Voluntary Education Program Unveiled

In July, the IRS announced the new voluntary education program available to preparers as early as the 2015 filing season.  The AFSP, or Annual Filing Season Program, is a quick fix to the court’s decision to prevent the IRS from regulating tax preparers.  The courses encourage tax season readiness and a basic comprehension of tax law.  This program will help preparers distinguish themselves from others by showcasing their tax knowledge and understanding on the IRS.GOV website. 

                The website will also identify Certified Public Accountants, Enrolled Agents, and Attorneys, according to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen.  He said their goal is to help inform taxpayers about the professional options available.

History of the Education Programs

                In 2011, the Treasury Department and the IRS issued regulations mandating testing and CE credits for paid tax return preparers.  The program required all preparers to take 15 hours of Continuing Education Credits and pass a Competency Test in order to prepare taxes. 

                Earlier this year, the Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s determination that the IRS lacks the authority to regulate tax preparers.  The IRS continues to believe that regulation is important, and has included a proposal in the 2015 fiscal budget to authorize the IRS to enforce tax preparer regulation.

                The new voluntary program will help determine the feasibility of a voluntary testing program in future years.

Record of Completion Requirements

                Non-exempt preparers with a valid PTIN will need to complete 18 hours of education credits including the following breakdown of course types:

·         6 hours of federal tax filing season refresher course (with a comprehension test at completion

·         10 hours of federal tax law topics

·         2 hours of ethics

For tax season 2015, a pro-rated amount of hours will apply to the program, requiring preparers to complete only 11 hours, reducing the number of tax law topic hours from 10 to 3.  The courses need to be completed by December 31, 2014.  TaxSlayer Pro is working to earn the Tax Refresher Course Certification which provides permission to offer the Tax Refresher Test and online Continuing Education Courses.  A list of qualified CE providers (Including TaxSlayer Pro – listed as Rhodes Computer Services, Inc. /TaxSlayer Pro) can be found by clicking here. 

Before receiving a record of completion, preparers are required to consent to the duties and restrictions relating to practice before the IRS in subpart B and section 10.51 of Treasury Department Circular No. 230  – Click to see the details of IRS Circular 230.

                Visit the IRS webpage to learn more about requirements for individuals who have already passed the RTRP test.

Changes in Representation Rights

                Attorneys, CPA’s, and Enrolled Agents will continue to be the only tax professionals with unlimited representation rights.  In 2016, AFSP participants will have the right to represent clients whose returns they prepared and signed before revenue agents, IRS Customer Service Representatives, and other IRS employees including the Taxpayer Advocate Service.

Read More – Revenue Procedure 2014-42

As always, contact your sales representative at 1-888-420-1040 and we will be happy to assist you with any questions.