What is the Annual Filing Season Program?
It is a voluntary program for paid tax preparers that builds on similar concepts established under the RTRP program.
What is the benefit to me of participating in this voluntary program?
- Your name will be included in the Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications.
- You will have limited representation rights for returns you prepare and sign.
- You will be encouraged to remain current with changing tax laws.
- You will receive the AFSP – Record of Completion that shows clients and potential clients that you are a well-educated tax preparer who is dedicated to your chosen profession.
What is the cost of participating in this program?
At this time, there is no additional user fee paid to the IRS to participate in this program. Participants must continue to maintain a valid PTIN and cover any costs associated with obtaining the IRS-approved CPE.
What is the future of this program?
The Annual Filing Season Program will be an interim step to help taxpayers and encourage education for unenrolled tax return preparers. The IRS will assess the feasibility of administering a uniform voluntary examination in future years in order to ensure basic return preparer competency.
Who may participate in the program?
Ineligible individuals are listed in
Revenue Procedure 2014-42 and include someone who has been convicted of certain felonies or disqualified under Circular 230.
Record of Completion Questions
How long is the Record of Completion valid?
Each Record of Completion will clearly indicate the filing season for which it is valid (e.g., “Annual Filing Season Program – Record of Completion for Filing Season 2017”). For example, a preparer must complete and pass the AFTR course and obtain their other CPE by December 31, 2017, for the filing season 2018 program.
When must I apply for the Record of Completion?
To be eligible, a preparer must complete and pass the AFTR course and obtain their other CPE by December 31 prior to the start of the tax season. In no circumstance will the AFSP – Record of Completion be issued before a return preparer has registered or renewed their PTIN for the upcoming year.
How do I obtain a Record of Completion if I am exempt from the AFTR course?
Once all requirements are met, the exempted return preparer will see an option in their PTIN account to participate in the program. The IRS is obtaining information about exemptions directly from the testing source (e.g. Oregon Board of Tax Practitioners).
I passed the RTRP exam, am I exempt from taking the annual refresher exam?
Yes, anyone who passed the Registered Tax Return Preparer test offered between November 2011 and January 2013 only needs to meet their original 15 hour CPE requirement each year to obtain an AFSP – Record of Completion. The IRS has stated that any preparer who passed the RTRP exam will be exempt as long as the AFSP program is in existence.
I passed the RTRP exam, but never received my certificate, am I still considered exempt?
I passed the RTRP exam. Can I take the AFTR course and exam and receive continuing education credit for the course?
Yes. The only preparers not allowed to take the AFTR course for credit are enrolled agents. This is an IRS directive - their reasoning being that enrolled agents have a higher level of tax knowledge than the AFTR course would offer. For a preparer who has passed the RTRP exam, the 6-credit AFTR course will count as 6 federal tax law update credits, with the 3 excess update credits counting toward their federal tax law requirement.
Is there an exemption for a preparer who works for an exempt (CPA) employer?
No, however, there is no requirement to participate in this program.
If I am a credentialed tax professional (CPA, attorney, EA), can I participate in this program?
Yes. You must have the specified 15 hours of IRS-approved CPE; however, this program is not designed, directed or intended for credentialed preparers who already possess a much higher level of qualification. EAs cannot receive credit for the AFTR course because of the high level of tax knowledge already required of the designation. CPAs may be eligible for credit and should check with their state board of accountancy to verify their requirements.
If I have taken all of the required CPE, including passing the refresher course, how do I volunteer to be a part of the program?
After PTIN renewal season begins in October, an option to participate in the program will be available in the online PTIN account.
Where do I apply to get the Record of Completion?
Once a preparer has met all requirements, an option to participate in the program will be available in their online PTIN account. The requirements are:
- Valid PTIN for the upcoming filing season;
- The appropriate amount of continuing education;
- Completion of the AFTR course and a 70% or higher score on the comprehension test (if required); and
- Consent to the Circular 230 obligations.
After PTIN renewal season begins in October and your PTIN has been renewed, an option will become available.
Circular 230 and Representation Questions
If I participate in the program, do I fall under Circular 230?
Voluntary AFSP participants have consented to adhere to subpart B and §10.51 of Treasury Department Circular No. 230 requirements.
What representation rights will I have?
In 2016, limited representation rights were implemented with regard to AFSP participants, meaning they can represent clients whose returns they prepared and signed, but only before revenue agents, customer service representatives and similar IRS employees, including the Taxpayer Advocate Service.
PTIN holders without an AFSP – Record of Completion or other professional credential will only be permitted to prepare tax returns. They will not be allowed to represent clients before the IRS.
Attorneys, CPAs, and enrolled agents will continue to be the only tax professionals with unlimited representation rights, meaning they can represent their clients on any matters including audits, payment/collection issues, and appeals.
If I do not participate in the voluntary program and don't have a credential, can I talk to the IRS regarding my client’s audit or IRS notice?
No. This is considered representing and most conversation with the IRS was prohibited after December 31, 2015.
What am I allowed to do if I don’t participate in the voluntary program?
If you are not credentialed (EA, attorney, CPA), you can only prepare the tax return or request tax information from the IRS.
Can I still file Form 8821?
Yes, Form 8821 authorizes anyone to request tax information, but not represent or advocate tax positions to the IRS.
What are the representation rights for those that have the ATP designation from the Accreditation Council for Accountancy/Taxation?
If you participate in the Annual Filing Season, you are exempt from the AFTR course and exam. Upon earning your AFSP - Record of Completion, you will have limited representation rights.
As far as representation is concerned, does this include phone calls via the IRS's Practitioner Priority Line about specific clients? What if a Form 8821 is filed and the return preparer is listed as the authorized person?
That doesn't change. If you are authorized on Form 8821, the IRS will speak to you regarding that return for a one year period.
Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers Questions
What is the Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications? When will it be available?
The IRS launched a public listing on the IRS website of tax return preparers with credentials and select qualifications. This is a searchable, sortable listing so that taxpayers can find a return preparer that carries their preferred credentials or qualification(s).
Who will be included in the Directory and what information will be shown?
The Directory will include the name, city, state and zip code, of all attorneys, CPAs, enrolled agents, enrolled retirement plan agents, enrolled actuaries, and AFSP participants who have obtained a Record of Completion and who have a valid PTIN. Preparers who passed the RTRP exam will not be listed in the directory if they have not obtained a Record of Completion.
How long will it take for my listing to be included in the Directory?
It may take up to four weeks following the completion of all requirements for return preparers to receive a Record of Completion and be placed on the Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications.
AFTR Course/Test and other CPE Questions
Is an AFTR self-study course valid for one year after purchase like other programs?
No, a self-study AFTR course and test must be completed by December 31.
What topics will the AFTR include?
Each year, the IRS will publish the AFTR course outline in May. It will cover the same basic principles of 1040 income tax returns, but would be updated to reflect new tax law changes, as well as problem areas for return preparation.
2018 Filing Season course outline.
Do EAs receive CPE for the AFTR as well?
If I take a continuing education how do I report those credits to IRS?
The CPE provider is required to report the credits to the IRS as long as the provider has your PTIN. The credits are in your online PTIN account. The IRS will automatically know if you obtained the required credits.
Which NATP courses qualify for the CPE requirements?
All NATP courses eligible for IRS/EA CPE would count toward the CPE requirement under the voluntary program.
If you fail the exam, do you have to take the course again or can you just take the exam?
You can just retake the exam.
Will NATP's 2-day 1040 workshops satisfy the education requirements?
The 2-day 1040 workshops will fulfill the 15-credit requirement for preparers who are exempt from taking the AFTR. Non-exempt preparers must pass the AFTR exam for 6 credits and the 2-day workshops will fulfill the other 12 credits required.
Designation and Advertising Questions
If I obtain a Record of Completion, can I put the initials AFSP behind my name?
Yes, in a recent IRS Approved CE Provider conference call, it was announced that in the upcoming IRS directory those who have obtained the Record of Completion for that tax season will be listed with AFSP after his/her name (i.e., Jamaal Harris, AFSP). It was also mentioned that tax preparers will be allowed to use the AFSP as a designation on business cards and other marketing materials—for the tax season in which they have received the Record of Completion.
Are there any terms I shouldn't use?
A tax return preparer who receives a Record of Completion may not use the term “certified,” “enrolled,” or “licensed” to describe this designation or in any way imply an employer/employee relationship with the IRS or make representations that the IRS has endorsed the tax return preparer.