The IRS voluntary return preparer certification program is a win- win for consumers and tax professionals alike.

Posted by Lee Reams II on

Much has been written about and debated regarding the new IRS Voluntary Annual Filing Season Program (AFSP) and how it affects the tax preparation industry. When the IRS launched the RTRP program some years ago, the primary goal was to ensure that all tax preparers had a minimum amount of annual continuing tax education. Our tax laws are complex, and education is the key to ensuring that taxpayers do not receive inadequate or poor assistance in preparing their tax returns. Tax return preparation errors and fraud cost the government billions of dollars each year. The subsequent lawsuit (Loving v. IRS) effectively killed the RTRP program. The reincarnated “voluntary” program has received much attention, including a sharp response from certified public accountants and the AICPA.

Lee Reams II, CEO of ClientWhys, stated, “We believe the IRS came up with the best compromise they could to still accomplish their main goal: provide a basic check on the qualifications of unenrolled tax preparers across the country and ensure they have annual continuing education.

The biggest benefit to the consumer is the requirement of a 6-hour refresher course with a subject matter specifically selected to ensure a tax preparer is ready for tax season plus an additional 12 hours of continuing education that includes 2 hours of ethics study. The current Annual Federal Tax Refresher (AFTR) course must cover tax law relevant to preparing 2014 Form 1040 series and schedules and is followed by a timed test of at least 100 questions on which preparers must score 70% or higher to pass.

ClientWhys went into overdrive to develop a refresher course that met all of the IRS’s requirements. “When we completed it, we felt our course was so comprehensive we will convert it to a NASBA QAS compliant course and offer it as a CE course for Enrolled Agents, CPAs, and California Tax Preparers,” stated Reams. This means that the information found in this course covers all of the new legislation and issues that every professional, regardless of designation, should know before they start tax season. Unenrolled tax preparers interested in meeting their education requirements can order the package below that best meets their needs.

IRS Annual Federal Tax Refresher Course - (AFTR-15) - 6 Hours CPE - CPEAFTR-15

2015 IRS Annual Federal Tax Refresher Bundle (AFTR-15) - 11-Hours CPE

2015 IRS Annual Federal Tax Refresher Bundle for Exempt Preparers (AFTR-15) - 8-Hours CPE

The primary teeth to get unenrolled tax preparers to complete the course and receive a record of completion is the ability for unenrolled tax preparers to represent their clients before the IRS during an examination of a tax return or claim for refund that they prepared and signed. Those that choose not to comply with the voluntary requirements lose some of their abilities as a tax professional, which may put them at a competitive disadvantage.

“Only time will tell if this voluntary program will catch on with unenrolled preparers,” stated Reams. “But after preparing our own comprehensive continuing education program and Annual Federal Tax Refresher [AFTR], we feel everyone will benefit by being better prepared for the mountain of complexity in todays tax code.

Unenrolled federal tax preparers can learn more about the new program by reading our latest blog article or calling ClientWhys at 1.800.442.2477, ext. 1.