The Annual Filing Season Program (AFSP) is a yearly program offered by the IRS to recognize non-credentialed tax return preparers. The program runs from the beginning of June until the end of December and offers tax preparers an opportunity to distinguish themselves by completing 18 hours of continuing education.
Completing the AFSP places you in the IRS’s public list of tax return preparers. This is a great resource because it is the same list the IRS uses to suggest tax return preparers. In fact, in 2015, the IRS began a campaign to encourage taxpayers to choose tax preparers carefully and uses this list as a standard for professional tax preparers.
In addition to increased visibility, completing the AFSP gives you the right to represent clients, whose returns you have prepared and signed, before revenue agents, customer service representatives, and similar IRS employees, including the Taxpayer Advocate Service. This allows you to provide more services and assurance to taxpayers, which increases marketability.
Tax preparers who do not have a credential or who have not completed the AFSP can only prepare tax returns.
The AFSP gives you immediate returns and does not involve a large commitment of money or time. As a result, this program is a must-have for all non-certificated tax preparers. Because the AFSP doesn’t have steep requirements, it is perfect for part-time tax preparers and demonstrates extra value to potential employers.
With tax scams getting more news coverage, taxpayers are becoming more thoughtful in selecting tax preparers. Being endorsed by the IRS is a great way to show potential customers that they are in good hands.
The Enrolled Agent designation is the gold-standard for tax preparers, but it comes with a greater investment of time and money.
Enrolled Agents have unlimited representation rights, which means they can represent taxpayers before the IRS for any tax matters—audits, payment/collection issues, and appeals. However, Enrolled Agents also need to pass the 3-part Special Enrollment Exam (SEE) and complete continuing education to maintain the certification. Basically, becoming an Enrolled Agent is time consuming, but it is usually worth it because of the increased earning potential and market visibility.
Completing the AFSP is a good middle ground for tax preparers. It doesn’t have a steep time requirement, so you can complete the program quickly and reap the benefits immediately. It is also useful for new tax preparers who aren’t quite ready to commit to getting their EA designation.
The AFSP requires you complete 12 hours of continuing education, 10 hours of federal tax law and 2 of ethics, and a 6-hour annual federal tax refresher (AFTR) course. You will also need to meet a few basic qualifications:
You may complete your continuing education prior to renewing your PTIN, but you will not receive your Record of Completion from the IRS until you’ve renewed your PTIN.
If you’ve previously passed the Registered Tax Return Preparer (RTRP) exam, or if you have passed Part 1 of the SEE (EA) exam within the last two years, some of your requirements are waived! You’ll still need to complete 15 hours of continuing education on ethics and tax laws, but you’re exempt from the 6-hour annual federal tax refresher (AFTR) course.
Each year, Gleim updates our courses to meet all of the requirements set by the IRS, and this year we’ve refreshed and enhanced the look and feel of our outlines to improve knowledge retention. You can rest assured that you’ll have met all of the requirements to receive your Record of Completion. We’ll even take care of reporting your completion directly to the IRS!
Whether you’re ready to take the first step towards completing the AFSP or you have more questions about the AFSP or renewing your PTIN, visit our AFSP resource page. We answer many frequently asked questions and further discuss how Gleim can help you achieve success this tax season.