintiffs spent 40 pages attacking the Service, the government, and undersigned counsel.” And then they complain that IJ was “zealous” in . . . attacking the merits of the IRS’s argument.
It’s hard to choose just one IRS knee-slapper, but here goes. The agency insists IJ’s “suggestion that the return preparer program is the product of a tainted lobbying effort is belied by support for the program from the Taxpayer Advocate, the Electronic Tax Administration Advisory Committee, numerous consumer advocacy groups, and comments from individual practitioners.”
The ETAAC is an IRS-administered panel whose members include lawyers and CPAs—who weren’t subject to the regulations—and people with connections to H&R Block and Jackson Hewitt, big businesses happy to help the government force the little guys out of the industry.