Contributory negligence is a tort law concept and applies only if someone is sued for negligence. The fact that a client is audited does not necessarily mean that you were negligent or that they are claiming you were negligent. You had the duty to prpare the return based on the documentation and information given to you by the client.
Unless there is a lawsuit alleging negligence, the legal theory of contributory negligence is not applicable to your situation involving a tax return. Tax preparers have certain guidelines that they have to follow, and if they fail to do so, they can incur civil penalties from the I.R.S. Thus, tax preparers can be held liable in some instances for an improperly completed return.
However, it is the taxpayer's obligation to review the return and confirm its accuracy before the return is filed. As such, even if a tax preparer is assessed civil penalties for not properly doing his job, the taxpayer will still be liable for the taxes and interest owed, and will also be assessed penalties, although these may be abated if you relied upon the advice of a tax professional.
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