A conflict between the tax preparation services that tax preparers provide and the services taxpayers seek is demonstrated in the literature: tax professionals equate client advocacy with aggressive tax positions while taxpayers hire preparers to increase accuracy and reduce the probability of tax audit. Although this difference has been demonstrated at the large firms, more than half of tax preparers are at regional and local firms. This study examines tax preparers, self‐employed or from local and regional firms, and their clients using an established scale—the recently developed Mason–Levy Advocacy Scale. This research measures the understanding taxpayers have of their tax preparers' self‐assessed levels of client advocacy. A practically small but statistically significant difference is found. Advocacy is found to be equal between CPAs and non‐CPAs—counter to prior research. Also, CPA clients and non‐CPA clients are found to have similar perceptions regarding the aggressiveness of their preparers. The implications to practice are that more conservative tax preparation may satisfy clients with less risk and cost. Additionally, less aggressive tax positions will help to close the tax gap.
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