To prepare your own tax return, you don't need a license. Should you have to have IRS approval to prepare one for someone else?
The IRS decided you did. And because it decided this approval would be contingent on paying fees and getting training, it imposed new costs on professional tax preparers -- and threatened the viability of small tax-preparation businesses that didn't generate enough revenue to justify the costs.
But the Institute for Justice challenged the IRS's decision. And in a decision released today by the U.S. District Court here in Washington, D.C., IJ and its clients prevailed.
The decision is a rather technical one, not a clarion call for the right to do business without needing to ask permission first. But its effect ensures that many people will be able to exercise their right to do business without the IRS's permission. And it reminds us that even in today's regulatory state, federal regulators only have those powers granted to them by Congress.