Everything Tax Preparers Need to Know About Continuing Education Credits

Woman tax preparer taking continuing education credits with TaxSlayer Pro

When choosing a tax preparer, clients want to know that they’re working with a true professional — someone who’s qualified, educated, and dedicated to providing the best service possible. Continuing education is one way you can prove your expertise and dedication to your clients. Here’s what you should know.

What types of tax preparers need continuing education credits?

Different types of tax preparers need different types of education to keep their certification current. As a tax preparer, you likely fall into one of these categories:

Attorneys and CPAs

As highly specialized professionals, attorneys and CPAs meet all minimum requirements to be tax preparers without any additional tax education credits. If you are an attorney or CPA, you need to keep your respective licenses up to date by meeting state and national re-licensure requirements.

Enrolled Agents

Enrolled agents are IRS-certified tax preparers who have completed the IRS’s three-part Special Enrollment Examination. To keep your status as an enrolled agent, you’ll need to complete 72 hours of continuing education every three years.

You can get your continuing education credits (CECs) from a variety of sources, but before you spend money on training, make sure you’re using an IRS-approved provider.

To meet IRS requirements, you’ll need to complete 16 hours of CE each year, and two of those should be ethics-related. This prevents you from having to cram in 72 hours in one year. Other than that, you can choose the topics that interest you most.

Other CE requirements for Enrolled Agents vary based on when you enrolled and the last digit of your social security number. Make sure to check the IRS’s Enrolled Agent Continuing Education FAQ page to determine when and how you should complete your CECs.

Other Tax Preparers/ PTIN Holders

As a non-credentialed tax preparer, you have two options:

  1. Simply renew your status as a PTIN (preparer tax identification number) Holder without pursuing CE.
  2. Participate in the IRS Annual Filing Season Program (more on that below).

What is the IRS Annual Filing Season program?

The IRS designed the Annual Filing Season Program (AFSP) to “recognize the efforts of non-credentialed return preparers who aspire to a higher level of professionalism.” The program allows tax preparers who aren’t attorneys, CPAs, or Enrolled Agents to stay up to date on the latest tax laws and distinguish themselves from their competition.

Obtaining your AFSP Record of Completion means taking 18 hours of yearly CE including:

  • 10 hours on federal tax law
  • 6 hours of an Annual Federal Tax Refresher course plus an accompanying comprehension test (you may be exempt from this course if you meet certain requirements).
  • 2 hours of ethics training

How does continuing education benefit you as a tax preparer?

Since 2015, the IRS has encouraged tax filers to only select tax preparers with professional credentials or other select qualifications. Now it’s more important than ever to pursue continuing education to maintain your reputation as a qualified tax preparer.

As an Enrolled Agent

Without continuing education, you’ll lose your status as an Enrolled Agent. With that, you’ll also lose your unlimited representation rights, drastically decreasing the services you can offer your clients.

As a PTIN Holder

You can retain your status as a PTIN holder without continuing tax preparer education. However, you’ll lose your ability to represent your clients before the IRS. Without CE through the IRS Annual Filing Season Program, you’ll only be eligible to file tax returns for your clients.

As an Annual Filing Season Program Participant

As an Annual Filing Season Program participant, however, you’ll gain limited representation rights for your clients. You can represent your clients before certain IRS employees as long as you prepared and signed their tax returns. In short, pursuing continuing education as a tax preparer lets you offer more value to your clients, giving you added credibility in a competitive market. For unique, engaging ways to earn your CECs, join us at TaxSlayer Pro’s Annual Seminar or stop by our interactive booth at an IRS Nationwide Tax Forum At our annual seminar, you’ll network with other dynamic, successful tax professionals, all while learning the latest tax laws and new ways to grow your business.

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