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<<After reading a number of posts in the past week or two from nonprofessionals giving just plain wrong answers to Fools' tax questions, I wonder - should there be more to the disclaimer? Something to the effect of "if a Board regular tax pro doesn't answer your question or correct a wrong answer, that's your problem?">>

Sorry I got here late to the party. Between final reviews and edits of the TMF Investment Tax Guide 2001 to Fool HQs and some personal problems, I've been away for a while. My apologies.

First of all I want Chris to know that I have forwarded his concerns to the legal folks at Fool HQ. I don't know what (if anything) will change in the disclaimer, but I respect Chris' work enough to at least sound a minor alarm.

This has always been a concern of mine...since I began posting on the boards about 6 years ago. It was easier to deal with in the "good old days" when the Tax Strategies folder received about 20 questions...PER WEEK. It was easier to provide more complete responses.

But now, with the complexity of the law and the lack of information provided by many posters, it's simply impossible to provide a 100% dead-bang response. As some have said, there are many more gradations to the tax law as some would admit. So I would have to agree with many of the other people who have commented on this issue: Don't believe anything that you read here, but use it to narrow down your research and make your own confirmation. I've said that many times before...and likely will make the same statement many times in the future.

And the issue that concerns Chris has also concerned me for quite some time: people might flock here to receive a concrete answer to their specific questions...and will take the answer that they receive here as the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. They will not do any additional research. And that saddens me...and scares me at the same time. But, other than to create an iron-clad disclaimer that everybody is FORCED to read before they post, I don't know what we can do about it. Other than to carefully monitor the folder and try, if at all possible, to clarify those responses that are clearly incorrect, or amplify on those responeses that might be misconstrued. And I believe that is what we (and I mean the community "we"...not just the myself and Phil) attempt to do.

As much as we can try, we can't protect people from themselves. If they refuse to read the disclaimer, or refuse to do any additional research, there is really nothing more that we can offer. About all that we can do is to try and be dilligent and make the corrections, explanations, and amplifications that we can when we see them. And again, when I say "we", I'm talking about the community "we". And, I personally believe that "we" do a pretty good job of that.

We're all here to learn. Very few people know everything about everything. We've all made mistakes. Heck, I know that I've made my share. And I welcome the corrections that are posted when I drop my pants and show my butt.

One of the reasons that I'm here is because it's like a self-imposed daily contuining education class. The knowledge that I receive by providing responses, writing the weekly articles, writing the various books, and reading many of the responses here helps me to help my clients on a daily basis. I become more valuable to my clients (at least in my opinion) because the questions that they ask me have already been asked, reserched, and answered here in the folder at one time or another. So I have a self-serving interest in seeing the folder run smoothly and correctly.

I certainly don't mean to ramble on here, so I might as well just close with one thought: I still believe that MORE posting is better than less posting. And I don't believe that anybody disagrees with that general statement (at least based upon what I've read in this thread). It never hurts to amplify a response, or clarify the question and provide a new response. For those of you who feel up to it, have at it. For those of you who would prefer to simply lurk, do it. But I've tried to run a pretty friendly folder here. I strongly believe that you can disagree without being disagreeable. In fact, I almost find our various disagreements more interesting than our agreements...because the disagreements allow me to do additional research and learn even more about a subject...simply in order to defend (or change) my position.

Finally, with respect to only responding to questions when you are 100% certain of the response, allow me to leave you with this given to me by a very wise person: It's not what you don't know that'll hurt you, it's what you DO know that's just plain wrong!

I've provided responses where I just knew I was 100% correct...and was just plain wrong. So all I really ask of anybody (including myself) who decides to post in the folder is to simply be as careful as you possibly can and provide the best response that YOU can provide...and if you're not knowledgeable in the area, just say so. The more disclosure the better.

Thanks to all who have gotten this far and suffered through my general musings. We'll now return you to your regular programming.

TMF Taxes
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