5

There are quite a few questions here on Tax advices.

There are some users "littleadv" being one, that put out a disclaimer of sort " this is not a tax advice"; which I think is good.

Should we have this kind of disclaimer somewhere on the site, may be in FAQ? or are we not yet popular that not having may not hurt us.

6

The reason I put this disclaimer is because these questions are very specific and my answer may be considered by some as a "tax advice". I don't want to get a lawsuit in the mail from some idiot who didn't read the instructions just because I was nice enough to answer a question.

Giving an answer that is detailed and specific to the question asked may make an incorrect impression that I am licensed and I am a practitioner - which I am not. Where I suspect such an impression can occur - I explicitly add the disclaimer, to make sure no misinterpretation is being made. I do this on this forum, on OnStartups, and anywhere else I write.

Many times I also suggest to talk to professionals, and there were occasions where I preferred not to write the answer in order to emphasize the need to go to a professional - these question I vote on as off-topic.

A "general" disclaimer will definitely help for the writers' (and the site managers) legal protection, but unless explicitly mentioned in the answer I doubt anyone will notice it until pointed out by a lawyer. What I would like to have instead is an ability to add a constant signature to answers so that I wouldn't have to write this disclaimer over and over again.

  • So would a generic write up somewhere help and we could link that in the answer ... this way it will be more consistant – Dheer May 19 '13 at 2:24
  • @Dheer, I'd prefer it to be in the body of the answer. – littleadv May 19 '13 at 2:34
5

It's probably not a bad idea. We live in a litigious society, one in which it's actually necessary to label a jar of peanut butter with a warning - "contains peanuts."

On my blog, I have a rather long disclaimer and on the Usenet group misc.taxes.moderated, the pros usually tack on a disclaimer to everything they write.

I agree, some kind of disclaimer is in order.

  • Where did that disclaimer come from? I see moolanomy.com, but where did they get it? – MrChrister May 17 '13 at 16:21
  • I don't know where Pinyo got it from, but it seemed pretty comprehensive. – JoeTaxpayer May 17 '13 at 20:20
  • Would such a disclaimer be appended to every question, referenced in the footer (maybe in the "legal" section), or what? I think it's a good idea (I often include a similar disclaimer), even though I doubt many people would read it if it's included in the legal section. I don't think it's of legal consequence if no one happens to read it, especially if it's in the legal section. That at least absolves the site of responsibility. – John Bensin May 18 '13 at 23:06
  • @JohnBensin Great question, John, not really sure. I've not heard of any blogger or board poster getting sued for bad advice, but I'm sure it's possible. Winning is another story. Now you have me curious where other sites (such as 'Boggleheads') posts a disclaimer, if at all. – JoeTaxpayer May 18 '13 at 23:26
  • How do we move this forward? I see: law.stackexchange.com/help/disclaimer which does a tidy job. But nothing exists at: money.stackexchange.com/help/disclaimer – Hart CO Mar 21 at 14:33
3

We could. It has been mentioned before. I don't think it is necessary (although it couldn't hurt) because litigious or not, I don't see how a case could be made that "the Internet cost me my job and got me in trouble with the IRS". I am not a lawyer however.

Moreover, I wouldn't want to actually write the words of a disclaimer, and unless StackExchange Inc has some boilerplate, it might be more harm than good (again, I am not a lawyer and it isn't my money). Perhaps an actual SE employee should give us the corporate stance.

Littleadv is a very thorough and accurate poster. I think the same sort of mindset that drives him to write a disclaimer every time is exactly the mindset that gives him the ability to reference specific US Tax documents in his post. Some people are just very complete thinkers. No big deal to read his disclaimers; plus he is technically correct. This is an advice site, but we get what we pay for.

Finally, I think that Littleadv is smart in that people are likely to only read the post if the come from The Googles or The Bings. Members of the site will read the FAQ, but a generic user won't, so the disclaimer needs to be in each answer for a drive by visitor to see it.

From the legal page:

5. Warranty disclaimer

Stack Exchange has no special relationship with or fiduciary duty to Subscriber. Subscriber acknowledges that Stack Exchange has no control over, and no duty to take any action regarding: which users gains access to the Network; which Content Subscriber accesses via the Network; what effects the Content may have on Subscriber; how Subscriber may interpret or use the Content; or what actions Subscriber may take as a result of having been exposed to the Content.

Not being a lawyer, I don't think SE is getting sued. Are we worried about being sued individually?

  • 3
    There's a boilerplate on tax issues that the IRS provides, its in Treasury Circular 230. – littleadv May 19 '13 at 1:58
  • 2
    @littleadv - of course you'd know the exact circular (or even that it exists and how to find it). lmao. – MrChrister May 20 '13 at 5:31
  • 1
    @MrChrister Legally, SE and posters don't have any fiduciary responsibility to the OPs and are not considered investment advisors such that we'd need to make these types of disclosures, but I think the heart of the matter is that we want to protect the reputation of the board and SE overall, as well as making it eminently clear to all OPs that these are only opinions. – JAGAnalyst May 23 '13 at 5:49
  • 1
    SE isn't getting sued, for sure. I don't think SE really cares whether we get sued, though. It's not their problem. – mbhunter Jun 6 '13 at 6:39
  • 1
    Actually, from the Warranty Disclaimer above, they explicitly acknowledge that they have no control and no responsibility over what actions someone might take after reading an answer. That includes taking legal action against the poster of said answer should following it cause financial hardship. – mbhunter Jun 6 '13 at 6:47
2

I feel that if a disclaimer is needed in most answers in this site, wouldn't it be a good idea if the site itself could automatically append a disclaimer to each answer? Or have a checkbox to include one in the answer form like we have for community wiki, except maybe selected by default.

Something like "This post may contain inaccuracies and does not constitute professional advice", or whatever would be sufficient to prevent a (successful) lawsuit from occurring. And it could be placed and formatted in a way to be as unobtrusive as possible.

1

I'm new here and started to help out with the discussions. So far, after reading many topics and responses, many of the posters/commentors appear to 'expect' stuff like "Detailed" info. I've been active at other forums helping out and many people take it like that.. general advice. So far here, my initials comments elicited.. "That didn't answer the question"! Yes it did, because it's a general response NOT actual professional tax advice.

Professional advice is not given online since peoples' Exact financial background is unknown and don't want to held responsible for said things as other commenters have stated above, but just some general information. Things can be blown out of proportion over time as I've seen at other online forums by unrealistic or obtuse posters/commenters.

For example, if I'm an engineer, I won't try to 'pretend' to know another matter like taxation. Tax laws have many 'exceptions' and it's easier Not to delve into the complexity of the subject which many people seem to do for general questions or pick on the subject. If you don't understand, then say so. It's very easy to misinterpret stuff online esp. on complex subjects like taxation.

"We recommend that you seek a tax professional in your area to assist you"... a typical response in other tax related online forums and many posters 'understand' that and disclaimers are used at times by posters as a reminder including some reminders to be polite when replying.

What's considered 'general advice' here at this forum? Some of the threads I read have some people picking on matters because of misinterpretations.

Thank you!

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .