Three years ago the Internal Revenue Service established the new tax preparer initiative requiring paid preparers to register and secure a PTIN, take a competency test, and engage in 15 hours of continuing education every year. These requirements were established to provide the IRS with more oversight of the preparer industry while enhancing taxpayer compliance and service.
Now, on this important anniversary, the IRS is urging tax preparers to take the competency test as soon as possible. And to remind taxpayers of the initiative highlights, the IRS has issued the following information in a recent press release.
Mandatory registration and use of a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN): Anyone who is paid to prepare, or help prepare, all or substantially all of a federal tax return now has to register with the IRS and obtain a PTIN, as do all enrolled agents. The PTIN is valid for a calendar year and must be renewed annually. Almost 850,000 preparers have registered since the requirement began.
Competency Test: In November 2011, a 120-question basic competency test was launched. Certain preparers are required to take the test by Dec. 31, 2013, to stay in business. The IRS urges an estimated 340,000 preparers required to take the test to do so as soon as possible to give themselves more time if they have to retake the test and to avoid a potential flood of last-minute test takers. Certified Public Accountants, Enrolled Agents and attorneys are exempt from the test because they already have other testing requirements as part of their credentials. Certain non-signing preparers supervised by CPAs, EAs or attorneys are exempt, as are non-1040 preparers.
Continuing Education (CE): The roughly 340,000 preparers who have a testing requirement also have a new requirement to complete 15 hours of continuing education courses each year. The CE credits must include 10 hours in federal tax law, three hours in federal tax law changes and two hours in ethics. This requirement became effective January 2012 and it applies even if the preparer has not yet taken the test. There are now hundreds of outlets offering IRS-approved CE courses. Universal is an approved IRS continuing education provider.
Ethics and Tax Compliance: Ethical requirements that previously applied only to CPAs, EAs and attorneys now apply to all paid return preparers. All paid preparers also will undergo a tax compliance check and are subject to the standards for practice outlined in Treasury Department Circular 230.
Registered Tax Return Preparer: Preparers who pass the competency test and tax compliance check are given a new credential: Registered Tax Return Preparer. To date, over 4,800 people have become Registered Tax Return Preparers. Beginning in 2014, only Registered Tax Return Preparers, Enrolled Agents, Certified Public Accountants, and attorneys will be authorized to prepare individual income tax returns for compensation.
Public Database: The IRS also will create a publicly searchable database that will allow taxpayers to see if their tax preparers have met IRS standards or to find a tax preparer in their zip code area. The IRS will have a public education campaign to inform taxpayers to use only CPAs, EAs, attorneys or Registered Tax Return Preparers if they pay to have their taxes prepared.
The database will also show any credentials held by the preparer, including the new RTRP credential, as well as those who are EAs, CPAs and attorneys.
Paid tax preparers can take the RTRP competency test from more than 260 vendor testing centers around the nation. To determine whether or not you have a test requirement, visit your PTIN account at the IRS.
Universal Accounting Helps Tax Preparers Succeed
At Universal, we believe it’s important to prepare for the future, and we’re interested in seeing your future success as a tax preparer. Our online tax training, the Professional Tax Preparer Program, is designed to help professionals like you master tax preparation, become efficient in the completion of individual and business returns, and establish thriving home-based tax businesses. If you would like to learn more, visit Universal for a free video today!