CE provider FAQs: Annual federal tax refresher (AFTR) course


General guidance

1. What term can preparers use on business cards or when advertising their qualifications? (updated June 6, 2022)

A preparer may use the term "AFSP – Record of completion."

2. Is there a limit on the number of years a preparer who passed the RTRP test gets an exemption from the AFTR course and test? (updated June 6, 2022)

No. Those who passed the RTRP test will be exempt from the AFTR course as long as the program is in place.

3. What is the deadline for completing the AFTR course and test? (posted February 4, 2021)

The AFTR course and test MUST be completed on or before midnight local time of the student December 31. NO EXCEPTIONS.

Provider AFTR course approval and review process

1. Is an AFTR course and comprehension test subject to review? (updated June 6, 2022)

Yes, all AFTR providers are subject to review.

2. What should I expect if my AFTR course and test are selected for review? (updated June 6, 2022)

You will be notified after getting your AFTR course number when you have been selected for review. CE providers will be allowed only one revision of their AFTR course and test, once deficient areas are identified and communicated.

Important Note: If corrections are not made to issues identified, this may result in you not being approved to offer an AFTR course and test.

3. If my AFTR course and test are selected for review, what will I be required to submit for the review? (updated June 6, 2022)

In addition to your AFTR course material and test, you are required to provide a reconciliation of the AFTR Course Outline topics and test questions.

This AFTR Course Reconciliation form should include the page number in the course material where each outline topic is located.

Everyone must provide an AFTR final test reconciliation of each test question as part of the final exam and answer key. The final exam/test bank submitted will include the questions, answer key, and notation where the tax topic tested by each question can be found in the course material.

4. When can an IRS-approved CE provider offer an Annual federal tax refresher course? (updated June 6, 2022)

IRS-approved CE providers can offer AFTR courses from June 1 to December 31 each year. Annual changes to the AFTR course outline will require participating CE Providers to get a new number each year the AFTR course/test is offered.

5. Who develops the AFTR course and comprehension test? (updated June 6, 2022)

IRS-approved CE providers are responsible for development of the course materials and related comprehension test for an AFTR course. Refer to the course outlinePDF and test parametersPDF for guidance.

6. Are CE providers required to cover changes to tax law enacted after the yearly publication of the "Annual Federal Tax Refresher Course Outline" (e.g., Annual Inflation Adjustments)? (updated June 6, 2022)

As noted at the bottom of the AFTR course outline, CE providers are not required, but encouraged, to educate preparers on amendments to the tax law that are enacted after the publication of the "Annual Federal Tax Refresher Course Outline."

7. What rules apply to an AFTR course and related comprehension test? (updated June 6, 2022)

Unless specifically noted otherwise, CE provider Standards No.5 and No.7PDF apply to self-study AFTR courses/test. If language is silent with regard to a specific area, the expectation is that industry standards for tax-related continuing education for self-study testing are followed. All delivery methods for the Annual Federal Tax Refresher Course must include a comprehension test at the end of the course. Review questions are not required but, if utilized, can be used in the computation for the word count formulaPDF (three questions per credit hour for a maximum of 18 questions). However, test questions CANNOT be included in the word count as the test is considered separate from the AFTR course material when calculating the 6 hours of CE.

8. Does a tax return preparer need a PTIN to take the AFTR course and related comprehension test? (updated June 6, 2022)

A tax return preparer is required to have a PTIN to receive credit for the AFTR course/test. If a preparer secures a PTIN after taking an AFTR course/test, the preparer may contact the CE provider to report the PTIN and request that the record be submitted to the IRS for credit.

9. Is an AFTR self-study course valid for one year after purchase like other self-study CE programs? (updated June 6, 2022)

No, a self-study AFTR course/test must be completed by midnight (local time of the student), December 31 of the current calendar year.

10. I offer an AFTR self-study course in one format, but attendees take the comprehension test in another. What delivery method should I choose? (updated June 6, 2022)

If the program material is in PDF format and accessed via the internet or a taped webinar which can be viewed by participants individually at the time of their choosing, but the comprehension test is taken and timed online, you should select self-study.

For further clarification, you should select the online group delivery method if you offer a webinar or live broadcast streamed to a large group of participants' computers at diverse, remote locations and the participants are viewing the program, including the speaker and any text, in real time. Because the AFTR requires a test with all delivery methods, there would need to be a way for preparers to take the test after viewing the live webinar.

Note: paper tests can only be given with in-person AFTR courses if a proctor is monitoring the test. Otherwise, paper tests should never be given as there is no mechanism to monitor the maximum timeframe of 3 continuous hours.

11. I know the AFTR course must be six hours but does it have to be delivered continuously all in one sitting or can I break it up in sections delivered at separate intervals? For instance, I offer a two-hour session to cover domain one topics, a two-hour session for domain two topics, and a two-hour session to cover domain three topics. (updated June 6, 2022)

You may break up the six-hour AFTR course into various parts that don't have to be delivered all at one time. However, the comprehension test must be given after ALL parts of the AFTR course are completed and it must be limited to a maximum of three continuous hours for the 100 test questions. You may also have a live webinar or in-person course instruction, but allow the participant to take the test on-line via the Internet as long as the test is timed not to exceed the continuous 3 hour time limit. The test must be completed with a maximum of 3 continuous hours in one sitting.

12. Can an AFTR course be submitted in a language other than English for approval and review purposes? (updated June 6, 2022)

No. Regardless of the language used to present the course to return preparers, the course material and supporting documentation must be submitted in English for approval and review purposes.

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AFTR course credit hours

1. What are the continuing education requirements to participate in the Annual Filing Season Program? (revised June 6, 2022)

An overview of the requirements is shown in this chartPDF.

2. Do the six CE credits earned from completion of the AFTR course/test count toward the total 18 CE hours required for unenrolled preparers participating in the Annual Filing Season Program? (updated June 6, 2022)

Yes, the six credit hours count toward the total CE required for the Annual Filing Season Program. The AFTR hours apply as the federal tax update requirement for unenrolled preparers that successfully complete the AFTR course and pass the related comprehension test .

Important: Anyone can take the AFTR course; however, because of the high level of knowledge required of Enrolled Agents (EAs), this basic level "refresher" course will not be allowed for IRS credit for Enrolled Agents. Those that are CPAs, Attorneys, or in the exempt category will get credit for the AFTR course after passing the required test.

Note: Tax preparers will receive credit only if the PTIN is reported through the IRS CE Provider System.

3. Can a tax preparer receive more or less than six CE credits for completing an AFTR course and passing the related comprehension test? (updated June 6, 2022)

No, a fixed number of six CE credit hours will be granted in the Federal Tax Law Update category to tax preparers who complete both an AFTR course and pass the related comprehension test.

4. Can an AFTR course exceed six hours? (updated June 6, 2022)

No, an AFTR course may not be greater than six credit hours and the CE Provider system will default to six credit hours with no change to the credit hours allowed.

5. What if a preparer has more federal tax update credits than is required for the federal tax law update category in any one calendar year? (updated June 6, 2022)

The excess federal tax law update credit will count toward their federal tax law requirement for that particular calendar year. The PTIN system will automatically apply the excess credit hours to the federal tax law category, although the excess will still show in the PTIN holder's federal tax law update category in the online account. Note: Excess ethics and federal tax law credit will not count toward any of the other categories.

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AFTR comprehension test

1. Can a tax preparer take an AFTR comprehension test without completing the AFTR course? (updated June 6, 2022)

No, a tax preparer must complete an AFTR course prior to taking the related comprehension test.

2. How many questions are required on the AFTR comprehension test? (updated June 6, 2022)

One hundred questions are required.

3. What types of questions are allowed on the comprehension test? (revised January 28, 2021)

Only multiple-choice questions are allowed. Multiple choice questions should deal with tax theory, law or practice and/or include tax calculations. Each multiple-choice question must consist of four potential answers with only one correct answer. Overly simple questions will be disallowed. Lookup questions that ask for a statutory amount, limitation, or form number will be limited to a maximum of 10 questions. Note: The exception to allow true/false questions as explained in CE Provider Standard No. 7, does not apply to AFTR programs. No true/false questions may be included in an AFTR exam.

4. Can the maximum three-hour time period allotted for an AFTR comprehension test be extended by the CE provider? (updated June 6, 2022)

No, the comprehension test must be a three-hour continuous timed test and allow participants to see their remaining time if the test is administered online.

5. If an AFTR course participant fails to pass the related comprehension test on his/her first attempt, can the CE provider administer the same test version and questions? (updated June 6, 2022)

Yes, an identical test version may be administered for a tax return preparer's second attempt. A new test must be administered if a tax return preparer fails the second attempt at a particular test version. If a third test attempt is allowed, a minimum of 50% of the test questions must be different than the questions in the prior test version. Refer to the Annual Filing Season Program test parametersPDF.

6. Should evaluative feedback (answers to final test questions) ever be given? (revised 1/28/21)

No, specific evaluative feedback that includes the test question or answer isn't allowed. Evaluative feedback is only allowed when a participant fails a test attempt. Providers may direct the participant to the domain and tax topic from the course outline that they failed and need to review. Providers may give participants a pass or fail notification and a percentage of correct answers for all attempts by domain and topic area.

7. Can review questions, if utilized, be duplicated in the comprehension test or in the test bank? (updated June 6, 2022)

No. All review questions should be different from those offered on the comprehension test or included in the test bank. Also, for self-study AFTR courses you can only have 18 review questions maximum included in the word count for AFTR.

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AFTR recordkeeping and upload

1. What is the deadline for submitting CE completion records for the AFTR course? (revised 1/28/21)

The AFTR course can be offered beginning June 1 through December 31. CE Providers can only submit AFTR course program completion records after June 1 and for ten business days after December 31.

During the fourth quarter (October 1 – December 31), program completion information must be reported within ten business days of delivery of each program. Therefore, the latest date AFTR course completion records would be submitted is approximately January 14 if an AFTR course was completed on December 31.

Note: A CE provider can submit a "corrected" program completion record at any time before the last day of the filing season, as long as the PTIN holder completed the AFTR course and test by midnight local time of the student December 31.

2. How long do states/agencies have to report a preparer's exemption status? (revised 1/28/21)

Designations must be in place annually on or before December 31 in order for a preparer to qualify for the AFTR course exemption.

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Annual Filing Season Program record of completion

1. Will the AFSP Record of Completion indicate the filing season (calendar year) for which it was issued? (revised January 28, 2021)

Yes, each record of completion will clearly identify the filing season (calendar year) for which it is valid (e.g., 2021 Active Year for the 2021 Annual Filing Season Program). Remember, the last day to get the Record of Completion is by April 15 of the calendar year for which the Record of Completion is sought, and no applications received after that date will be considered.

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