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CE FAQs: Continuing Education Providers

Who can be a CE provider?

1. Who can become an IRS CE provider? (revised 9/23/13)

An IRS-approved CE provider must be:

I) An accredited educational institution;
II) Recognized for continuing education purposes by the licensing body of any state, territory, or possession of the United States, including a commonwealth, or the District of Columbia;
III) Approved by a qualifying organization (an IRS CE accrediting organization) as a provider of continuing education on subject matters designed for enrolled agents or enrolled retirement plan agents; or
IV) Any other professional organization, society, or business recognized by the IRS as a provider of continuing education on subject matters designed for enrolled agents or enrolled retirement plan agents.

All CE providers, regardless of status of CE provider, must obtain a continuing education provider number to offer IRS approved continuing education. You can apply for a provider number using our online system. There is an annual fee for each calendar year to obtain a continuing education provider number (currently $419).

2. What is an “accredited educational institution”? (posted 12/6/11)

It is an educational institution that has been accredited by a national or state educational accrediting body.

3. What is a CE provider “recognized for continuing education purposes by the licensing body of a State, territory, or possession of the United States, including a Commonwealth, or the District of Columbia”? (posted 12/6/11)

It is an individual or entity that is recognized for continuing education purposes by a licensing body of any State, territory, or possession of the United States, including a Commonwealth, or the District of Columbia. For example: The Oregon Board of Accountancy registers sponsors of approved CPE for certified public accountants licensed in Oregon, the Minimum Continuing Legal Education Department of the Oregon State Bar approves continuing education programs for Oregon attorneys on behalf of the Oregon Supreme Court and the Oregon Board of Tax Practitioners approves sponsors of continuing education for Oregon’s tax return preparers.

4. What is a CE provider “recognized for continuing education purposes by an IRS CE accrediting organization”? (revised 12/16/11)

It is an individual or entity that is recognized for continuing education purposes by a qualifying organization as a provider of continuing education on subject matters within section 10.6(f) of Circular 230. At this time, the only IRS approved accrediting organization is:

National Association of State Boards of Accountancy, Inc.

National Registry of CPE Sponsors
Phone: 1.866.627.2286

5. My organization is a CE provider recognized for continuing education purposes by the California Tax Educational Council (CTEC).  Is my organization a CE provider recognized by the licensing body of a State? (posted 12/6/11)
Yes. Under California law an approved curriculum provider for tax preparers is an organization approved by CTEC. See CAL. BUS. & PROF § 22251(c) (West 2011). A CE provider that identifies itself as an organization recognized by CTEC must complete the Form 8498, Continuing Education Provider Application and Request for Provider Number, providing a copy of the approval letter it received from CTEC. The Form 8498 can be completed and submitted using our online system.
6. I work for a state or local chapter of a national organization that offers CE programs.  I am offering a program that was created by the national organization.  Do I need to register separately and obtain a separate provider/program number? (posted 12/6/11)
The state or local chapter must receive their own provider/program number(s), even if they are using programs provided by their national organization since they will have responsibility for record-keeping and reporting PTIN level programs.

Provider Application Process

1. What do I need to submit in order to become an IRS-approved CE provider?

Submission requirements vary based on provider status. View this chart to determine what you must attach to your application.

2. What is the fee to become an IRS-approved continuing education provider? (revised 9/23/13)
The third-party vendor administering the continuing education program for the IRS charges each CE provider an annual fee (currently $419). There is no fee for adding additional programs during the same renewal year and the IRS is not currently charging an additional fee. 
3. Approximately how long will it take to approve continuing education providers? (posted 12/6/11)
Online status i, ii, and iii applicants applying for provider and program numbers generally will be issued numbers within 24 hours of a complete application.
Online status iv CE provider applicants generally should receive a response 21 days after a completed application is received.
View a chart with the different approval times based on provider statuses.
NOTE: All paper applications will take 6-8 weeks to process.

4. Can I offer a program for credit before I get a program number? (posted 5/29/12)

No. All programs must be approved by the IRS and receive an official program number before being offered to students for IRS credit.

5. How do I change my point of contact? (revised 3/3/14)

Contact the IRS Continuing Education Help Line at 1-855-296-3150 between 9 a.m.-6 p.m. ET.

6. I am the Point of Contact, but need to update my address, e-mail, or other contact information, what do I do? (posted 5/29/12)

You can update your contact information by accessing your online CE provider account and making changes through the Account Management feature on your home page.

7. How do I change the information showing in the public listing? (revised 3/3/14)

Contact the IRS Continuing Education Help Line at 1-855-296-3150 between 9 a.m.-6 p.m. ET. You should periodically check the public listing and test the links to ensure your information is relevant and displays what you want tax preparers to see.

8. I received an IRS CE Provider Approval letter in my secure mailbox in the electronic system, but I also got another document that appeared to be an IRS-approved logo. What do I do with it? (posted 12/6/11)

The Return Preparer Office has created an “IRS-Approved Continuing Education Provider” logo that you may use on your web site and in marketing materials. We also encourage you to use the logo on your continuing education completion certificates that you provide your attendees so they can easily see that you are IRS-approved. Follow the instructions received with the logo for appropriate use.


1. Can the fee be waived under certain circumstances? (revised 9/23/13)
No. The annual fee (currently $419) is strictly a vendor fee for providing the electronic service. IRS does not receive any of the fee and does not have the authority to waive the fee.
2. We are currently an approved provider for EAs. Do we need to pay the annual fee (currently $419) in order to be listed on the public listing? (revised 9/23/13)
Yes. All providers must register in the new system. Upon registration, you will be included in the Public Listing.
3. My organization is a state agency. Can we receive a fee waiver? (revised 3/20/13)
There is no waiver of the CE provider fee. If you are offering credit to enrolled agents or enrolled retirement plan agents, you must apply to become an IRS-approved CE provider and pay the fee.

What programs qualify for IRS approval?

1. Is there a minimum length of time that my continuing education program must be to qualify for IRS approved continuing education? (updated 1/3/12)
Yes. Continuing education credit is only given for full contact hours, or multiple thereof. A contact hour is 50 minutes in length, excluding breaks and introductions.
2. What must a continuing education program cover to be considered an ethics program? (posted 12/6/11)
An ethics or professional conduct program must be designed for the tax professional and principally cover ethical issues or professional conduct issues that arise in a tax practice, including return preparation, environment. For example, programs that address provisions of Treasury Circular 230 will qualify. A program description of an ethics program must include the following: succinct topics for discussion, how the program will be presented (panel, lecture, etc.), and how practical application of the subject matter will be tested in real world situations (hypothetical examples, panel discussion, fact patterns).
3. What must a continuing education program cover to be considered a federal tax law update program? (revised 3/20/13)
A qualified federal tax law update program must provide a practical working knowledge of the latest legislative tax law changes and associated IRS forms/instructions/publications. 
4. What must a continuing education program cover to be considered a federal tax law/federal tax-related program? (posted 12/6/11)
Tax Law programs must cover federal tax law topics typically reported on Form1040 returns, as well as, other returns and covering basic to advanced topics. This category does not include: business skills, leadership, practice development or personal development, management skills, negotiation, communication programs, or programs such as learning to use software products.
5. Can I receive continuing education credit for completing a program covering state tax law issues? (posted 12/6/11)
Generally, no. A program that covers state tax law issues will not qualify for IRS continuing education credit unless at least 80% of the program material consists of a comparison between federal and state tax laws. Programs approved by state licensing bodies must meet this criteria to qualify for IRS continuing education credit.
6. Will there be best practice guidance for program descriptions? (posted 12/6/11)
Yes, click here for program description examples (pdf).
The general rule: succinctly describe the major elements or contents of each program offered in a manner that provides sufficient information for the reviewer to make a determination that the program covers appropriate subject matter (federal tax, federal tax-related, qualified retirement plan matters, or ethics). Also include the manner in which the program will be delivered (e.g. speaker, panel discussion, lecture). If it is an ethics program, how will application of the subject matter be verified (e.g. scenarios presented and discussed).
7. What if the CE program is only offered in Spanish? (posted 12/6/11)
The program material, if required, can be submitted in Spanish if there is not an English version available. The program name and program description, however, must be submitted in English.
8. When should I request a program number? (e.g., when I’m planning the program or just before I begin advertising the program)  (posted 1/4/12)
An organization should only request the program number when they have the program material available that they will be providing to attendees. Please do not request a program number until the program has been fully developed for your audience.
9. What does a program number look like? (posted 1/4/12)

Review this program number breakdown showing the various components of the number.
10. What is the difference between a group internet and a self-study program? (revised 9/21/12)

Group internet programs must ensure attendance during the entire program (e.g. utilizes polling questions throughout the program or a system that provides attendance reports, such as an IRS webinar) and are generally, but not always live programs. Self-study, including archived or taped programs, requires a means for evaluating successful completion of a program (an examination). Further detail can be found in the CE Provider Standards document (Standard Number 5).
11. Can you accept credit hours in 1.5, 2.5 or other increments outside of one hour? (posted 3/12/12)

No, Circular 230 requires delivery in one hour increments (one hour = 50 minutes).
12. Can I obtain a program number for a program covering state tax law issues? (posted 3/12/12)

Generally, no. A program that covers state tax law issues will not qualify for IRS continuing education credit unless at least 80% of the program material consists of a comparison between federal and state tax laws. Programs approved by state licensing bodies must meet these criteria to qualify for IRS continuing education credit.
13. What if a program covers multiple topics/categories? (posted 5/29/12)
If you are offering an 8-hour program, and 2 hours are ethics and 2 hours are federal tax updates and the remainder covers federal tax, you will need to obtain 3 program numbers - one for each category. This will determine the exact category of credit the preparers will receive. It also allows providers to mix and match and offer topics separately.  
14. When is a new program number required?  (posted 3/12/12)

Any program (course) you want to offer for continuing education credit MUST have a program number. You must put this program number on the attendee’s certificate of completion. 
15. How should we handle a program that is offered via two separate delivery methods (e.g., on-line and in person)?  (posted 3/12/12)

You must apply for 2 program numbers – one for each delivery method.
16. Do CPE providers need a new program number when the same course is being repeated on different dates and / or in different locations? (posted 3/12/12)

You don’t need a new program number for different dates or locations. You only need to obtain a new program number if the program is being offered by a different delivery method (e.g., one is in person, one is online, and one is self-study) or if the content of the program changes.  

17. What is the best way to add a program that is a multi-day conference? (posted 5/29/12)

If you are offering a multi-day conference, for example a conference with cafeteria-style options of 25 different topics, you should obtain 25 separate program numbers - one for each topic. When adding programs, you must define them appropriately as federal tax, tax update or ethics.
18. Do you expect us to define who the audience is when we submit our programs?(posted 3/12/12)

Yes, you must select an audience(s) when you apply for your program number.
19. Will a last minute change in a program speaker (after the issuance of a program number) (due to speaker illness, etc) invalidate the program number?  (posted 3/12/12)

No, but speakers must still meet Standard #12 with regard to speaker qualifications.
20. How do CPE providers notify RPO (post event) of any last minute changes to the program content/topic? (posted 3/12/12)
If there are last minute changes to the program material/content, then you must obtain a new program number. Log into your CE Provider account and select the “Add a Program” button. You will be prompted through the process of adding the information. A new program number will be appended to your Approval Letter once approved and be sent to your secure e-mail box.
21. Sometimes the same program is presented at multiple events.  What should we do if we know that some preparers will attend the same program and receive credit for a program they have already attended? (revised 3/12/12)

We understand that this may occur and we will be monitoring this practice. As a general rule, preparers should not repeat a program with the same enrollment cycle. However, we do understand that a preparer may have a reason to take a program again if they feel they need a refresher on the subject matter.
22. Do panel discussions qualify as IRS approved programs? (posted 3/12/12)

If your panel discussion contains a write-up of the questions and issues that will be discussed, it will likely be eligible for IRS approved credit. If the program is just an open-ended Q&A session, it will likely not be approved.

23. As an IRS approved provider, do my programs qualify for attorney or CPA continuing education credit? (revised 3/20/13)

The rules vary by state and type of credential. If you are unsure if your programs qualify for more than EA and/or ERPA credit, it would be prudent to inform prospective students that they should check with their respective state licensing board or accrediting organization to determine if a program meets their requirements. You may also want to consider adding a statement to your certificates of completion such as: “Individuals with other professional credentials should check with their state licensing board or accrediting organization to determine if this program meets their continuing education requirements.”  

24. Is there a word count formula that I can use to calculate CE hours for self-study programs? (posted 5/29/12)

Yes. You can use the word count formula developed by the AICPA and NASBA. 

Providers Already Approved for EAs/ERPAs

1. My organization was approved as a CE provider for enrolled agent and enrolled retirement plan agent programs under the former process overseen by the Office of Professional Responsibility.  Do I have to take any action? (revised 9/23/13)
Yes. You must apply for a new provider number through the new online system and pay the annual fee (currently $419). 

2. My organization is an accredited educational institution.  Students could get IRS credit for our programs previously, but we never applied to the IRS for approval.  Has this changed? (revised 9/23/13)

Yes. Previously, enrolled agents and enrolled retirement plan agents could obtain IRS CE credit for completing qualified continuing education at an accredited educational institution even if the educational institution did not register with the IRS. Now, accredited educational institutions must register and pay the annual fee (currently $419) for their programs to qualify for IRS CE credit.

Recordkeeping and Upload

1. Are IRS approved CE providers required to obtain information about program attendees? (updated 1/3/12)
Yes. You should gather the first and last name of the student, their preparer tax identification number (PTIN), and the number of CE hours received if less than the full amount of the program.

2. What do we do with information gathered from program attendees? (posted 3/12/12)
The first and last name of the program attendee, their preparer tax identification number (PTIN), the program number, the number of CE hours and the CE program completion date must be sent to IRS via file upload through your online CE Provider Account. 

3. Are providers required to do real time reporting of attendee data to the IRS? (posted 3/12/12)
No. Providers are generally required to report quarterly until the fourth quarter when reporting must be more frequent.  Providers may opt to report after each program offered or more often than quarterly. Approved providers receive detailed reporting instructions. 
4. Do we have to collect PTIN information for 2012 and forward? What about prior years? (posted 3/12/12)
You must begin collecting PTIN information in 2012. You do not have to obtain PTIN information for prior years. 
5. What are the recordkeeping requirements for a CE Provider? (posted 1/4/12)
Records must be maintained by the CE Provider for four years verifying the participants who attended and completed the program.

6. Do CE providers have to retain records of program materials? (revised 9/24/12)

Yes. You must retain all program materials (syllabus, program material, evaluation forms, master certificate of completion, and all records of who took programs and when) for a period of 4 years.

7. Do I have to keep original hardcopies of my records or can they be electronic? (posted 5/2/2013)

You may retain your records in either paper or electronic format. You must be able to produce all original documents or scanned files of all original documents when requested by the IRS.

8. What information do I need to include when reporting the attendees of my program(s)? (posted 3/12/12)

You must report: first and last name of the PTIN holder, PTIN (PXXXXXXXX), the number of CE hours given, the program number assigned by the IRS, and the date the participant completed the program.

9. As a provider, do I have to upload PTIN information on everyone who took my programs? (revised 3/8/13)

You should report information for everyone who provides you a PTIN. It is the responsibility of the student to provide you their PTIN.

10. How do I report program completion/PTIN information to the IRS? (posted 3/12/12)

There are two methods:

  1. The organization’s Point of Contact, responsible for the provider’s online account in the IRS CE provider system, must log in to their account to access the PTIN upload template (available on the front page of the account). You will be able to input the data directly into the IRS CE provider system. This option is a manual data entry process and providers will input information for each preparer by program delivered. This method is recommended for providers submitting 25 or less individual PTIN-level CE records at a time. 
  2. You can input the individual PTIN holder data into the Excel template provided by the IRS and upload the document to your individual IRS CE Provider account. This method is recommended for providers submitting more than 25 individual PTIN-level CE records at one time.

11. How often do I have to report program completion information to IRS? (revised 5/21/12)

For 2012, the system will open for input and upload on July 1, 2012. 

For 2012 ONLY, you will be required to upload program completion information by September 30, 2012 for all programs delivered between January 1, 2012 and September 30, 2012. During the fourth quarter (October 1 –December 31), you must report program completion information within ten business days of delivery of each program. This will help ensure that CE information is available during the PTIN renewal period.

Beginning in 2013 and beyond, during the first nine months of the year, you must report program completion information quarterly at a minimum (by March 31, June 30, and September 30). During the fourth quarter (October 1 –December 31), you must report program completion information within ten business days of delivery of each program.

NOTE: the system allows you to upload data more frequently than the required intervals.

12. Where can I find the template for uploading PTIN information? (posted 3/12/12)

Download the template here. The template is also available within the CE system via your user account home page.

13. Is there a size limit on the Excel PTIN upload template? (posted 3/26/12)

Yes. The maximum file size is 2MB, which equates to approximately 20,000 records. If your file exceeds 2MB, the information must be broken up into multiple files and uploaded separately.

14. What do I do if an attendee doesn’t have a PTIN? (revised 3/20/13)

Attendees must provide a PTIN if they wish to obtain credit that meets the CE requirement for the EA or ERPA programs. 

15. If I delivered a program in January and I failed to collect PTINs, what should I do? (posted 3/12/12)

Attempt to contact the attendees to get their PTINs. Collecting the PTIN is a requirement stated in your provider approval letter, the jurat your Point of Contact signed when registering to become an IRS approved provider, and in CE FAQs. 

16. How will I know if the PTIN that I collected is correct? (revised 12/18/12)

The IRS will validate the PTIN when you submit it. If it is incorrect, the record(s) will be returned to you and your Point of Contact notified by e-mail. IRS will also validate the program number, date of program completion and number of CE credit hours.

17. Do I have to collect PTINs from EAs and ERPAs? (posted 3/8/13)

Only if they have a PTIN and want the information to display in their online PTIN account in the future. All EAs must have PTINs. Not all ERPAs are required to obtain PTINs.

Adding/Changing/Deleting Programs

1. My organization has already received approval, but I want to add programs.  How do I do that? (posted 1/4/12)
Log into the CE Provider system. On the front page, you should see the programs you have approved and an “Add A Program” button in the “Application” section. If you click on this button, you can designate how many programs you would like to add and input the required information for each program. Your program numbers will be sent to the Point of Contact’s secure e-mail box.
New programs generally will be approved and a program number issued within 24 hours.

2. When is it okay to delete a program? (posted 4/10/14)

The following tips should assist providers in determining when to delete a program:

  1. If a program was created during the current calendar year (e.g. 2014) and you plan to sell or offer it for credit during the current calendar year and will have PTINs to report, do NOT delete the program.

  2. If you have been notified that you have been selected for a random program review, do not delete the program that was selected for review until you have been informed your review is officially closed

  3. If the program was created in a prior year (e.g. 2012, 2013) and you no longer intend to offer or sell the program moving forward, you may delete it. You WILL still be able to report PTIN records from those prior years.

    IMPORTANT! You should only delete programs from your “list of currently approved programs”. You should NEVER delete any programs from your “previous program offerings” link(s) on your homepage.

  4. If you have never offered or sold the program and never plan to, then you can safely delete it from your “list of currently approved programs”.  This would include programs created as placeholders.  


1. Who is allowed to sign the certificates of completion? (posted 1/13/12)
The instructor, provider's officer, or provider's Chair of Education may sign the certificates of completion. View a sample (pdf).
2. Do we have to include the program number on the certificate of completion? (posted 3/12/12)

Yes. See the sample certificate (pdf).

3. Do I have to include the attendee’s PTIN on their certificate of completion? (posted 3/12/12)

No. PTINs do not have to appear on certificates.

4. If I am a NASBA approved provider, can my certificate of completion for the IRS be a joint certificate with NASBA? (posted 3/27/12)

Yes, as long as the required information for both organizations is included on the certificate. For IRS requirements, please view the sample certificate (pdf).

5. If I am officially an approved provider for other programs (e.g., for attorneys or CPAs), may I create one program certificate that includes information for all attendees? (revised 3/20/13)

Yes. As long as your program certificate contains the required information for EA and/or ERPA programs, you may include other information required by other licensing boards or accrediting organizations.


1. What are the reporting requirements for the data on the evaluation form?  Are we required to include all of the questions each time? (posted 3/12/12)
Currently, evaluations do not have to be sent to the IRS. Evaluations should be used as a reference tool to ensure providers are presenting quality CE programs or in the event of a CE Provider Review.
2. Is completion of the evaluation required by attendees? (posted 3/12/12)
Providers must provide attendees a means of evaluation, but completion of the form by attendees is voluntary. See the sample evaluation (pdf).
Evaluation forms must be retained for the recordkeeping period of four years, but currently do not need to be compiled nor sent to RPO. The feedback should be utilized in improving your program and RPO may request this information upon a CE Provider Review of programs (see Standard #9).


1. How often must my organization renew its continuing education provider status? (revised 9/23/13)
Your organization must renew its continuing education provider status and pay the annual CE Provider fee each calendar year (currently $419). Renewals will be accepted between October and December for the next calendar year.
2. Do CE providers need a new program number when the program is essentially the same as the previous year's program? (revised 9/23/13)
It depends. During the renewal process, all of your existing 2012 and 2013 approved programs will be displayed in a table. You must indicate which programs you want to continue to offer in the next calendar year and whether you want to edit them or leave them unchanged. For example:

  1. If you want to continue to offer a program exactly the way it is with no changes whatsoever, the program will retain its 2012 or 2013 program number
  2. If you want to edit an existing program, you may make changes to all fields – title, program content, category, credit hours, audience type and delivery method. Selecting this option will generate a new 2014 program number.

The CE system WILL accept PTIN records with previous year program numbers because the date of completion will determine the year the preparer gets credit.

3. What happens if a CE provider does not renew by December 31? (posted 9/26/12)

Your CE provider account will be deactivated. You will no longer be authorized to offer IRS CE programs. You may neither market yourself as an IRS Approved CE Provider nor use the IRS approved continuing education provider logo. Upon deactivation, your CE provider contact information will be removed from the IRS CE Provider Public Listing.

4. How do I renew my continuing education provider status? (revised 9/23/13)

Renew your status by logging into your existing CE Provider online account between October 1 and December 31 and selecting “Renew Now” from the Main Menu. You must also pay the annual CE Provider fee (currently $419.00). PLEASE DO NOT create a new application by selecting the &quotApply Now&quot button on the login page.

5. Does renewal cause my CE provider number and/or program numbers to change? (revised 9/23/13)

Your CE provider number will remain the same from year to year as you renew your status. Programs numbers may change depending on how you choose to treat programs during the renewal process. See FAQ 2 above.

You can continue to offer programs with 2012 and 2013 program numbers in 2014. The CE system WILL accept PTIN records with 2012 and 2013 program numbers during 2014, because the date of completion determines the year the preparer gets credit.

6. Can I add a test preparation program during renewal? (posted 9/23/13)

A Special Enrollment Exam (SEE) test preparation program can be added as a new program during the renewal process.

Note: Adding a RTRP Test Preparation program is currently not an option.

7.  How long do I have to report PTIN records if I choose not to renew an existing program? (posted 9/23/13)

If you choose not to offer an existing program in 2014, you must report any associated program completion information within ten business days of delivery of each program October 1 through December 31

8. During renewal, how would I handle a 2013 program that I offered with a 2014 completion date, but I don't intend to offer it again 2014? (posted 9/26/13)

If you offered a program in 2013 and the student has until sometime in 2014 to complete the program, you will want to select &quotContinue Using&quot for that program, even if you do not plan to offer it 2014. This will ensure the program number is accepted when you report PTIN data in 2014 and the participant receives the credit hours they earned.

Page Last Reviewed or Updated: 10-Apr-2014