1.1.20  Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR)

Manual Transmittal

July 12, 2012

Purpose

(1) This transmits revised IRM 1.1.20, Organization and Staffing, Office of Professional Responsibility.

Material Changes

(1) This section contains the responsibilities of the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR). OPR completed a significant organizational and operational structure change effective February 13, 2012, resulting in the following changes:

  1. Two branches report to Deputy Director (Legal Analysis Branch (LAB) (1.1.20.2.1), and Operations & Management Branch (O&M) (1.1.20.2.1.1))

  2. With the stand-up of the Return Preparer Office (RPO), OPR no longer oversees the programs for Enrolled Agents, Continuing Education (CE) Sponsorship, and Enrolled Actuaries

  3. Incorporates Treasury Circular 230 updates.

Effect on Other Documents

IRM 1.1.20, dated June 1, 2007, is superseded

Audience

All Divisions and Functions

Effective Date

(07-12-2012)

Karen L. Hawkins
Director, Office of Professional Responsibility

1.1.20.1  (07-12-2012)
Introduction to the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR)

  1. The Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) is responsible for all matters related to practitioner conduct, discipline and practice before the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) under 31 CFR part 10 (Circular 230). In carrying out this responsibility, the OPR administers the laws and regulations governing the practice of tax professionals and other individuals who interact with the tax administration system, including, but not limited to, attorneys, certified public accounts, enrolled agents, enrolled actuaries, enrolled retirement plan agents, and registered tax return preparers, and appraisers who provide opinions supporting valuations contained in documents submitted to the Internal Revenue Service.

  2. The OPR:

    1. Receives, reviews and investigates evidence of alleged misconduct by tax professionals and others who interact with the tax administration system.

    2. Assesses allegations of misconduct to ascertain whether they constitute disreputable or incompetent conduct, evidence an intent to defraud, mislead or threaten a client or potential client, or otherwise violate regulations prescribed in Circular 230.

    3. When warranted, proposes and negotiates a level of discipline commensurate with the conduct exhibited by the tax professional or other person in his/her interaction with the tax administration system.

    4. In the absence of voluntary settlement, initiates disciplinary proceedings before Administrative Law Judges (ALJs), which seek imposition of a level of discipline commensurate with the conduct exhibited by the tax professional or other person in his/her interaction with the tax administration system.

    5. Initiates or responds to appeals of ALJs’ disciplinary decisions.

    6. Interprets the Conference and Practice Requirements contained in 26 CFR Part 601, Subpart E.

    7. Provides education and outreach regarding a tax profession’s obligations and duties as enumerated in Circular 230.

    8. Acts in an advisory capacity with respect to IRS oversight and compliance initiatives for tax professionals.

1.1.20.1.1  (07-12-2012)
OPR Mission

  1. The mission of the Office of Professional Responsibility is to interpret and apply the standards of practice for tax professionals in a fair and equitable manner. OPR’s objective is to support effective tax administration by ensuring all tax professionals and other third parties interacting with the tax administration system adhere to the practice standards enumerated in Circular 230. To achieve its objective, OPR’s goals include:

    1. Increasing awareness and understanding of the practice standards contained in Circular 230 and the OPR oversight responsibilities through outreach and educational activities;

    2. Applying the principles of due process to the investigation, analysis, resolution, and litigation of disciplinary cases;

    3. Applying agency precedent and principles of fairness when assessing a tax professional’s fitness to continue to practice before the IRS;

    4. Facilitating frequent and open communication with tax professional organizations;

    5. Conducting frequent and extensive outreach and educational activities for both internal and external audiences on all aspects of Circular 230 practice standards; and

    6. Building, training, and motivating a cohesive OPR team.

  2. To achieve its objective and goals and carry out its mission, OPR is committed to:

    1. Ensuring independent, fair and equitable treatment of all tax practitioners consistent with our authority and principles of due process.

    2. Rendering fair and independent determinations regarding alleged misconduct in violation of Circular 230, Regulations Governing Practice before the Internal Revenue Service.

    3. Educating/maintaining tax professionals’ knowledge of relevant Circular 230 provisions.

    4. Providing guidance and feedback to field/agency sources regarding essential referral criteria for each relevant Circular 230 provision.

    5. Strengthening partnerships with other parts of the IRS and with external practitioner organizations.

    6. Developing procedures that ensure timely case resolution.

    7. Developing policies and regulations that ensure fair and equitable disposition of Circular 230 cases.

    8. Developing and implementing proactive strategies for identifying violations of Circular 230.

1.1.20.2  (07-12-2012)
Office of the Director

  1. The Office of Professional Responsibility completed a significant organizational and operational structure change effective February 13, 2012. In an effort to streamline our core work and foster a supportive team, OPR now includes 3 major segments:

    • Office of the Director,

    • Legal Analysis Branch (LAB), and

    • Operations and Management Branch (O&M).

    ,

  2. The Director, who reports to the Commissioner and to the Deputy Commissioner, Services and Enforcement, has primary supervisory responsibility for the OPR, including oversight and control of all policy decisions and implementation.

1.1.20.2.1  (07-12-2012)
Legal Analysis Branch (LAB)

  1. The mission of the LAB is to receive, review, investigate, analyze, and propose sanctions with respect to violations of the practice standards by tax professionals.

  2. The Chief, Legal Analysis Branch, reports to the Deputy Director, Office of Professional Responsibility. The LAB is comprised of teams consisting of a Front Line Manager, Attorneys-Advisors, Paralegals, Analysts and administrative support staff.

  3. The teams accomplish the LAB mission by:

    1. Receiving, reviewing and evaluating referrals from IRS field personnel, including the Return Preparer Office, and other relevant external federal and state agencies alleging violations of Circular 230.

    2. Assessing allegations of misconduct to ascertain whether they constitute disreputable or incompetent conduct, evidence an intent to defraud, mislead or threaten a client or potential client, or otherwise violate regulations prescribed in Circular 230.

    3. When warranted, proposing and negotiating a level of discipline commensurate with the conduct exhibited by the tax professional or other person in his/her interaction with the tax administration system.

    4. In the absence of voluntary settlement, initiating disciplinary proceedings before Administrative Law Judges which seek imposition of a level of discipline commensurate with the conduct exhibited by the tax professional or other person in his/her interaction with the tax administration system.

    5. Acting on referrals from state and federal licensing authorities, and on conviction information from state and federal courts by instituting expedited suspension proceedings pursuant to Circular 230 Section 10.82.

    6. Working closely with IRS operating divisions to focus disciplinary actions on significant program concerns, e.g., tax shelters (LMSB), trusts (SB/SE), earned income tax credit (W&I) retirement plans and tax exempt bonds (TE/GE).

1.1.20.2.1.1  (07-12-2012)
Operations & Management Branch (O&M)

  1. The Operations and Management Branch (O&M) of the OPR is responsible for providing program support to the organization’s mission through strategic planning, employee training, information technology, stakeholder outreach and communication, performance measures analysis, human capital planning and execution, and finance. The branch also collects and analyzes business performance data to develop operational improvement recommendations and to ensure strategic distribution of financial resources.

  2. The Strategy function within O&M will ensure proper execution and coordination of OPR’s strategy as set by the Office of the Director each year. The Strategy function coordinates with the Legal Analysis Branch (LAB) to ensure the OPR strategy is implemented consistently across the organization and that all strategic goals and objectives are properly and timely met. The function is responsible for monitoring the execution of the Operational Plan, Continuity of Operations Plan, Business Resumption Plan, and the Concept of Operations (CONOPS) as decreed by the Office of the Director.

  3. The Chief, Operations and Management Branch, reports to the Deputy Director, Office of Professional Responsibility. O&M is comprised of Analysts, Staff Assistants and clerical support.

  4. The branch accomplishes the O&M mission by:

    1. Packaging and disseminating strategic plan information across OPR. It acts as liaison between the Office of the Director and the Legal Analysis Branch regarding strategic planning and implementation. Other key activities associated with this function include: Review of the IRS strategic plan every five years to identify and implement necessary changes.

    2. Meeting with OPR senior leadership to discuss shifts in strategic direction at the organizational level and updating OPR’s Operations Plan to reflect necessary changes.

    3. Monitoring OPR’s goals, performance and accomplishments against its annual performance measures to ensure that each supports accurate and current objectives.

    4. Developing employee training programs. Direct the analysis, development, media and content delivery necessary to achieve and maintain optimal employee knowledge, skills and job performance.

    5. Ensuring processes, technology, and other mechanisms are in place to effectively track referrals, referral issues, performance measures, Circular 230 determinations, disciplinary recommendations and final case dispositions. Analyze and utilize technology driven data to better inform and educate operating divisions and IRS personnel.

    6. Developing OPR communications and stakeholder outreach programs.

    7. Providing guidance to employees and members of the general public regarding OPR's mission, vision, goals and processes along with the interactions among IRS Operating Divisions (ODs) and external agencies.

    8. Engaging in proactive liaison with state licensing authorities including state boards of accountancy and state bars to seek and obtain information on state disciplinary actions that have Circular 230 implications.

    9. Developing and analyzing performance measures to provide regular data collection, performing advanced data analysis, providing quality reviews of cases to inform strategic plans, training needs, performance improvement activities and the bases for business results reporting.

    10. Directing human capital planning, execution and finance by ensuring that OPR's current staffing levels are sufficient to meet the identified workload and agency needs.

1.1.20.3  (07-12-2012)
Definition of Terms

  1. Attorney: Any person who is an active member in good standing of the bar of the highest court of any State, territory or possession of the United States, including a Commonwealth, or the District of Columbia. Attorneys have unlimited practice rights before the IRS.

  2. Certified Public Accountant (CPA): Any person who is duly qualified to practice as a certified public accountant in any State, territory or possession of the United States, including a Commonwealth, or the District of Columbia. CPA's have unlimited practice rights before the IRS.

  3. Enrolled Agent: Any individual who has demonstrated special competence in tax matters, has applied for enrollment, and has been issued an enrollment card by the IRS. Except in specific circumstances enumerated in Circular 230 involving certain former IRS employees, enrolled agents have unlimited practice rights before the IRS.

  4. Enrolled Actuary: Any individual who has demonstrated competence in specific matters under the internal revenue laws, as enumerated in Circular 230, has applied for enrollment, and has been issued an enrollment card by the Joint Board for the Enrollment of Actuaries. Practice as an enrolled actuary is limited to the specific competency areas enumerated in Circular 230.

  5. Enrolled Retirement Plan Agents (ERPA): Any individual who has demonstrated competence in specific matters under internal revenue laws, as enumerated in Circular 230, has applied for enrollment, and has been issued an enrollment card by the IRS. Practice as an ERPA is limited to the specific competency areas enumerated in Circular 230.

  6. Registered Tax Return Preparer (RTRP): An individual who has demonstrated competence in preparing individual income tax returns, has applied for registration, and has been issued a registration certificate by the IRS. Practice as an RTRP is limited to preparing and signing tax returns and claims for refund, and other documents for submission to the IRS, and to representing taxpayers before revenue agents, customer service representatives and the Taxpayer Advocate Service during an examination of returns or claims for refund for years or periods signed by the RTRP.

  7. Appraiser: Any individual who provides opinions supporting valuations contained in documents submitted to the IRS.

  8. Others who interact with the tax administration system: Any individual except those described in 26 CFR 301.7701-15(f), who for compensation prepares, or assists in preparing, all or a substantial portion of a document pertaining to any taxpayer’s tax liability for submission to the IRS. Unless otherwise a practitioner under Circular 230, these individuals may not prepare (all or substantially all of) or sign (for compensation) a return or claim for refund.

1.1.20.4  (07-12-2012)
Resources

  1. OPR Website: http://nhq.no.irs.gov/OPR/.

  2. Title 31 United States Code Section 330.

  3. Title 5 United States Code Section 500.

  4. Treasury Department Circular 230, http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/pcir230.pdf, Title 31 Code of Federal Regulations, Subtitle A, Part 10, revised as of August 3, 2011.

  5. Title 26 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 601, Subpart E.

  6. Publication 470: http://irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p470.pdf.

  7. Notice 2007-39, IRB 2007–20: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/pcir230.pdf .

  8. Final Agency Decisions (FAD) on practitioner discipline: http://www.irs.gov/taxpros/agents/article/0,,id=177688,00.html.


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