February 18, 2010

Finally! A Change in the Tax Law That Makes Sense

One of the things that has most frustrated me about this country over the years is that a company cannot file its yearly tax return itself. To submit your tax return to the tax authorities, it must be certified by an approved chartered accountant.

We generally don't have many transactions over a period of a year even if the amounts of each transaction can be substantial for the country. Our tax returns are therefore pretty straight forward. We employ chartered accountants who could very well have prepared our returns but the law did not allow this.

As a result, we have always had to use an outside accounting firm. This can become very expensive. They charge you one amount to prepare the return and another to certify it. On an average, we end up with a bill of between $6,000 and $10,000 for a very straight forward return.

Last year, we thought we would be smart and have an accountant prepare the return and then just get the certification from the accounting firm. The accountant works with a network of accounting firms and she gave us a quote of roughly $600 for the certification. We already found that amount excessive but this would be cheaper than having the accounting firm do both.

When the accountant completed the return, she took it to the accounting firm for certification. They wanted $3,000. Why? Because the accountant had underestimated our income when she quoted the $600 and these accounting firms base their fee on the client's tax revenues and not on how much work is involved. We tried other firms but they were all in the same range or even higher.

I just noticed in the new 2010 tax laws that this certification is no longer required. This is really excellent news. There are many small business who simply can't afford to submit a tax return even if they owe little or nothing simply because they cannot afford to get the return prepared by an accounting firm or get it certified.

Some people (the accounting firms) point out that this will result in increased fraud. I disagree with this entirely. First of all, the accounting firms just sign and stamp. They don't really look at the document. These are not audited by the accounting firms, just certified. Moreover, more companies will now be able to afford to file their taxes which reduces, not increases fraud.

I also think that the accounting firms will have to provide added value (like tax advice or revising the tax return) rather than simply certifying it for a fee.

I have not looked at all the provisions in the new tax laws and I am sure to find some that I will cry over. But at least this one is really quite positive.

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