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Yahoo Demands Tax Preparer Commit Ethics Violation

Updated on August 16, 2012
KeithTax profile image

Keith Schroeder writes The Wealthy Accountant blog with 30 years experience in the tax field. He is the tax adviser of Mr. Money Mustache.

Yahoo has informed me that in order to follow their Terms of Service I must commit a federal ethics violation as outlined in the United States Department of the Treasury Circular 230. It shocked my socked off when they lowered the boom. At first I thought it was spam, then a joke, then reality set; Yahoo demands tax professionals to commit federal ethics violations if they answer any tax question on the Yahoo Answers board. It seems to me that Yahoo is saying: Go to the tavern or Yahoo answers for tax advice, it is about the same thing. Either the person answering the question is not a tax professional or is committing an ethics violation.

Below, I detail the events that took place in the matter of an hour. Women and children should leave the room. Enron accounting is alive and well at Yahoo, at least the ethics part.

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

It started last night after the wife and kids went to bed. I trolled the net for forums with people asking tax questions and answer the ones I can. I enjoy helping people solve tax issues so I do this whenever time allows. With 27 years in the tax profession, I feel I have something to share with folks working through the nightmare called the tax return. My answers are usually short because I have limited information. To date I have never had a complaint. I disclose that I am a tax professional and that due to the limited amount of information provided by the asker, it would be wise to verify with a local tax professional. Because I am a licensed tax professional, I must provide a lengthy discloser required by the Department of the Treasury and send people to my profile with all the legal disclosures.

Last night I stumbled into Yahoo Answers and helped 3 or 4 wonderful people solve minor tax problems and went on my merry way thinking nothing more of it. In short order Yahoo sends me an email banning my account in Yahoo Answers. I thought it was spam at first. How can answering a few short tax questions be a TOS violation?

Here is the email they sent me:

Hello Keith(tpashelp)

You have posted content to Yahoo! Answers in violation of our Community Guidelines or Terms of Service. As a result, your account has been suspended.

If you feel you were not in violation, please contact our Customer Care and tell us why.

Regards,
Yahoo! Customer Care

Has anyone ever asked you to commit a crime or ethics violation online?

See results

Rebuttal

Remember, I only answered tax questions with short, accurate answers. This has to be spam, I thought. Someone got my email address from the Yahoo Answers board and is already playing the spam game.

I reply as follows:

I'm not sure if this email is spam or not, but I doubt answering tax
questions is a violation of TOS. In the outside chance you are really
Yahoo and not a spammer, you will need to explain how putting my 27
years of tax experience to work violates TOS. Gotta tell you though, you
sound fishy. You don't sell Rolex watches, do you?

No Joke

It was no joke. Here is Yahoo’s reply:

Hello Keith,

Thank you for writing to Yahoo! Answers Customer Care.

We appreciate your inquiry about your suspension from Yahoo! Answers
and/or the deactivation of your Yahoo! ID. We reviewed your case, and
decided that your account is not eligible for reinstatement.

Once an account is disabled for a violation of the Terms of Service, the
subscriber to the account will lose the ability to log in and access the
account and its contents (including email and content stored with any
other Yahoo! service). The account also will not be reactivated.

Should you choose to create a new Yahoo! account, we invite you to read
the Yahoo! Terms of Service and Yahoo! Community Guidelines to help
ensure your new account is not deactivated.

Yahoo! Terms of Service:

http://info.yahoo.com/legal/us/yahoo/utos/utos-173.html

Yahoo! Community Guidelines:

http://answers.yahoo.com/info/community_guidelines.php

Thank you again for contacting Yahoo! Answers Customer Care. Your case
number for this issue is 67854362. Please reference it in all future
communication about this particular issue.

Regards,

Bjorn Dylan
Yahoo! Answers Customer Care
67854362

From what I can gather, I violated their Terms of Service by listing my bio page with required federal disclosures. In short, Yahoo demands that I, as a tax professional, commit a federal crime and ethics violation. I did not point to my website, blog, or any articles, just my bio.

The message is clear; Yahoo Answers can only be answered by those that don’t know what they are talking about. An answer from a bona fide tax professional is not allowed unless they first commit an ethics violation. Do you really want an answer from either kind of person? No wonder Google is handing Yahoo their head.

In Conclusion

Give your opinion below. Bookmark this article and send it to friends. Everyone loves a laugh. And if you are so kind, please link, as well. And remember, don't get an answer from Yahoo Answers. It is a violation of their TOS to obey federal law.

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