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Voluntary Continuing Education Program for Unenrolled Tax Return Preparers

July 16, 2015


The IRS started a new voluntary program that allows tax return preparers to show the IRS and their customers that they are keeping up with tax law changes and increasing their tax knowledge by completing tax related continuing education courses each year. It is called the Annual Filing Season Program. Preparers who choose to participate will receive a Record of Completion from the IRS, provided that they complete the required hours of continuing education, have an active PTIN, and consent to adhere to specific obligations under Circular 230.

Any preparer who receives a Record of Completion for the 2016 Filing Season will have limited representation rights before the IRS. This means that they will be able to represent their clients, whose returns they have signed, before revenue agents, customer service representatives, and similar IRS employees. All other unenrolled return preparers will have no representation rights and will only be allowed to complete returns and sign them.

Another advantage for tax return preparers who participate in the Annual Filing Season Program is inclusion in the database of tax return preparers on the IRS website.

This is how the program works:

In order to receive an Annual Filing Season Program – Record of Completion for calendar year 2016, most preparers must meet the following requirements by December 31, 2015:

  • Complete 18 hours of continuing education which must include:
    • A six hour Annual Federal Tax Refresher course that covers filing season issues and federal tax law updates. The course must also include a knowledge-based comprehensive test (that the tax preparer must pass) that is given at the end of the course by the continuing education provider.
    • Seven hours of other federal tax law topics
    • Two hours of ethics
  • Renew their PTIN
  • Consent to adhere to specific practice obligations outlined in Circular 230, Section 10.51

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

Unenrolled preparers who passed the Registered Tax Return Preparer test, are an established participant in a state based return preparer program, are a VITA volunteer, or have met a limited number of other criteria will be considered exempt. This means their continuing education hours requirement will be 15 hours. For more details on which unenrolled preparers are exempt and the details of their requirements, see the Reduced Requirements for Exempt Individuals on the IRS website.

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

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