Tax Ethics in an Era of Social Distancing: Practical Advice for Practitioners

Best Practices for Ensuring Compliance With Circular 230 and Other Applicable Rules

Note: CLE credit is not offered on this program

Recording of a 110-minute CPE webinar with Q&A

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Conducted on Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Recorded event now available

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Course Materials

This course will discuss Circular 230 concerns in responding to ethical encounters facing tax professionals, including how current social distancing norms impact the profession. The panel will examine best practices to ensure compliance and avoid penalties.


Fulfilling one’s professional obligations as a tax practitioner has never been easy, and the disruption caused by the coronavirus outbreak has compounded the profession’s ethical challenges. This webinar will explore how Circular 230, statutory penalties, and other applicable rules apply in a variety of everyday situations and discuss how technological changes and the dramatic changes wreaked by COVID-19 could expose tax professionals to potential sanction.

To practice before the IRS, tax practitioners must comply with standards set forth in Circular 230, which covers conflicts of interest, duty of confidentiality, knowledge of a client’s omission, and other issues, including the duty of supervisors to ensure that others in their firm comply with the rules. Knowing the requirements of the Circular, which complements the professional standards adopted by accounting societies and bar associations, is vitally important.

Listen as our panel of ethics experts discusses how Circular 230 and other rules apply in a broad array of factual situations and why today’s social distancing reality could affect a professional’s responsibilities. Take away practical hints and best practices to ensure compliance and avoid penalties.



  1. Importance of ethics training
    1. What are ethics?
    2. What are the sources of ethical rules?
  2. Intersection of personal beliefs and professional rules of conduct
  3. Ethical reasoning process of tax practitioners
  4. Analytical framework for tax professionals
  5. Overview of Circular 230
  6. What constitutes practice before the IRS?
  7. Circular 230: Review of key provisions
    1. Information to be furnished
    2. Knowledge of client’s omission
    3. Diligence as to accuracy
    4. Fees
    5. Conflicting interests
    6. Best practices for tax advisers
    7. Standards with respect to tax returns and documents, affidavits, and other papers
    8. Competence
    9. Procedures to ensure compliance
    10. Requirements for written advice
    11. Sanctions
    12. Incompetence and disreputable conduct
  8. Circular 230: Open issues
  9. Safeguarding taxpayer information: Issues related to working from home
  10. The ethical landscape
  11. Ethical scenarios
  12. Civil Penalties, including I.R.C. § 6694
  13. Appendices


After completing this program, participants will understand how Circular 230 addresses the more commonly encountered ethical questions tax practitioners face, including:

  • What do you do if you have knowledge of a client's omission of income from a tax return
  • May you rely on the work of other tax return preparers?
  • What is the extent you may rely on and use client provided information?
  • What standards are associated with giving advice to clients?
  • Whether and how current social distancing norms may affect the duty of confidentiality


De Jong, Dan
Dan B. De Jong

Senior Manager, Tax

Mr. De Jong supports KPMG’s engagement teams across tax and assists clients with a variety of tax-related...  |  Read More

McCormally, Timothy
Timothy J. McCormally

Director, Washington National Tax

Mr. McCormally works primarily with the firm’s Practice, Procedure & Administration Group. He formerly served...  |  Read More

Skarlatos, Bryan
Bryan C. Skarlatos

Kostelanetz & Fink

For more than 30 years, Mr. Skarlatos has represented corporations and individuals in sensitive matters, many of which...  |  Read More

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