Right on the heals of the AICPA’s (The American Institute of CPAs) letter to the IRS about the “unlawfulness” of a proposed voluntary tax preparer certificate program, the IRS has announced that they will be implementing an “Annual Filing Season Certificate (AFSC)”.
“This voluntary program will be a step to help protect taxpayers during the 2015 filing season,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen in the official release. “About 60 percent of tax return preparers operate without any type of oversight or education requirements. Our program will give unenrolled return preparers a way to stay to up-to-date on tax laws and changes, which we believe will improve service to taxpayers.”
Earlier this year, when the Loving vs. IRS case was under review, Koskinen expressed his desire to create a voluntary certification.
“My sense is that we should be able to provide that same educational training and that background to preparers. If you can’t require it, offer it, and if you complete the information, you get a certificate that says, ‘I have completed the IRS preparer course.’ I think that could be over time very valuable to preparers, and consumers could ask preparers, ‘Have you gone through the IRS training?’ Whatever happens with the court case, we ought to be able to move forward on that and provide taxpayers with as much assurance as we can that the preparers they are dealing with have met some kind of minimum standards.” – IRS Commissioner John Koskinen as quoted in Accounting Today.
The AFSC allows tax preparers who elect to participate in the program to receive a record of completion from the IRS and inclusion in a database on IRS.gov that will be available by January 2015 to help taxpayers determine return preparer qualifications. The database will also include those who have higher designations such as attorney’s, CPAs, EAs, etc.
“It’s also important to note this program is not to replace the important tax work done by certified public accountants, enrolled agents and attorneys,” Koskinen said. “Tax professionals with recognized credentials will be publicly listed on IRS.gov, and we plan to help inform taxpayers about the professional options available.”
There are many incentives to gaining your IRS Annual Filing Season Certificate. Here are some courtesy of Shirley Callahan, EA, National Tax Practice Institute:
- Listing on IRS.gov in a national database alongside EAs, CPAs, and attorneys, which will be marketed to taxpayers to help them determine preparer qualifications.
- For 2015 tax year returns, the AFSC will be the ONLY unenrolled preparer who can represent their clients during an examination of a return that they signed or prepared.
- Beginning in January 2015, EAs and CPAs can now add “as seen on IRS.gov” to our websites, business cards, and email signatures. Cool, huh?
- The Annual Filing Season Certificate (AFSC) will exempt:
- The 62,000 RTPRs who have maintained their CE requirements.
- Those who have successfully completed recognized national or *state* programs
- Exempt unenrolled preparers will be exempt from the annual 100-question test, but will be required to maintain the following CE credits:
- 10 hours of Federal tax law
- 2 hours of Ethics
- 2 hours of Ethics
The Income Tax School is an IRS Approved Education Provider for the Annual Federal Tax Review. You can count on us to meet all of your tax education needs.
- Online 24/7
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Once the official guidance is issued, IRS-approved CE providers will begin to offer qualifying federal tax filing season refresher courses. As an approved provider, we have already developed a 6-hour online course to satisfy the IRS AFSC requirement. It will be available for enrollment by July 15th for a competitive price.
Have more questions about the AFSC? AFSC Flyer 2014.