As a tax professional, one of the most important services you provide to your clients is consultancy. Your clients rely upon you to advise and guide them in managing their taxes and finances. Quality tax professionals are always seeking ways to improve their knowledge to continue to provide quality services to their clients. One of the programs that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) offers is the Annual Filing Season Program (AFSP).
However, the AFSP is often misunderstood and overlooked due to various misconceptions. In this article, our experts debunk common misconceptions and myths about the IRS’s Annual Filing Season Program.
What is the Annual Filing Season Program?
The AFSP is a voluntary program offered by the IRS that aims to recognize and promote the competence of noncredentialed tax preparers. The program is designed to provide continuing education and testing to ensure that tax preparers have the necessary knowledge and skills to prepare accurate tax returns for their clients.
The AFSP is a great opportunity for tax preparers who are not enrolled agents, certified public accountants or attorneys to demonstrate their competency and commitment to their profession. By completing the program’s requirements, tax preparers will receive a record of completion, which can be used to promote their services to potential clients.
Completion of the AFSP provides the IRS with confidence that this person can help others prepare their income tax returns — even without an advanced tax degree or certificate. Tax preparers who successfully complete the AFSP can be listed on the IRS’ public database of tax professionals.
It’s important to remember that the AFSP is not a replacement for enrolled agent, certified public accountant or attorney credentials. However, it is a great option for noncredentialed tax preparers who want to demonstrate their competency and improve their knowledge and skills.
What are AFSP requirements?
To participate in the Annual Filing Season Program, tax preparers must have a valid Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) and meet the following requirements:
- Complete 18 hours of continuing education (CE) courses from IRS-approved providers, including at least two hours of ethics and three hours of federal tax law updates.
- Pass a 100-question multiple-choice test that covers federal tax law and ethics.
- Consent to adhere to the IRS’ ethical and practice standards.
- Pay the program’s registration fee.
To maintain the AFSP record of completion, tax preparers must complete 15 CE hours each year, including at least two hours of ethics and three hours of federal tax law updates. These hours must also include a six-credit-hour Annual Federal Tax Refresher (AFTR) course that covers filing season issues and tax law updates. The AFTR course must include a knowledge-based comprehension test administered at the conclusion of the course by the CE provider.
In addition to completing the appropriate CE courses, the tax preparer must also renew their PTIN for the upcoming year.
3 myths about Annual Filing Season Program
There are several misconceptions about the Annual Filing Season Program that may discourage tax preparers from participating. Let’s dispel some of these myths:
Myth #1: The AFSP is a credentialing program.
The AFSP is not a credentialing program. It is a voluntary program that recognizes and promotes the competency of noncredentialed tax preparers. The program does not provide any formal credentials or designations.
Myth #2: The AFSP is too expensive.
The cost of participating in the AFSP is relatively low compared to other tax preparation credentials. The cost of the CE courses and exam preparation materials can vary depending on the provider, but the total cost is generally less than $500.
Myth #3: The AFSP is not worth the effort.
Completing the AFSP requirements can be challenging, but the benefits outweigh the effort. By participating in the program, tax preparers can improve their knowledge and skills, demonstrate their commitment to their profession and potentially attract more clients.
Benefits of completing the AFSP
Participating in the AFSP offers several benefits for tax preparers. Let’s review some of the key benefits to complete the AFSP.
Increased competency and knowledge.
The AFSP provides CE courses that cover federal tax law and ethics. By completing these courses, tax preparers can improve their knowledge and skills and stay up-to-date with the latest tax laws and regulations.
Recognition and promotion
Upon completion of the program’s requirements, tax preparers will receive a record of completion from the IRS, as well as a certificate of completion from Surgent CPE for each course. These records can be used to promote your services.
Additionally, the IRS maintains a public database of tax preparers who have completed the program, which can also work as free marketing for your services.
Potential increase in revenue
By demonstrating their competency and commitment to their profession, tax preparers may attract more clients and potentially increase their revenue. You will also have limited representation rights before the IRS — adding even more value to your services.
Differentiation from competitors
Passing the AFSP shows that you are a qualified preparer. More than 400,000 tax preparers choose not to complete the IRS tax training program each year.
AFSP can help boost your career
The Annual Filing Season Program is a great opportunity for noncredentialed tax preparers to improve their knowledge and skills and demonstrate their competency. By completing the program’s requirements, tax preparers can increase their recognition, attract more clients and potentially increase their revenue.
If you are a tax preparer who is not an enrolled agent, certified public accountant or attorney, the AFSP might be right for you. To learn more about the AFSP program, visit the Surgent Income Tax School and view the Surgent CPE catalog, which offers the AFSP program.