Best Practices in Marketing per Circ. 230

Circular 230 offers advertising and marketing best practice rules and guidelines for those who practice before the IRS. Regardless of your credential as a CPA, EA, or attorney, you should be familiar with these guidelines. The sole exception being the firm that does no advertising or marketing. If that is you, we will address your needs and why marketing is important in a separate posting. Read the following excerpts from the Circular 230, then over the next day or two I will post some additional best practice recommendations from ASTPS. Here’s a few selected excerpts from the Circular 230:

Section 10.30 of Circ. 230 sets forth rules and guidelines for solicitation, advertising, communications and improper associations. Under §10.30(a)(1), a practitioner may not, with respect to any IRS matter, in any way use or participate in the use of any form of public communication or private solicitation containing a false, fraudulent, or coercive statement or claim; or a misleading or deceptive statement or claim.

The rule further provides that any lawful solicitation made by or on behalf of the representative must clearly identify the solicitation as a solicitation. In addition, the source of the information used in choosing the recipient must be identified, if applicable.

The rules also allow a representative to disseminate fee information concerning fixed fees for specific routine services, hourly rates, range of fees for particular services, and fees charged for an initial consultation. If desired, a representative also may publish the availability of a written schedule of fees. Any statement of fee information concerning matters in which costs may be incurred must include a statement disclosing whether clients will be responsible for such costs. Circular 230 §10.30(b)(2) binds a representative to charge the fee for at least 30 days after the last publication of the fee information.

Under Circ. 230 §10.30(c), practitioners may communicate through the use of professional lists, telephone directories, print media, mailings, electronic mail, facsimile, hand-delivered flyers, radio, television, and any other method. The method chosen cannot cause the communication to become untruthful, deceptive, or otherwise violative of Circular 230, however. Circular 230 §10.30(c) provides that a violation exists, for example, if a practitioner persists in attempting to contact a prospective client after the prospective client has made it known that he does not want to be solicited.

Where radio or television is used, Circ. 230 §10.30(c) requires a practitioner to retain a recording of the actual transmission. In the case of direct mail and e-commerce communications, a practitioner must retain a copy of the actual mailing, along with a list or other description of persons to whom such communication was distributed. Copies of broadcasts or mailings must be retained by a practitioner for at least 36 months from the date of the last transmission or use.

A representative may not, according to Circ. 230 §10.30(d), in matters related to the IRS, assist or accept assistance from a person or entity who, to the representative's knowledge, obtains clients or otherwise practices in a manner forbidden under these advertising and solicitation rules.