How to become a paid tax preparer

how to become a paid tax preparer

This information is provided for the benefit of those VITA volunteer tax preparers considering becoming tax professionals, and also for tax professionals considering volunteering for VITA.

The IRS issues PTIN (Preparer Tax Identification Number) for paid preparers for the purpose of using it on client's tax returns instead of the preparer's SSN. A PTIN begins with a P followed by 8 digits. It is similar to the SIDN, which is used for VITA sites.

Work is underway to formalize a code of professional conduct for preparers, and proposed recommendations scheduled to be published at the end of 2009. In addition, California, Oregon, and Maryland are the only three states that have set requirements for their paid tax preparers.

In California, the rules and requirements to become a paid (professional) tax preparer for income tax returns are available on the California Tax Education Council (CTEC) website. These rules and requirements are covered under the Tax Preparer Act which cover any preparers who are not otherwise covered by other professionals.

Any person who assists with or prepares a State or Federal tax return, assumes responsibility for such a return, or offers these services for pay is required to comply with the provisions of the Tax Preparer Act. Generally speaking, CPAs, Attorneys, Enrolled Agents and anyone employed by these individuals are exempt from the Act.

Requirements to become a Registered Tax Preparer in California:

  • find CTEC approved curriculum provider
  • successfully complete a 60-hour course approved for qualifying education
  • obtain tax preparer bond from insurance/surety agent
  • apply to obtain certificate of completion from CTEC
Requirements to maintain the Registered Tax Preparer status requires the following every year by October 31 of the that year
  • find CTEC approved curriculum provider
  • successfully complete a 20-hr course approved for continuing education which includes at least 12 hours of Federal and 4 hours of state training and may require satisfactorily passing an exam
  • renew or obtain tax preparer bond for $5000 from insurance/surety agent
  • apply to obtain certificate of current registration from CTEC
Please note the following:
  • VITA/TCE training using Link & Learn or classroom instruction does not meet the qualifying or continuing education requirement
  • Preparing taxes for VITA/TCE does not require compliance with the Tax Preparer Act
  • Preparing or assisting in preparing a tax return for a fee without the proper registration and surety bonds, could result in a citation and a fine up to $5000 per return. The enforcement is done by the California Franchise Tax Board.
This above is based on information provided at the CTEC Website and provided as a summary only. More details and application forms are available at:


Post Office Box 2890

Sacramento, CA 95812-2890


Category: Taxes

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