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please submit replies of 200-250 words with two citations.when replying try to address different aspects of the ethical argument. Often, these situations are not as black and white as they seem, particularly when responsibilities such as independence and confidentiality come into play.
In this scenario, the attorney is clearly violating Circular 230, as C.F.R. § 10.27 prohibits the practitioner from charging an “unconscionable fee in connection with any matter before the IRS.” While what exactly constitutes an unconscionable fee is not clearly defined, the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct does provide eight ways to evaluate the conscionability of a fee (WG&L ¶ 1.09[b])(Saltzman & Book, 2014), including how it compares to what is customarily charged for such services (Hawkins, 2016). Therefore, what constitutes an unconscionable fee is understood to be “in the eye of the beholder” (WG&L ¶ 1.09[b])(Saltzman & Book, 2014). Even so, everyone should identify the 17% charge, equating to $255,000, to be absolutely unconscionable, and therefore a violation so circular 230.
Despite this, CPA Charles will not be allowed to inform Clara, the client, about this violation. As much as he may want to prevent Clara from being taken advantage of, Charles is bound to client confidentiality. The AICPA Code of Professional Conduct confidential client information rule prohibits a practicing CPA from disclosing client information without the consent of the client (1.700.001)(AICPA, 2014). This means Charles is not permitted to discuss the unconscionable fee with Clara without the permission of his client, in this case the attorney. Charles must first confront his hiring attorney about this fee
Another aspect of this scenario to consider is the fee of $10,000 being paid to Charles by the attorney. Does this fee reflect the work and complexity required, and is it consistent with what Charles would normally charge for such work? Or is this fee unconscionable as well, resulting from the exorbitant fee being charged to Clara by the attorney. If this fee is substantially more than Charles would normally charge, and therefore also unconscionable, that may explain Charles’ willingness to accept the work despite the obvious circular 230 violation and unethical behavior of the attorney.
In addition to the confidentiality principle discussed earlier, charging such exorbitant fees is also a clear violation of the AICPA code of conduct integrity principle, which prohibits the CPA from subordinating service and public trust to personal gain and advantage (0.300.040.03)(AICPA, 2014). Even if the $10,000 being paid to Charles is not considered unconscionable, the integrity principle would prevent Charles from turning a blind eye to the abuse of Clara by the attorney. Such abuse would also run afoul of the preamble to the principles of professional conduct, which calls the member to an “unswerving commitment to honorable behavior, even at the sacrifice of personal advantage. (0.300.010.02)(AICPA, 2014). Again, no one should consider the treatment of Clara in this scenario to be anything close to honorable, and as a CPA, Charles has an obligation to not participate in it.
It would be better for Charles to lose his wealth while doing what is right, than to profit wrongfully off of the widow Clara. As Proverbs 28:6 (ESV) says, “Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways.” Nor should the attorney think that just because Clara is ignorant of his abuse, that he is in the clear. “For God will bring every deed into judgement, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” (Ecc. 12:14, ESV). Hopefully Charles will confront the attorney about his treatment of Clara, and convince him to turn from his decision to charge such an unconscionable fee, but even if he doesn’t, God will ultimately provide justice. Crooked ways will never prevail in the end.