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IRS’ Annual Filing Season Program for Tax Preparers

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The IRS has established a voluntary program to encourage unenrolled preparers to participate in continuing education (CE) courses. Currently, about 60 percent of preparers operate without any type of oversight or education requirements. The benefits of the program include: staying up to date on tax law and regulation changes, reducing the risk to taxpayers from unknowledgeable preparers and allowing preparers to stand out from their competition.

As of this past summer, 44,000 preparers have completed the Annual Filing Season Program (AFSP). The IRS would like to see all 400,000 un-credentialed preparers obtain the Enrolled Agent (EA) credential or participate in this program. Preparers need to meet the program’s continuing education requirements by year end to obtain a Record of Completion and be included in the new database on the Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications. The database also includes practitioners with recognized credentials, including attorneys, Certified Public Accountants (CPA) and EAs.

18 hours of total continuing education are required including:

  • Six hour refresher course
  • 10 hours on federal tax law topics and
  • Two hours of ethics

Some return preparers who have passed certain recognized national or state tests are exempt from the six-hour refresher course and can participate in the program by taking 15 hours of continuing education.

Representing Clients Beginning on Jan. 1, 2016, rules about who may represent clients before the IRS will change. Attorneys, CPAs and EAs will continue to have full representation rights for all clients before all IRS offices. AFSP Record of Completion holders will have limited representation rights, meaning they can represent clients whose returns they prepare and sign, but only before examination, customer service representatives and the Taxpayer Advocate Service. Other tax return preparers who do not participate in the AFSP will not be permitted to represent any clients before the IRS.

Directory of Preparers with Credentials You can search and sort through the Directory by name, city, state and zip code of attorneys, CPAs, EAs and those who have completed the requirements for the voluntary Annual Filing Season Program. All preparers listed in the directory have valid Preparer Tax Identification Numbers (PTIN). Taxpayers may search the directory using preferred credentials or qualifications they seek in a preparer. Tax return preparers with PTINs who are not attorneys, CPAs, EAs or AFSP participants are not included in the directory.

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