Unenrolled preparers can opt into the IRS Annual Filing Season Program (AFSP). The AFSP provides tax practitioners who meet the standards with limited representation rights. Participants in the AFSP earn a completion certificate that permits them to represent clients in front of IRS customer service workers (not collections or appeals officials) for taxpayers whose returns they prepared. Each year, AFSP participants must pass a 100-question basic knowledge test, receive a certain number of continuing education credits, and agree to follow Treasury Circular 230 (whose requirements govern enrolled preparers). Unenrolled preparers with merely a PTIN and no AFSP participation are not even permitted to write a letter for you, even if they prepared your return. Some may do that, but they operate outside their authority. The IRS provides the Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers, which allows taxpayers to search for a tax professional by name or region and includes qualifications, including those who participate in the AFSP.
Many tax practices (both independent and franchised) employ more than one sort of tax preparer. You should always select a tax professional based on your needs, but it is occasionally OK to select a less experienced preparer if they have access to a more experienced person in the office (and you feel confident that they can recognize when they need help and that they will get it when they need it). It’s also vital to note that credentials don’t always imply competency.
The tax laws are very complex. Our short blog articles cannot cover in full all the nuances of the rules. Your specific facts may hold various opportunities and possible risks that only trained, experienced, and highly qualified tax specialists can spot. We encourage you to find such help, rather than trying to figure it all out on your own. Consider giving this marketplace a try by posting your project and signing up here.
If you are a licensed tax professional and are interested in helping others either part or full-time, or ad hoc, come on in! Happy to have you. Our marketplace has the full suite of tools to communicate with clients including compliance calendars, task and message management, and billing. You can also quickly connect to knowledgeable colleagues who can complement your services with the ones you do not provide. Register here.