New Tax Preparer Regulation

Written by Peter Tran

June 20, 2017

taxes are complicated – so complicated that even those who create and enforce the US tax rules sometimes make mistakes.  Senator Charles Rangle, chairman of the Senate committee that writes all tax legislation, recently made headlines for failing to report over $75,000 in rental income from a Caribbean condo.  Mr. Timothy Geithner, Secretary of the […]

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Taxes are complicated – so complicated that ev those who create and force the US tax rules sometimes make mistakes.  Sator Charles Rangle, chairman of the Sate committee that writes all tax leslation, rectly made headlines for failing to report over $75,000 in rtal income from a Caribbean condo.  Mr. Timothy Geithner, Secretary of the US Treasury – which oversees the Internal Revue – also made the front page by mistakly reporting several years’ self-employmt income as “regular income.” The result: a tax underpaymt of over $30,000. 

If the tax code is so complex that ev its masters fail to file correct returns, how do you know your tax preparer is qualified?  Unless your preparer is an rolled Agt (EA), a CPA, or a (tax) attorney, the answer is this: you can’t.  Only rolled Agts (EAs), CPAs, and attorneys are regulated by the IRS.  Of these, rolled Agts are the only professionals who have prov their federal-tax competce before the Treasury Departmt.  They are also the only professionals required to receive annual continuing education exclusively devoted to taxation.

The fact that EAs, CPAs, and attorneys exist, however, has not stopped anyone – absolutely anyone – from being a paid tax preparer.  Historically, preparing tax returns for money has required no special training, licse, background check, or examination.  The consequce of this lack in regulation was revealed in two rect studies.  In 2006, Geral Accounting Office study found that only 2 of 19 commercial chain preparers correctly prepared a al tax return.  In 2008, a similar study by the Treasury Inspector Geral found that over 60% of individual tax returns completed by “non-professional” preparers were incorrect.  Although these studies were too small to t all non-professional preparers with the same brush, they communicated a dire need for change.

This change arrived last year (2011) wh the IRS started a process that will provide a level of tax-preparer competce for the geral public.  This regulation includes the following:

1.) Restration: All paid preparers (including Circular 230 professionals) must rester for a PTIN (Preparer Tax Idtification Number) annually, reveal any criminal felony convictions, and affirm that they are compliant with all federal tax filings.  They must also pay an annual filing fee.  Nonprofessional preparers who restered before April 18, 2012 will have until the d of 2013 to complete one or more competcy exam (described below).  Those who rester after April 18, 2012 (a date that may be extded), however, must pass the competcy exam(s) prior to restering and preparing returns.

2.) Testing: All non-professional tax preparers who have restered must prove a level of competce in the returns they prepare by passing a Restered Tax Return Preparer competcy exam.  The exam will consist of 120 questions on al returns (Form 1040) preparation.  Those currtly restered will have until December 31, 2013 to pass the exam.  The test is adstered by Prometric and costs $116.  Candidates must travel to a testing location to take the exam.  While those who fail can retake the exam, those who pass will have earned the designation of “Restered Tax Return Preparer”.

3.) Continuing Education: Restered Tax Return Preparers will be required to obtain continuing education.  Although an exact start date for this education has yet to be determined, the IRS has proposed an annual rem of 15 hours of training including: three hours of Federal Tax updates, two hours of ethics education, and 10 hours covering of areas of Federal taxation.

For those who want to sure that their paid preparer has met these requiremts, a public database will be made available through the IRS

Although many details have yet to be revealed, it seems the IRS has tak the first steps in a much needed direction.  Guaranteeing that tax preparers have a grasp of the craft that pays their lihood is a win for taxpayers, the IRS, and the industry itself.  More returns will be prepared correctly, fewer taxpayers will d in the same hot water as Mr. Rangle and Mr. Geithner, and the industry will find a new level of credibility.  If you are interested in learning more log onto http://irs.gov/taxpros.

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