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New IRS Voluntary Continuing Education Program and PTIN Requirement for Federal Tax Return Preparers


Updated July 15, 2015

In June of 2014, the IRS began their Annual Filing Season Program. This program (which is in its second year) is designed to encourage unenrolled tax return preparers to voluntarily increase their tax knowledge by taking tax related continuing education (CE) courses each year.  Tax preparers who choose to participate can receive a Record of Completion from the IRS. To do this, the preparer must complete the required number of continuing education hours, have an active PTIN, and consent to adhere to specific obligations under Circular 230.

All continuing education courses must be taken from an IRS approved CE provider and completed by the end of each calendar year.

There are different requirements depending on whether or not an unenrolled tax return preparer is considered an exempt or non-exempt preparer.

Non-Exempt Preparer Requirements
Unless an unenrolled tax return preparer meets one of the requirements to be exempt, they are considered non-exempt. If they are non-exempt, they must meet the following requirements each year:

  • Complete a total of 18 hours of continuing education which must include:
    • A six (6) hour Annual Federal Tax Refresher course that covers filing season issues and tax law updates. This course must include taking and passing a knowledge-based comprehension test administered at the end of the course by the CE provider.
    • Seven (7) hours of other federal tax law topics
    • Two (2) hours of ethics
  • Renew (or obtain) their PTIN
  • Consent to adhere to specific practice obligations outlined in Circular 230, Section 10.51

Tax preparers who have completed one or more of the following are considered exempt:

  • Passed the Registered Tax Return Preparer test (November 2011 – January 2013)
  • Are an established participant of a state-based return preparer program (Oregon, California, and/or Maryland)
  • Passed the Special Enrollment Exam Part I within the past two years
  • VITA volunteer: Quality reviewers, instructors, and return preparers with active PTINs
  • Have an accredited tax-focused credential from the Accreditation Council for Accountancy and Taxation’s Accredited Business Accountant/Advisor and Accredited Tax Preparer Programs

Exempt Preparer Requirements
If the preparer meets one of the above requirements they are considered to be an exempt preparer and must meet the following requirements each year:

  • Complete a total of fifteen (15) hours of continuing education which must include:
    • Three (3) hours of federal tax law updates
    • Ten (10) hours of other federal tax law topics
    • Two (2) hours of ethics
  • Renew (or obtain) their PTIN
  • Consent to adhere to specific practice obligations outlined in Circular 230, Section 10.51

Some of the benefits for a tax preparer who receives a Record of Completion are:

  • Inclusion in the public database of return preparers on the IRS website
  • Limited representation rights (This means that they will be able to represent clients whose returns they signed before revenue agents, customer service representatives, and similar IRS employees.)

It is important to note that beginning with the 2016 Filing Season, any unenrolled preparer who does not have a Record of Completion will not have any representation rights. This means that they will only be allowed to prepare and sign returns.

For more information on the IRS Annual Filing Season Program and Circular 230 see the following:

PTIN Registration
The court did not strike down the registration requirement that all paid Federal tax return preparers must register with the IRS, obtain a PTIN, and renew it each year.

Renewals

  • All federal tax return preparers must renew their PTIN each year
  • PTIN renewal fee is $50
  • To renew go to the IRS Tax Professional PTIN System page on the IRS website and log into your Account.

Obtaining a New PTIN

  • New PTIN fee is $50
  • To register for a new PTIN go to the IRS Online PTIN system page on the IRS website, click on New User, and follow the prompts to setup your account and go through the process of obtaining a PTIN.

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Additional Updates
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