IRS National Program to Register Tax Preparers Q & A
The following set of questions and answers are provided based on the best information available at this time. The National Program to register tax preparers is a work in progress. Not all the details are fully available yet, and the information provided here is from various sources. We will update the information as further details become available. (Last Update: June 25, 2010)
Who is Required to Register? All individuals (this includes currently enrolled practitioners such as CPAs, EAs and attorneys) who are compensated for preparing, or assisting in the preparation of, all or substantially all of a federal tax return or claim for refund or who sign, or are required to sign, a federal tax return or claim for refund as a paid tax return preparer must register and be assigned a PTIN or register their existing PTIN. The PTIN will be used as the registration number and will be deactivated for practitioners who fail to maintain the requirements of the registration.
When Will the Registration Begin? The IRS has indicated the registration will begin on September 1, 2010. Those that register during the initial registration period, September 1, 2010 until the first exam is available (estimate: Spring 2011), will not be required to complete an exam to register. The initial registration group will be required to complete an exam before they can reregister at the end of the 3-year registration period. Those that missed registration during the initial period will be required to pass the exam before becoming registered and issued a PTIN.
Tax Compliance Checks - All practitioners applying for or renewing their registration will be subject to tax compliance checks. The checks will determine if the applicant has filed all required tax returns, paid all liabilities or made proper arrangements with the IRS for payment of back taxes. Applicants who fail the tax compliance test may be denied registration and issuance of a valid PTIN. In addition, those failing will be referred to OPR for investigation.
Felony Question – As part of the registration process, applicants will be asked if they have been convicted of a felony in the past 10 years. If the answer to that question is yes, you will be required to provide additional details to OPR who will deal with each case individually. You will be issued a temporary PTIN while OPR investigates the facts of the case and decides whether to cancel or make permanent your PTIN.
Background Checks – Apparently all applicants are subject to an FBI background check.
How Do I Register? The IRS has contracted the registration process to a private firm. According to unofficial sources, the IRS will be mailing notices to practitioners that they are aware of on or about August 1, 2010 explaining the registration process.
Is There a CPE Requirement? Yes! A registered preparer must complete 15 hours of specified CPE each year. The CPE requirements begin January 1, 2011. The required CPE is as follows:
- 10 Hours in Federal Tax Law
- 3 Hours of Federal Tax Update
- 2 Hours of Ethics
Although CPAs, EAs and attorneys are required to register, they are not subject to the above 15-hour CPE requirement, since they are generally subject to the more expansive CPE requirements of their professional designation (license).
Where Do I Obtain Approved CPE? Circular 230 section 10.6(g) specifies entities that can provide CPE under the registration process. ClientWhys is approved by the IRS Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) as a CPE provider. ClientWhys has developed courses to specifically meet the 15-hour CPE requirement for registered preparers. Clientwhys is also an approved provider for the California and Oregon preparer requirements and have tailored courses to meet both the Federal and state requirements for practitioners in those states.
Ethical Standards - The IRS is recommending that all signing and non-signing tax return preparers be subject to the provisions of Treasury Department Circular 230, which will make them subject to discipline for unethical and unprofessional conduct. The authority granted to those individuals who either do not have professional licenses or who are not enrolled agents, enrolled actuaries or enrolled retirement plan agents will be limited to preparing tax returns and representing their clients as currently permitted during the examination of any return prepared by that tax return preparer. The ClientWhys course will include the 2-hour ethics element, including the Circular 230 requirements.
Competency Examinations – The IRS plans to develop two levels competency examinations:
- Wage and Non-Business 1040 Returns
- Wage and Business 1040 Returns*
This category will be expanded to include other small business returns in future years.
Individuals who pass a competency examination will be permitted to prepare and sign returns commensurate with the examination they passed.
Mandated E-Filing – As part of this program, the IRS is planning to mandate nationwide E-Filing as outlined below:
- During 2011, practitioners filing 100 or more individual or trust returns will be required to E-File.
- During 2012, practitioners filing 11 or more individual or trust returns will be required to E-File.
Lee Reams Sr.
Lee T. Reams is the Chief Technical Officer of ClientWhys. He is also an Enrolled Agent having managed a 600-plus client tax practice. Educated as an engineer, with a Bachelor's Degree in Mechanical Engineering, Lee left his engineering career in 1975 to expand his part-time tax practice into a full-time career.