On June 4, 2009, IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman announced that the IRS was holding meetings on tax preparer competency and behavior. From these public meetings, the tax preparer regulations were created. The new rules require that anyone who prepares tax returns for compensation have a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). Currently, anyone can get a PTIN as long as they are up to date on their personal and business taxes and not have a criminal background. Starting January 1, 2014, tax pros who are not Enrolled Agents, CPAs or attorneys must pass a minimum competency test and complete annual continuing education to receive a PTIN.
The RTRP testing started last fall and has been completed by only 4800 people. The IRS estimates that there are 340,000 preparers who will ultimately need to take the test. To avoid a back log next year, the IRS is sending out letters to preparers suggesting that they take the test early. The concern is that as we draw closer to the deadline, preparers won’t be able to get a testing time due to backlog at the testing sites.
I can understand the procrastination and the IRS’s concern. Few people like taking tests and want to put them off as long as possible. But there are only 260 testing centers across the country each with limited seating available for the RTRP test. It is very conceivable that a last minute preparer might have to try several sites to find an open time for their testing. Another concern is that the preparer might not pass the first time and might have to take the test again. Bottom line is that the test needs to be passed by December 31, 2013 if the preparer want to preparer 2013 tax returns in 2014.
For more info on the tax preparer licensing you can check out IR-2012-59.