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IRS Annual Filing Season Program

About the IRS Annual Filing Season Program

What is the Annual Filing Season Program (AFSP)?

The IRS’s Annual Filing Season Program (AFSP) is a voluntary program designed to encourage tax return preparers to participate in continuing education (CE) courses. Unenrolled return preparers can elect to voluntarily take continuing education each year in preparation for filing season and receive an AFSP Record of Completion.

What are the Benefits of the Annual Filing Season Program?

  1. Preparers who complete the AFSP will be included in an national database alongside EAs, CPAs and attorneys. This list will be marketed to taxpayers to help them seek and select preparers with professional credentials or select qualifications.
  2. For 2015 tax year returns, AFSP holders will be the ONLY unenrolled preparers who can represent their clients during an examination of a return that they signed or prepared. PTIN holders without an Annual Filing Season Program (AFSP) – Record of Completion or other professional credential will only be permitted to prepare tax returns. They will not be allowed to represent clients before the IRS.
  3. Beginning 2015, EAs and CPAs can add “as seen on” to their websites, business cards, and email signatures.
  4. Beginning 2016, there will be changes to the representation rights of return preparers. Attorneys, CPAs, and enrolled agents will continue to be the only tax professionals with unlimited representation rights, meaning they can represent their clients on any matters including audits, payment/collection issues, and appeals. AFSP participants will have limited representation rights, meaning they can represent clients whose returns they prepared and signed, but only before revenue agents, customer service representatives, and similar IRS employees, including the Taxpayer Advocate Service.

How Do I Qualify for the Annual Filing Season Program (AFSP)?

  • You must have a valid, non-expired PTIN.
  • You must complete 18 hours of continuing education (CE) by December 31st annually, using an IRS Approved Provider, including:
    • 6 hour Annual Federal Tax Refresher (AFTR) course with a comprehension test
    • 10 hours of Federal tax law topics
    • 2 hours of Ethics education

Preparers Exempt from the Annual Federal Tax Refresher Course

Tax return preparers who have successfully completed one of the following national or state tests would be exempt from taking the AFTR course with a comprehension test.

  • RTRPs: Anyone who passed the Registered Tax Return Preparer (RTRP) test administered by the IRS between November 2011 and January 2013
  • Participants in established state-based return preparer program with testing requirements: Return preparers who are active members of the Oregon Board of Tax Practitioners and/or the California Tax Education Council, and return preparers who pass the examination of the Maryland Board of Individual Tax Preparers (when available)
  • SEE Part I test-passers: Tax practitioners who have passed the Special Enrollment Exam (SEE) Part I within the past two years, as of the first day of the upcoming filing season
  • VITA volunteers: Quality Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program reviewers and instructors with active PTINs
  • Other accredited tax-focused credential-holders: Tax practitioners who have passed the Accredited Business Accountant/Advisor (ABA) exam or the Accredited Tax Preparer (ATP) exam offered by the Accreditation Council for Accountancy and Taxation

Continuing Education Requirements

In general, non-exempt return preparers with a valid PTIN for the program year will need to complete 18 hours of CE annually from IRS-approved CE providers to obtain an Annual Filing Season Program – Record of Completion.

For 2015, the total is prorated to 11 credits – 6 credits for the Annual Tax Refresher Course, 3 credits of other federal tax law topics, and 2 ethics CE credits.


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