The IRS is reminding federal tax return preparers to renew their Preparer Tax Identification Numbers (PTINs) for 2018. All current PTINs will expire Dec. 31, 2017.

Anyone who prepares or helps prepare any federal tax return, or claim for refund for compensation must have a valid PTIN from the IRS. The PTIN must be used as the identifying number on returns prepared. Failure to have and use a valid PTIN may result in penalties.

For those who have a 2017 PTIN, the renewal process takes a few moments online. Those who cannot remember their user ID and password can find online tools to assist them. Preparers can get started at If registering for the first time, the PTIN application may also be completed online. There is no fee for obtaining or renewing a PTIN.

Paper Form W-12, IRS Paid Preparer Tax Identification Number Application and Renewal, is available for paper applications and renewals, and takes four to six weeks to process.

All enrolled agents, regardless of whether they prepare returns, must have a PTIN in order to maintain their status.

The voluntary IRS Annual Filing Season Program is intended to encourage non-credentialed tax return preparers to take continuing education (CE) courses to increase their knowledge and improve their filing season readiness. Participation generally requires 18 hours of CE, including a course in basic tax filing issues and updates, ethics, as well as other federal tax law courses. More information on the types and amounts of CE required for the program is available online.

Preparers desiring to receive an Annual Filing Season Program Record of Completion for 2018, must (1) complete their continuing education requirements by Dec. 31, 2017; (2) have a valid 2018 PTIN; and (3) consent to adhere to specific practice requirements in Treasury Department Circular No. 230. The IRS has a video to demonstrate how to sign the Circular 230 consent and print the Record

The Annual Filing Season Program is a filing season qualification while the enrolled agent program provides professional status. The enrolled agent credential is an elite credential issued by the IRS to tax professionals who demonstrate special competence in federal tax planning, individual and business tax return preparation and representation matters. Enrolled agents have unlimited representation rights; allowing them to represent any client before the IRS on any tax matter. As non-credentialed return preparers consider the next steps in their professional career, the IRS encourages them to consider becoming an enrolled agent.

Enrolled agents and participants in the Annual Filing Season Program are included in the Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications created on to help explain the various tax return preparer credentials and qualifications to taxpayers. The directory also contains information on attorneys, certified public accountants, enrolled retirement plan agents and enrolled actuaries who are registered with the IRS.

Additional information on the enrolled agent program is available here. Information on understanding tax return preparer credentials and qualifications is also available.

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