When Must the Registered Tax Preparer Examination Be Taken?

All non-exempt tax preparers must successfully pass the registered tax return preparer one-time competency examination on or before December 31, 2013. Those who pass the examination and the subsequent tax compliance check and suitability check receive the designation “Registered Tax Return Preparer” (RTRP).

After the December 31, 2013 deadline, only RTRPs, CPAs, EAs, and Attorneys will be allowed to prepare tax returns. PTINs will not be issued except to those with those designations (in good standing).

About the competency test—The test is a timed two and a half hour exam that will cover the Tax Year 2010 Form 1040 series and its related tax schedules. There are 120 questions in a combination of multiple choice and true or false formats. Test takers cannot bring any resource materials, but they will have access to the Form 1040, Form 1040 instructions, and Publication 17. Thus, elimination is essentially an open book test and should be relatively easy for experienced tax preparers.

Preparatory course -- A frequent question is whether an examination preparatory course is necessary. Such a course is not necessary as this is a very basic examination, and it is open book. We recommend the examination be taken fairly soon after tax season when all the rules are fresh in your mind. If you feel you must study for the exam, review the qualified child, dependency, head of household, and EITC subjects to prepare.

The IRS has released test specifications that outline the general individual income tax topics that will be covered by the exam. The IRS has also released a list of publications and instructions that compose the test topics. The test specifications and publications as well as a tutorial--a video on what to expect test day--and a Candidate Information Bulletin are available at www.irs.gov/taxpros/tests.

The test is available in English only at this time and generally will be administered in a computer-based testing format. You must take the test at one of the 260 Prometric Inc., test centers across the nation.

There is no limit to the number of times the test can be taken, but you need to pass the test only once. If you take the test more than once, the $116 fee will apply each time you take the test.

Who Must Take the Registered Tax Return Preparer TestA paid tax return preparer must take the Registered Tax Return Preparer competency test and meet the other requirements to become a Registered Tax Return Preparer unless the tax return preparer is a;

  • Certified Public Accountant, attorney, or an Enrolled Agent.

  • A supervised preparer, who
    • Does not and is not required to sign a tax return as paid preparer;
    • Works at a firm at least 80 percent owned by CPAs, attorneys, or Enrolled Agents; and
    • Is supervised by a CPA, attorney, or Enrolled Agent.

  • A preparer who does not, for compensation, prepare or assist in the preparation of all or substantially all of any Form 1040 series return. For the purpose of this exemption, Forms 1040-PR and 1040-SS are not Form 1040 series returns.

  • 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.

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