This started as a comment to The Wandering Tax Pro post; "Enough Already!" However, it started to get long and I hadn't posted today, so I moved the venue.
Robert, yes, there seems to be a double standard for the EAs, CPA,s and attorneys when it comes to the licensing requirements. I think part of the problem is that the IRS wanted to get the program in service ASAP and so it has been making decisions and putting out fires instead of deciding on a goal and creating the rules to meet the rules. I also think that they have caved a little to the different professional organizations. The idea being to get the program going and then plug the holes later. My first suggestion is to plug (end) the whole nonsense of a "supervised" preparer not having to take the test.
One of your commenters pointed out that the CPA exam has a section on Taxation. And I understand the Bar exam does also. My question is how much of those tests deal with the the basics? Not, partnerships, corporations, or tax theory but the practical issues like the determination of the dependency exemption when the circumstances are X, Y and Z or if the taxpayer qualifies for EIC or what special circumstances apply for a MFS client. Because a CPA can correctly calculate the inside and outside basis for a partner does not mean they are up to date on the Form 8332 rules. BUT, those Form 8332 rules will affect so many more tax returns than the basis. That is why I think CPAs and Attorneys should take the competency test; to test their current tax basics knowledge. And that is why I am beginning to think that part of their annual CPEs needs to be specifically tax update CPEs. (On this, EA's too.)
OK, a change of topic. I don't have a problem with the fingerprinting. It seems to me that it's a good tool to make the background checks quicker and more accurate. You can change your name but not your fingerprints. And I don't understand the reason EAs, CPAs and lawyers are exempt. I did a 10 card for my ERO application so giving the IRS another is not a problem.
However, I don't agree with you on the "grandfathering". I've seen too many returns by preparers with decades of experience that are big time wrong to excuse them from the test. And how could the IRS, or anyone, verify that a preparer meets all your exclusion requirements? And even if I could see some "grandfathering", 5 years is just not enough time. For a seasonal preparer, that is only 15 months of actual experience. But where you draw the line? 5 years isn't enough but is 10 or 20?
Let's face it Robert, we're stuck with these rules and all future variations. And I do expect we will see changes as the program continues. Honestly, I think we are all going to get tired of writing about the licensing issue before everything is finalized.