One can read all about the ACA. But you can't call yourself a specialist or an expert til you've actually dealt with ACA issues on real tax returns.

One can read all about the ACA. But you can’t call yourself a specialist or an expert til you’ve actually dealt with ACA issues on real tax returns.

Last week, H & R Block invited people to come in for a free Affordable Care Act review with one of Block’s “ACA specialists.”

ACA specialists? Really?

Here’s the thing about the ACA: no one in the tax industry can claim with a straight face that they are a “specialist” or “expert” on the ACA.

I have read the law, sketched out examples in my own notes, taken continuing ed, and given presentations about the ACA. But I am not an expert on the ACA.

No one, no matter how much we’ve read or how much CPE we’ve taken, can call themselves an ACA specialist until we’ve actually dealt with ACA issues in the real world over the course of several tax seasons.

What is a Specialist?

Here’s Block’s definition of what their ACA “specialists” are:

ACA Specialists are tax pros at H&R Block, that have completed several hours of training both online and in person, to help them be prepared.

Excuse me, but using this ridiculous definition of “specialist,” almost anyone in the tax industry could claim to be an ACA specialist.

Good grief, using Block’s crazy definition of a “specialist,” I could read a few articles about the brain and say I’m a “specialist” in neurology. My 6-year-old once took a few cooking classes at the local YMCA. Does that make him a “specialist” in cooking? Apparently so, using this definition.

I’ve taken many hours of CPE on the ACA over the last 2+ years. I’ve done many hours of my own research. So have almost all reputable tax pros.

But we’re not experts on the ACA just because we’ve taken CPE or read the law– even the presenter of the CPE isn’t an expert.

One could perhaps claim to be an ACA expert after at least one tax season (I would say at least 2 tax seasons) spent dealing with all angles of the ACA.

Until a person has actually prepared tax returns dealing with ACA, they can’t be a specialist or expert on the topic, they’re just someone who’s read a lot about it.

Again, What Is a Specialist?

Some of my fellow tax pros say that I’m one of the leading authorities on LGBT tax issues, in particular same-gender marriage.

One could say I “specialize” in those issues.

How did I gain that knowledge?

It started with one client, in a same-gender marriage, who needed my help in 2009.

I started reading and researching LGBT tax issues so I could help this client. At this point, I wasn’t an expert or a specialist. I was just someone who had read a lot about the topic.

Then I actually started preparing tax returns for people in same-gender marriages. Through word of mouth, I picked up more clients in same-gender marriages. (Nearly 40% of my clients are members of the LGBT community.)

As time passed, I prepared more tax returns for people in same-gender marriages and dealt with all sorts of complications and issues — over the course of YEARS.

It wasn’t until 2011 or 2012 that I felt comfortable holding myself out as an authority on the topic … because I had actually dealt with these issues in the real world for real clients.

Block Doesn’t Have ACA Specialists

If you see anyone who claims to be an expert or specialist on the ACA, just know that it’s all a bunch of marketing hype.

Until a tax pro has actually prepared tax returns dealing with the ACA, and dealt with multiple angles of ACA issues over the course of several tax seasons, no one in our industry can claim to be an expert or a specialist on ACA.

Image courtesy of user “193584” on Pixabay.com

“This blog post, along with comments that may follow, should not be considered tax advice. Before you make final tax or financial decisions, please secure a professional tax advisor to give you advice about your unique situation. To secure Jason as your accountant, please click on the ‘Services’ link at the top of the page.”