By Ken Berry
The IRS has issued an important reminder to 730,000 federal tax return preparers around the country: Don't forget to renew your Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) for 2013. It has also cautioned tax professionals who must meet new competency tests to schedule their exams (IR-2012-79, 10/22/12).
"We ask that you renew your PTIN as soon as possible to avoid a last-minute rush. It's easy to let this slip as the holiday season approaches", said Carol A. Campbell, director of the IRS Return Preparer Office. "And, if you have a testing requirement and haven't yet scheduled an appointment, please do so at the same time."
Who has to obtain a PTIN? The requirement applies to anyone who is a paid federal tax return preparer as well as all enrolled agents. The fee is $63 (the same as it was for 2012). If you're applying for the first time, the fee is $64.25.
What happens if you fail to renew your PTIN? It could result in the imposition of IRC Section 6695 penalties, injunction, referral for criminal investigation, or disciplinary action by the IRS Office of Professional Responsibility. And you won't be permitted to file returns on behalf of clients.
The IRS has upgraded its PTIN system to make it easier and faster to use. It only takes about fifteen minutes to renew your PTIN online. If you've forgotten your log-in information, password, or e-mail address, you can find the information online. If you go the "old school" route by filing a paper application, Form W-12, IRS Paid Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) Application, the IRS says it will take four to six weeks to process.
New continuing education (CE) and testing requirements also apply to approximately 340,000 paid tax return preparers. When they renew their PTINs for 2013, these preparers must certify that they've completed the fifteen-hour requirement for continuing education in 2012. Details about the CE requirements are available online.
Preparers who must meet a testing requirement should schedule their test, whether it's the Registered Tax Return Preparer (RTRP) test or the more extensive Special Enrollment Exam (SEE). The RTRP test may be scheduled online through the PTIN system by selecting "next steps and additional requirements" from the PTIN account main menu. The SEE can be scheduled online. If you wait until next year to schedule a test, it might be difficult to arrange a convenient date, time, and location.
Finally, note that enrolled agents, CPAs, and attorneys are exempt from the new CE requirements because they already must meet strict standards. For more information about requirements for all federal tax professionals, go to "for Tax Pros" on the IRS website.