On July 1st, 2014 the IRS announced the new Annual Filing Season Program (AFSP). This is a voluntary program designed to encourage tax return preparers to participate in continuing education (CE) courses. The IRS aims to recognize the efforts tax return preparers who aspire to a higher level of professionalism.
The program is important for a number of reasons. It encourages unregulated return preparers who don’t have to meet continuing professional education requirements to stay up to date on tax laws and changes. It helps lessen the risk to taxpayers from preparers who have no education in federal tax law or filing requirements. It also allows preparers without professional credentials to stand out from the competition by giving them a recognizable record of completion that they can show to their clients.
AFSP participants will have limited representation rights, meaning they can represent clients whose returns they prepared and signed, but only before revenue agents, customer service representatives, and similar IRS employees, including the Taxpayer Advocate Service.
PTIN holders without an Annual Filing Season Certificate (AFSC) – Record of Completion or other professional credential will only be permitted to prepare tax returns. They will not be allowed to represent clients before the IRS.
AFSP participants will also be included in an IRS public database of return preparers. The Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications will include the name, city, state, zip code, and credentials of all attorneys, CPAs, enrolled agents, enrolled retirement plan agents and enrolled actuaries with a valid PTIN, as well as all AFSP – Record of Completion holders.
In addition to being included in the public directory of tax return preparers the Annual Filing Season Certificate (AFSC) – Record of Completion differentiates you in the
Non-Credential/Non-Exempt Tax Return Preparer Requirements
The Annual Filing Season Program is intended to recognize and encourage the voluntary efforts of unenrolled tax return preparers to increase their knowledge and improve their filing season competency through continuing education. The program is not directed at or necessary for credentialed preparers such as attorneys, CPAs, enrolled agents, enrolled retirement plan agents or enrolled actuaries. They are already in possession of higher level qualifications.
18 Hour Requirements
For Filing Season 2020 you will need 18 hours of continuing education, including:
- 6 hour Annual Federal Tax Refresher (AFTR) course with a knowledge-based comprehension test administered at the end
- 10 hours of other federal tax law topics
- 2 hours of ethics.
Credential/Exempt Tax Return Preparer Requirements
Some unenrolled preparers are exempt from the AFTR course requirement because of their completion of other recognized state or national competency tests. This program is not designed, directed or intended for credentialed preparers who already possess a much higher level of qualification. However, these exempt groups are still required to meet other program requirements, including 15 CE credits.
- Anyone who passed the Registered Tax Return Preparer test administered by the IRS between November 2011 and January 2013
- Established 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 year
- VITA volunteers: Quality reviewers and instructors with active PTINs
- Other accredited tax-focused credential-holders: The Accreditation Council for Accountancy and Taxation’s Accredited Business Accountant/Advisor (ABA) and Accredited Tax Preparer (ATP)
15 Hour Requirements
For Filing Season 2020 you will need 15 hours of continuing education, including:
- 3 hours of federal tax law updates,
- 10 hours of other federal tax law topics and
- 2 hours of ethics.