A Message from Carol A. Campbell, RPO Director
October 31, 2016 at 11:19am
I enjoyed speaking and seeing many of you this summer at multiple events and at the IRS Nationwide Tax Forums. As with previous years’ forums, this year was a success. I attended three of the tax forums, while our former Deputy Director attended the other two.
For those of you who didn’t have an opportunity to attend one of our sessions, I want to share some of the takeaways from this year’s presentation.
Identity theft and data security continue to be a top priority for the IRS. As data breaches continue to increase in number and scope, so does the potential for stolen information to be used to file tax returns. For 2016, the IRS continued to partner with state tax agencies and the tax community as part of the Security Summit, a collaborative endeavor to combat identity theft and stolen refund fraud. I served as the co-lead for the Tax Professionals subgroup of the Security Summit to help ensure that the perspective of the return preparer community was integrated into Summit efforts. The Security Summit recently expanded its public awareness campaign on data security to include tax professionals with a Protect Your Clients; Protect Yourself initiative. Because of the sensitive client data that tax professionals have access to, cybercriminals are increasingly targeting the tax preparation community using tactics from remote computer takeovers to phishing scams.
As a tax professional, you play a critical role in protecting taxpayer data. You also have a legal responsibility to safeguard your systems and client data, whether it’s hardcopy or electronic. Most of you do an exceptional job ensuring that the proper protections are in place, but we must all continue to be vigilant and monitor and regularly update security plans. In reviewing your security posture, you should:
Safeguarding your professional status
As you think about what, if anything, you need to do to improve your security posture, many of you may want to consider what you can do to upgrade your professional status. What will better prepare you to provide for the needs of your clients? If you are a non-credentialed return preparer, there are options available to you.
Consider becoming an enrolled agent!
More than any other, the credential that says “I am a tax professional” is the enrolled agent credential. Attorneys and CPAs may specialize in many areas, including tax, but tax and representation in tax matters is the sole professional focus of the enrolled agent. The enrolled agent program is administered by the IRS and the enrolled agent license is the highest credential we offer. Enrolled agents pass a three part Special Enrollment Examination, which is a comprehensive exam that demonstrates proficiency in federal tax planning, individual and business tax return preparation, and representation. Enrolled agents have unlimited representation rights and may represent clients before the IRS on any matter. For more information on becoming an enrolled agent, visit www.irs.gov/Tax-Professionals/Enrolled-Agents.
Are you familiar with the Annual Filing Season Program?
Since becoming an enrolled agent may take more time than you have before the start of filing season, improve your readiness for the upcoming filing season by participating in the Annual Filing Season Program. More than 62,000 return preparers (a 40% increase over 2015) participated in the voluntary program for 2016. If you still haven’t heard about it, the IRS Annual Filing Season Program promotes continuing education by non-credentialed return preparers. To participate you must obtain a specific amount of continuing education before the beginning of the calendar year (either 15 or 18 hours from IRS-approved continuing education providers). Then after you renew your PTIN for the upcoming year and consent to certain Circular 230 requirements, the IRS issues you an Annual Filing Season Program Record of Completion.
Why should you participate?
As a participant in the Annual Filing Season Program, you have limited representation rights, meaning you can represent clients whose returns you have prepared and signed during an examination of that client’s tax return or claim for refund, in customer service matters and before the Taxpayer Advocate Service. To have these limited representation rights, you must participate in the Annual Filing Season Program both in the year of return preparation and the year of representation. Non-credentialed preparers who do not participate in the Annual Filing Season Program do not have any representational rights before the IRS, unless it involves limited representation for a return prepared and filed on or before December 31, 2015.
Annual Filing Season Program participants are also included on IRS.gov in a searchable public directory. This directory includes the name, city, state, zip code, and credentials of all attorneys, CPAs, enrolled agents, enrolled retirement plan agents, enrolled actuaries, and those return preparers who receive an Annual Filing Season Program Record of Completion. For more information on the requirements and benefits of the Annual Filing Season Program please visit www.irs.gov/Tax-Professionals/Annual-Filing-Season-Program.
Stay tuned to our Facebook page for other updates, including more guidance about the 2017 PTIN Open Season which began on October 17.