If a formal complaint is received by ASTPS against a Member, Associate Member, or member in any other membership category (collectively referred to as “Members”), the General Counsel’s office shall initiate the complaint procedure described below. A “formal complaint” is defined as a written statement from an identified individual or entity alleging conduct that, if proven, would constitute a violation of the Code of Professional Ethics of the American Society of Tax Problem Solvers. The General Counsel’s office may also initiate a formal complaint on its own authority if it otherwise receives credible evidence that a Member has violated or may have violated the Code of Professional Ethics.
The General Counsel will evaluate the complaint, notify the Member of the charges against him, provide the Member with sixty days to respond to the charges, and conduct any other investigation as needed to evaluate the complaint. If the General Counsel finds credible evidence that the Member has violated the Code of Professional Ethics, then the General Counsel will send all evidence that has been gathered in evaluation of the complaint to each Board of Review member.
If at any time during the evaluation of the complaint, the General Counsel finds compelling evidence that the nature of the alleged actions by the member pose a serious threat to the reputation of the Association or to the members of the public, the General Counsel may recommend that the Board of Directors temporarily suspend the member pending the outcome of the disciplinary process.
If, because of the identity of the person against whom the complaint was lodged or for any other reason, the General Counsel has a conflict of interest in the case or there is the appearance of a conflict of interest, the General Counsel shall recuse him/herself from the case and an independent counsel may be appointed by the Board of Directors with consultation of the Board of Review.
Each member of the Board of Review will independently review the materials provided by the Society’s General Counsel or Independent Counsel. The members of the Board of Review will then consult and reach a consensus on what action the Society should take. The Board of Review may conduct such inquiry or investigation as it deems necessary in making its determination. Any expenses incurred in the investigation are subject to approval of the Board of Directors.
The Chairperson of the Board of Review will prepare a letter that reports the Board of Review’s recommendation in the case. The letter of recommendation and the original of the complete investigation file will be sent to the Board of Directors for action as set forth in Section IV. A copy of the letter of recommendation will be sent to the National Director of the Society and General/Independent Counsel.
If a member of the Board of Review determines that he or she has a conflict of interest in the case, or if there is the appearance of a conflict of interest, that member shall recuse him/herself from the case as soon as practicable. If a member recuses him/herself, the Board of Directors may appoint a Temporary Member for the case who otherwise meets the qualifications for service on the Board of Review. If two or more members of the Board of Review recuse themselves from the case, the Board of Review shall cease its deliberation and refer the case directly to the Board of Directors. The Board of Directors may choose to conduct a deliberation on the case pursuant to Section III of these Disciplinary Procedures, or it may choose to appoint Temporary Members of the Board of Review, who otherwise meet the qualifications for service on the Board of Review, to take the place of those members who have recused themselves. If temporary members are appointed, the case shall be referred back to the provisional Board of Review for deliberation in accordance with Section III of these Disciplinary Procedures as set forth above.
As further specified in the Bylaws of the Association, the rights and privileges of all Members are subject to qualifications and requirements determined from time-to-time by the Board of Directors, within its exclusive control and authority. All of the Members accept the Board of Directors’ exclusive control and authority as a fundamental condition of the rights and privileges of membership. All disciplinary actions are within the exclusive authority and discretion of the Board of Directors.
When the Board of Directors receives the recommendation letter and investigation file from the Board of Review pursuant to Section III, it will examine the recommendation and decide on the action, if any, to be taken. The procedures for such examination, including without limitation the conduct of further investigation, will be at the discretion of the Board of Directors, as it may deem appropriate on a case-by-case basis. The Board of Directors may order expulsion, suspension for up to two years, probation, public or private reprimand, or any other disciplinary, remedial, or corrective action it deems appropriate. The decision of the Directors shall become effective at the time it is made.
The decision of the Directors is final and not subject to appeal. Any decision by the Board of Directors will be promptly communicated to General Counsel. General Counsel will then notify the member involved.
The Regents’ decision will be reported to the National Director of the Society to be carried out.
If a member is found guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction of a crime punishable by imprisonment of more than one year, a felony, or any crime involving moral turpitude, a complaint against that member may be presented directly to the Board of Directors without regard for Sections II and III of these procedures. In such circumstance, the Board of Directors may expel the member without a hearing, suspend the member pending an investigation of the complaint, or take any other disciplinary, remedial, or corrective action it deems appropriate.
The Board of Review shall provide the Board of Directors with a written status report at each of the Directors’ bi-annual meetings. The report shall include a list of complaints currently pending before the Board of Review, including the name of the Member that is referenced in the complaint, the person(s)/entity submitting the complaint, a brief description as to the nature of the complaint, and the current status of the complaint. The Board of Directors may request the Board of Review to provide an interim status report at any time, as deemed necessary.
Once all appropriate action has been taken, the General Counsel will collect and retain in a confidential and secure manner all pertinent records regarding the complaint. All documents pertaining to all disciplinary investigations are the property of the Society. Other than the publication as set forth in Section IV, no disclosure or dissemination of any such documents shall be made except by a specific directive from the Board of Directors or pursuant to an order of a legal authority with competent jurisdiction.
Code of Professional Standards
The American Society of Tax Problem Solvers is an association of professionals committed to performing at the highest level of ethical conduct. Members of the Association pledge themselves to act with integrity and to perform their work in a professional manner.
Members have a professional responsibility to their clients, to the public interest and each other; a responsibility that requires subordinating self-interest to the interests of those served.
These standards express basic principles of ethical behavior to guide members in the fulfilling of their duties and obligations. By following these standards, all ASTPS members shall be expected and shall strive to demonstrate their commitment to excellence in service and professional conduct.
The ASTPS Code of Professional Standards shall apply to all members and all Associate members of the American Society of Tax Problem Solvers. The use of the word “member” or “members” in this Code shall refer to Associate members as well as Certified members of the American Society of Tax Problem Solvers.
Integrity and Objectivity
- Members shall conduct themselves with integrity, knowing that public trust is founded on integrity. Members shall not sacrifice integrity to serve the client, their employer or the public interest.
- Prior to accepting the tax problem engagement, members shall investigate for potential conflicts of interest. Members shall disclose any potential conflicts of interest to prospective clients who retain them or their employer.
- Members shall maintain objectivity in discharging their professional responsibilities within the scope of the engagement.
- Members shall not commit discreditable acts, and shall always conduct themselves in the best interests of the reputation of the profession.
- Members shall not knowingly make a false statement when providing information to the IRS or other taxing agency. Members shall comply with lawful requests of the IRS, courts or other dispute resolution bodies. Members shall not commit criminal acts or knowingly induce others to do so.
- Members shall be competent and shall not accept assignments where this competence is lacking. In some circumstances, it may be possible to meet the requirement for professional competence by use of consultation or referral.
- Members shall maintain the minimum program of continuing professional education required by the American Society of Tax Problem Solvers. A commitment to professionalism combining education and experience shall continue throughout the member’s professional career. Members shall continually strive to increase the competence and effectiveness of their professional services.
Due Professional Care
- Members shall exercise due professional care in the performance of their services. Due professional care requires diligence, critical analysis and professional case management in discharging professional responsibilities.
- Conclusions shall be supported by documentation that is relevant, competent and sufficient.
- Members’ professional services shall be adequately planned. Planning controls the performance of a tax problem resolution case from inception through completion and involves developing strategies and objectives for performing the services.
- Work performed by assistants on a tax problem resolution case shall be adequately supervised. The extent of supervision required varies depending on the complexities of the work and the qualifications of the assistants.
Understanding with Client
- At the beginning of a tax problem resolution case, members shall reach an understanding with those retaining them about the limitations and alternatives available in a tax problem resolution case and the responsibilities of all parties involved.
- Whenever the limitations of a tax problem resolution case or the responsibilities of the parties change significantly, a new understanding shall be reached with the client.
Communication with Client
- Members shall communicate problems and progress to those who retained them in a tax problem resolution case.
- Members shall not disclose confidential or privileged information obtained during the course of the tax problem resolution case without the express permission of the client or the order of a court. This requirement does not preclude professional practice or investigative body reviews as long as the reviewing organization agrees to abide by the confidentiality restrictions.
Tax Problem Resolution Cases
- Tax problem resolution cases shall be conducted in a legal, professional, and thorough manner. The member’s objective shall be to resolve the clients’ tax difficulty in a manner appropriate to each case.
- Members shall strive for efficiency in case management.
- Members shall be alert to the possibility of deception or abuse of the system that might be perpetrated by a client.
- Members shall endeavor to establish effective control and management procedures for documents.
- Members’ work product may vary with the circumstances of each tax problem resolution case. The extent of documentation shall be subject to the needs and objectives of the case.
- Members’ reports may take many different forms including self-designed schedules, verbal reports and negotiation, and government forms. Except for government required forms there is no single format required for reports; however, reports should not be misleading.
- Members’ reports shall contain appropriate information based on the instant case and that supports the conclusions, offers, or requests related to a tax problem resolution case.