Tips for CTEC registration and renewal for tax preparers in California

Want to learn how to become a CTEC-Registered Tax Preparer (CRTP) in California? Surgent Income Tax School offers webinars to walk you through every step of the process. In case you missed our latest webinar, we have put together some frequently asked questions to help anyone who needs to obtain or maintain your CTEC registration. 

What does CTEC mean?

CTEC stands for the California Tax Education Council. California law requires anyone who prepares tax returns for a fee within the State of California — and is not an exempt preparer — to register as a tax preparer with CTEC.   

Who are exempt tax preparers in California?   

  • Exempt preparers include:  

    • California Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) 

    • Enrolled Agents (EAs) 

    • Attorneys who are members of the California State Bar 

    • Specified banking or trust officials 

    • Learn more at the CTEC website

Who needs to register with CTEC?  

  • Tax preparers who take income tax data and are not on the exempt list (see above) 

  • Individuals who work for an exempt tax preparer but are not exempt themselves and who sign the income tax return
  • If the individual does not sign the tax return, they are not required to register
  • Individuals who work for a CTEC-Registered Tax Preparer (CRTP) and who take income tax data from a client 
  • Individuals who work for a CRTP and who enter tax information into a computer but who have no contact with clients are not required to register with CTEC 
  • Inactive CPAs or non-California CPAs who prepare tax returns in California 

Many people search online for how to obtain a CTEC license — but the term “CTEC license” is not technically correct. The term “CTEC certification” is not correct either. CTEC actually doesn’t issue any licenses or certifications.   

Technically, tax preparers are registered with CTEC. CRTPs are not licensed, certified, enrolled or public. Having a CTEC registration means that the tax preparer has met the state’s minimum requirements to prepare tax returns for a fee. If you are looking for how to get your CTEC “license,” you really want to learn how to register with CTEC and become a CRTP (CTEC-registered tax preparer).  

California law states that only an attorney, Certified Public Accountant (CPA), CTEC-Registered Tax Preparer (CRTP) or Enrolled Agent (EA) can prepare tax returns for a fee. CTEC requires CRTPs to satisfy requirements for qualifying education  (QE) and continuing education (CE).  

If you want to be a professional tax preparer in California and don’t fall in any of the exempt categories, it’s time to take the steps to become a CTEC-registered tax preparer.  

What is the CTEC application process? 

  • Step 1: Completeonline application for new tax preparers at CTEC website. 

  • Step 2: Completelive scan process – You must passa background check and fingerprinting procedure (live scan) in order to become registered with CTEC (see info on CTEC website). 
  • Step 3: CTEC notification of live scan approval or denial within 1-2 weeks. 

  What is the CTEC registration process for new tax prepare

  • Step 1:  Complete 60 hours of qualifying tax education (45 federal and 15 state) from a CTEC-approved provider, such as Surgent Income Tax School. Our beginner income tax course with a California state supplement – the Comprehensive Tax Course – California Edition is approved by CTEC for qualifying education, which is a required course for tax preparers to become registered to practice in California. Surgent Income Tax School is a CTEC-approved provider. 

  • Step 2: Obtain a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) from the IRS. 
  • Step 3: Obtain a $5,000 tax preparer bond. 
  • Step 4: Registerwith CTEC within 18 months from the completion date on the certificate of completion. 

You have the option to start your required 60-hour qualifying education (QE) course before beginning the online application; however, if you take the 60-hour QE course but do not pass the new CTEC requirements of a background check and fingerprinting procedure (live scan), you will not be able to register with CTEC. If your live scan (background check) is approved, you can continue with the next steps in the CTEC registration process. 

How can I renew my CRTP registration?  

Surgent Income Tax School is a CTEC-approved continuing education provider for maintaining your CRTP license.  

Renewal registration and CE credits must be completed annually by Oct. 31 to maintain CRTP status.  

To renew your CTEC registration, all CRTPs must:  

  • Complete 20 hours of continuing tax education by October 31st each year 

    • 10 hours of federal tax law 
    • 3 hours of federal tax update 
    • 2 hours of ethics 
    • 5 hours of California state 
  • Maintain a $5,000 tax preparer bond 
  • Ensure Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) is valid 
  • Renew your CTEC registration by Oct. 31

When is the CTEC registration deadline?  

The 2022-23 renewal registration for CTEC-Registered Tax Preparers (CRTPs) starts Aug. 1 and ends Oct. 31.    

CRTPs who fail to renew by the Oct. 31 deadline are able to renew their registration during the late registration period, Nov. 1 through Jan. 17, 2023, and pay a $55 late fee plus the $33 registration fee.

If you don’t meet the late renewal deadline, you will be required to complete a 60-hour qualifying education course, undergo a background check and can’t practice tax preparation until you successfully complete the education and background check requirements.

Learn more about CTEC renewal information and deadlines here.  

What are the penalties for not registering with CTEC?

If you are not on this list of exempt tax preparers, you are required to register with CTEC in order to prepare tax returns in California in exchange for fees. The California Franchise Tax Board (FTB) has authority to penalize tax preparers who are not CTEC-Registered Tax Preparers. The penalties for not registering with CTEC include: 

  • First failure to register: $2,500 fine

  • Continued failure to register: $5,000 fine

How can Surgent help me with CTEC educational requirements? 

It’s easy to satisfy your CTEC Qualifying Education requirements with Surgent Income Tax School’s Comprehensive Income Tax Course – California Edition. Get everything you need to start your tax prep career.  

Surgent Income Tax School helps you:  

  • Learn tax preparation with our Comprehensive Tax Course – California Edition. In this beginner tax preparer course, you will learn to prepare tax returns and research tax issues for most Form 1040 individual, non-business taxpayers and small business taxpayers (self-employed/Schedule C). 

  • Renew your registration each year with our Create Your Own 20-Hour California CTEC CE Package. Satisfy your CE credits with 5 hours of California Tax Law, 3 hours of Tax Law Updates, 2 hours of Ethics, and your choice of topics for the remaining 10 hours of federal tax law.
  • Become CTEC approved as a CRTP in California – Upon successful completion of the course, we will send you a certificate of completion and submit your course completion information directly to CTEC. 

If you want to be a professional tax preparer in California, Surgent Income Tax School makes taking your CTEC course and completing your CTEC registration as easy as possible. For more information or to sign up for a webinar, go to Surgent Income Tax School and register for a webinar today.