When you prepare tax returns for your own household, the Internal Revenue Service, IRS, does not require any special certifications. Nor are certifications required when you provide free assistance to others. Before you can receive pay for your tax preparation services, however, you must be certified by the IRS. There are two levels of certification for you to choose from -- the basic registered tax return preparer, or RTRP, and the enrolled agent preparer. With an RTRP certification, your services are limited to individuals. As an enrolled agent, you are also authorized to prepare taxes for businesses.
Take a formal course that teaches you how to professionally prepare taxes. These courses are often taught for a fee at tax preparation agencies. Although formal training is not required, it certainly helps to prepare you for the exam.
Apply for a preparer tax identification number, PTIN, from the IRS. This PTIN application is available on the IRS website. Quite a bit of information is required on the application, including your name, Social Security number, contact information, business name and your tax filing status for previous years. To get your PTIN, you must pay a $64.25 processing fee. If you pay your fee online, your PTIN is instantly assigned and viewable as soon as your payment is processed.
Submit an application to take the RTRP exam. This application is completed online through your PTIN account. An additional fee of $116 is required to apply for the exam.
Prepare for the exam by reviewing the list of study materials provided on the IRS website. Practice exam questions also are available on the IRS website.
Take and pass the RTRP on your scheduled exam date. The test is administered at an IRS approved testing site and consist of 120 multiple choice questions. Upon passing the exam, you are officially recognized by the IRS as a registered tax return preparer. Maintain this certification by taking 15 hours of continuing education courses annually at an IRS approved training site.
Enrolled Agent Certification
Apply for a preparer tax identification number, PTIN, from the IRS. This PTIN application is available on the IRS website.
Complete the IRS Special Enrollment Examination, or SEE, application. Send the application and processing fee back to the IRS. At the time of publication, the processing fee was $105 for each part of the exam. To take all three parts of the exam, include $315. However, you don't have to take all three parts of the exam at once.
Take and pass the SEE with a score of 105 or higher. The test is given at an assigned IRS-approved testing facility. Study materials and sample tests are available to help you prepare for the SEE. These materials are located on the website of Prometric, the company that oversees the examination process.
Apply for certification. This is done by completing the IRS “Application For Enrollment To Practice Before The Internal Revenue Service.” This application requires an additional processing fee of $125.
Wait for the IRS to process your application. This can take up to 60 days. Once your enrollment application is processed, you will receive your certification from the IRS, recognizing you as an IRS-certified tax preparer.
- Creatas/Creatas/Getty Images