|RPO Facebook – Message from the Director
I enjoyed meeting and talking with many tax return preparers this summer. I attended three tax forums and spoke at a number of other events. Our Deputy Director Preston Benoit attended the other two tax forums.
For those of you who haven’t had an opportunity to attend one of our sessions, I want to share an overview as there are important changes ahead that everyone needs to know.
We had a great response to the Annual Filing Season Program which we introduced last year. More than 44,000 return preparers participated in this voluntary program for the past filing season.
For anyone who hasn’t heard of it, the IRS Annual Filing Season Program promotes continuing education by non-credentialed return preparers. Prospective participants must obtain the necessary continuing education before the beginning of the calendar year if they want to participate. The IRS then issues an Annual Filing Season Program Record of Completion to those return preparers who have a valid preparer tax identification number (PTIN) and obtain the appropriate type and required number of continuing education hours.
What are the requirements for the Annual Filing Season Program?
Depending on certain factors, a tax return preparer will need either 15 or 18 hours of continuing education from IRS-approved continuing education providers.
The following categories need 15 hours annually:
Anyone who passed the Registered Tax Return Preparer test administered by the IRS between November 2011 and January 2013.
State-based return preparer program participants currently with testing requirements: Return preparers who are active registrants of the Oregon Board of Tax Practitioners, California Tax Education Council, and/or Maryland State Board of Individual Tax Preparers.
SEE Part I Test-Passers: Tax practitioners who have passed the Special Enrollment Exam Part I within the past two years.
VITA volunteers: Quality reviewers, instructors, and return preparers.
Other accredited tax-focused credential-holders:
The Accreditation Council for Accountancy and Taxation’s Accredited Business Accountant/Advisor (ABA) and Accredited Tax Preparer (ATP) programs.
For those required to obtain 15 hours the courses must be in the following categories:
All others need 18 hours annually. For those required to obtain 18 hours the courses must be in the following categories:
10 hours – Federal Tax Law
6 hours - Annual Federal Tax Refresher Course and Test*
2 hours - Ethics
In addition to the required continuing education, return preparers must also have an active PTIN for the year of participation; consent to the duties and restrictions outlined in Subpart B and section 10.51 of the Treasury Department Circular No. 230, and be compliant with their personal and business taxes. Once all requirements are met, we will contact you by email with instructions on how to participate and receive your AFSP Record of Completion.
Why should you participate?
Beginning in 2016, return preparers who are not an attorney, CPA, or enrolled agent and do not participate in the Annual Filing Season Program will only be permitted to prepare tax returns; they will not be authorized to represent clients before the IRS (except in regard to returns they prepared before January 1, 2016).
As a participant in the Annual Filing Season Program, you will have limited representation rights, meaning you can represent clients whose returns you have prepared and signed during an examination of that client’s tax return or claim for refund, in customer service matters and before the Taxpayer Advocate Service. To have these limited representation rights, you must participate in the Annual Filing Season Program both in the year of return preparation and the year of representation. Those uncredentialed preparers who do not participate in the Annual Filing Season Program will not have any representational rights before the IRS, unless it involves limited representation for a return completed on or before December 31, 2015.
Annual Filing Season Program participants are also included in the searchable public directory which we launched earlier this year on IRS.gov. This directory includes the name, city, state, zip code, and credentials of all attorneys, CPAs, enrolled agents, enrolled retirement plan agents, enrolled actuaries, and those return preparers who receive an Annual Filing Season Program Record of Completion. For more information on the requirements and benefits of the Annual Filing Season Program please visit www.irs.gov/Tax-Professionals/Annual-Filing-Season-Program.
Consider becoming an enrolled agent!
If you’re a return preparer who desires unlimited representation rights, I recommend becoming an enrolled agent. The enrolled agent program administered by the IRS is the highest credential we offer. Enrolled agents pass a three part Special Enrollment Examination, which is a comprehensive exam that demonstrates proficiency in federal tax planning, individual and business tax return preparation, and representation. Again, enrolled agents have unlimited representation rights and may represent clients before the IRS on any matter. For more information on becoming an enrolled agent, visit www.irs.gov/Tax-Professionals/Enrolled-Agents.
I sincerely hope you consider participating in the Annual Filing Season Program or the enrolled agent program and look forward to sharing updates about the Return Preparer Office with you in the coming months.
*For more information on the Annual Federal Tax Refresher Course . . .