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CE FAQs: Continuing Education Providers

Who can be a CE provider?

1. Who can become an IRS CE provider? (revised 9/14/16)

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 $565).

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? (posted 12/6/11)

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 9/14/16)
The third-party vendor administering the continuing education program for the IRS charges each CE provider an annual fee (currently $565). 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 does it take to approve continuing education providers? (revised 6/23/14)
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.

If you are a new CE provider and only want to offer an Annual Federal Tax Refresher course, you must apply between June 1 and December 31.

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 advertise and/or sell a program for credit before I get a program number? (revised 6/24/16)

You can advertise a program and say that it will be available on a specific date, but you cannot sell a program until you have an IRS approved program number.

5. How do we change to a new point of contact? (revised 9/14/16)

The new point of contact must call the IRS Continuing Education Help Line at 1-888-316-7581 between 8 a.m.-6 p.m. ET for assistance in getting a new userid for log-in.  As part of this process, the new POC will need to provide the organization’s EIN or PTIN (from the application), as well as full name of CE Provider, point of contact’s name and point of contact’s mailing address.

6. I am the Point of Contact, but need to update my address, e-mail, or other contact information, what do I do? (revised 2/8/17)

You can update your contact information by accessing your online CE provider account and making changes through the Account Management feature by selecting Provider Account on the main menu.

7. How do I change the information showing in the public listing? (revised 3/31/17)

The Principal Point of Contact (PPOC) can edit the public listing information by clicking on the "Public Listing" link on the left side of the home screen of their CE Provider account.

8. I received an "IRS Logo Letter" in my secure mailbox. What do I do with it? (revised 3/31/17)

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 9/14/16)
No. The annual fee (currently $565) 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. What do I need to do in order to be listed on the public listing? (revised 9/14/16)
All providers must register with the IRS to be an approved continuing education provider. Upon approval, 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.

4. What happens if I do not renew by December 31? (posted 10/12/17) 
Beginning January 1, 2018, if you do not renew your IRS approved status by midnight, local time December 31, a late fee will be assessed according to the schedule below, in addition to the current renewal fee of $565.

January 1 through midnight, local time, January 31 - $100
February 1 through midnight, local time, February 28 (February 29 on leap years) - $150
March 1 through midnight, local time, December 31 - $200

Program/Course Guidance

1. Is there a minimum length of time that my continuing education program must be to qualify for IRS approved continuing education? (revised 6/23/14)
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.

NOTE: Annual Federal Tax Refresher (AFTR) courses must be six credit hours, even if the actual length of the course exceeds six hours.

2. What must a continuing education program cover to be considered an Annual Federal Tax Refresher course? (posted 6/23/14)

An AFTR course and test must follow the Annual Federal Tax Refresher course outline and course requirements.
3. What must a continuing education program cover to be considered an ethics program? (revised 6/23/14)
An ethics program must address ethics or professional conduct in connection with tax return preparation. Review program description examples (pdf) as well as examples of the type of material an ethics program might present.
4. What must a continuing education program cover to be considered a federal tax law update program? (revised 6/23/14)
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. Review program description examples (pdf) as well as examples of the type of material a federal tax law update program might present.
5. What must a continuing education program cover to be considered a federal tax law/federal tax-related program? (revised 6/23/14)
Tax Law programs must cover federal tax law topics typically reported on Form 1040 returns, as well as other return types, covering basic to advanced topics. This category does not include: programs not directly related to federal taxation or federal tax related matters such as personal development, personal investments, office management, non-tax return preparation computer software or sales-oriented presentations for office equipment and other system applications.

6. How do I add an Enrolled Agent (EA) Special Enrollment Exam (SEE) test preparation program? (posted 7/24/15)

Tax return preparers may earn up to five hours of federal tax continuing education credit for prep programs for each of Parts 1 and 2, and two credit hours of ethics for prep for Part 3. The maximum amount for SEE prep programs is 12 credit hours total.

Follow the instructions below when adding an EA SEE test preparation program in the CE provider system.


  1. Secure a new program number by adding a new program.
  2. Program Name: EA SEE Test Prep Part 1 Individuals 
  3. Program Description Example - SEE Test Prep Part 1 will include topics:  (list the topics from the Candidate Information Bulletin for Part I)
  4. Category:  select Special Enrollment Exam Test Preparation (the program number generated will contain a P indicating this is a preparation program)
  5. CE Credit hours:  5
  6. Delivery Method:  POC marks all applicable checkboxes
  7. Target Audience:  Other Tax Return Preparers only, Enrolled Agents do not receive credit
  8. Click “Continue”
  9. Note:  Once PTINs for this program are uploaded, the participants receive Federal Tax continuing education credit.


  1. Repeat same step as above.
  2. Program Name: EA SEE Test Prep Part 2 Businesses
  3. Program Description - SEE Test Prep Part 2 will include topics (list the topics from the Candidate Information Bulletin for Part 2)
  4. Repeat steps 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 above.


  1. Secure a new program number by adding a new program.
  2. Program Name: EA SEE Test Prep Part 3 Representation, Practices and Procedures
  3. Program Description - SEE Test Prep Part 3 will include topics: (list from the Candidate Information Bulletin for Part 3)
  4. CE Credit hours:  2
  5. Category: select Ethics, so PTIN holders receive Ethics credit
  6. Delivery Method:  POC marks all applicable checkboxes
  7. Target Audience: Select Other Tax Return Preparers (Do NOT select EA or ERPA)
  8. Note:  Once PTINs for this program are uploaded the participants receive Ethics continuing education credit.   

7. Is there best practice guidance for program descriptions? (revised 6/23/14)
Yes, see 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 matters, federal tax law updates, 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, describe how the application of the subject matter will be verified (e.g. scenarios presented and discussed).
8What if the CE program is only offered in another language? (revised 6/23/14) 
All program information must be submitted in English for approval and review purposes.
9. When should I request a program number? (e.g., when I’m planning the program or just before I begin advertising the program)  (revised 9/7/17)
An organization should only request a program number when they have the program material available that they will be providing to participants. Please do not request a program number until the program has been fully developed for your audience. You can advertise a program and say that it will be available on a specific date, but you cannot sell a program until you have an IRS approved program number.

Note: You can only get program numbers for Annual Filing Season Refresher (AFTR) courses from May 1 through December 31 each year. 
10. What does a program number look like? (posted 1/4/12)

Review this program number breakdown showing the various components of the number.
What is the difference between an online group internet and a self-study program? (revised 6/23/14)

Online 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 No.5).
12. 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).

13. Can I obtain a program number for a program covering state tax law issues or non-federal tax content? (revised 10/4/17)

Generally, no. A program that covers state tax law issues or any non-federal tax content will not qualify for IRS continuing education credit unless at least 80% of the program material consists of federal tax laws and 20% state tax laws or other non-federal tax content. Programs approved by state licensing bodies must meet these criteria to qualify for IRS continuing education credit..

14. What if a program covers multiple topics/categories? (revised 6/23/14)

When offering an 8-hour program and 2 hours are ethics, 2 hours are federal tax law updates, and the remainder covers federal tax law, you will need to obtain 3 program numbers - one for each category. This will determine the exact category of credit the participants will receive. It also allows providers to mix and match and to offer topics separately.  

15. When is a new program number required?  (revised 6/23/14)

A new program number is needed for new program material or when program content changes (other than inflationary adjustments). 

Note: You can only get program numbers for Annual Filing Season Refresher (AFTR) courses from June 1 through December 31 each year.

16. How should we handle a program that is offered via two separate delivery methods (e.g., on-line and in person)?  (revised 6/23/14) 

The online CE provider system will automatically generate separate program numbers for each delivery method you select. 

17. Do CE providers need a new program number when the same course is being repeated on different dates and / or in different locations? (revised 1/20/16)

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.  

18. What is the best way to add a program that is a multi-day conference? (revised 6/23/14)

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, federal tax updates, or ethics.
19. 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.
20. 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?  (revised 6/23/14)

No, but speakers must still meet Standard No.12 with regard to speaker qualifications.
21. How do CE providers notify RPO (post event) of any last minute changes to the program content/topic? (revised 9/14/16)

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.
22. 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 9/22/14)

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 or AFSP program year. 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.
23. Do panel discussions qualify as IRS approved programs? (revised 6/23/14)

If the panel discussion contains a write-up of the questions and issues that will be discussed, it will likely be eligible for IRS approved credit. For instance, dinner sessions or lunch and learn sessions should have a set agenda surrounding federal tax law topics and a complete documentation of the topics discussed. If the program is just an open-ended Q&A session, it will likely not qualify.

24. 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.”  

25. Is there a word count formula that I can use to calculate CE hours for self-study programs? (revised 9/14/160

Yes. You can use the word count formula

Note: Annual Federal Tax Refresher (AFTR) exam questions cannot be included in the word count because of the separate requirement for a comprehension test.

26. Are there any special requirements for programs selected for review that contain on-line video content? (posted 5/22/15)

Due to IRS security restrictions, IRS employees’ computers cannot access videos located on some sites, such as Vimeo.  If a program with an on-line video is selected for review by the IRS and it is not accessible by the reviewer, you will be notified to assist us in finding an alternative option for viewing.  Possible solutions may include placing a copy of the video on an alternative site (such as your own server) or providing the script in written format. 

Note:  Online videos are part of your program material and must be retained for a period of 4 years, in accordance with Standard No. 13.

27. Is it okay to use IRS publications as program material? (posted 7/24/15)

Yes, but the type of use depends on the program delivery method.

Self-study programs

You can use IRS publications, but they can’t be the sole source of your program material. IRS publications may be used as supplemental resources to other instructional materials. For more information see IRS CE Provider Standard 7.

On-line group and In-person programs

You may use IRS publications as program material, but you also need to have an outline, power point or some supplemental material that explains what you will be covering.  In addition, the instructor must have the expertise to explain information contained in the publications, cannot just read from the publication, and must be able to correctly answer participants’ questions.  For more information see IRS CE Provider Standard 5.

28. Can an identity theft program qualify for continuing education credit? (updated 1/25/17)

Yes, identity theft and data security programs that meet CE program requirements focusing on enhancing tax professional awareness of protecting client data, including review of Publications 4557 and/or 4524 safeguards, can qualify for continuing education credit in the federal tax law category.

Providers Already Approved for EAs/ERPAs

1. Do Accredited Educational Institutions need to register to be able to offer programs for IRS CE credit? (revised 9/14/16)

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 $565) for their programs to qualify for IRS CE credit.

General Guidance

1. What term can preparers use on business cards or when advertising their qualifications? (posted 8/27/14)

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? (posted 8/27/14)

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

Provider AFTR Course Approval and Review Process

1. Is an AFTR course and comprehension test subject to review? (posted 3/30/16)

Yes, all AFTR providers are subject to review.

2. What should I expect if my AFTR course and test are selected for review? (posted 3/30/16)

Generally, you will be notified within two weeks of getting your AFTR course number, that 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? (posted 3/30/16)

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? (revised 4/1/15)

IRS-approved CE providers can offer AFTR courses from June 1 to December 31 each year. To ensure course content is current, an AFTR course number can be used for one year only. Each participating CE provider will get a new AFTR course number each year that is updated to match the IRS AFTR course outline subject areas.

5. Who develops the AFTR course and comprehension test? (revised 4/7/15)

IRS-approved CE providers are responsible for development of the course materials and related comprehension test for an AFTR course. Refer to the course outline and test parameters 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)? (revised 4/1/15)

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? (revised 9/14/16)

Unless specifically noted otherwise, CE provider Standards No.5 and No.7 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 formula (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? (revised 4/7/15)

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? (revised 3/30/16)

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? (revised 9/4/14)

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. (revised 4/7/15)

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.

12. Can an AFTR course be submitted in a language other than English for approval and review purposes? (revised 3/30/16)

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.

13.  Can any topics be deleted from the Course Outline if they do not apply to returns filed by preparers for citizens of a foreign country? (revised 4/7/15)

No, even though topics such as EITC, Child Tax Credit and ACA regulations do not apply to citizens in most foreign countries, these topics must be included if they appear in the Course Outline. This is to insure that preparers understand the requirements for their clients who are part time residents or U.S. citizens living in a foreign country.

AFTR Course Credit Hours

1. What are the continuing education requirements to participate in the Annual Filing Season Program? (posted 4/1/15)

An overview of the requirements is shown in this chart.

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? (revised 3/30/16)

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? (revised 3/30/16)

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? (revised 3/30/16)

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? (revised 8/18/17)

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.

AFTR Comprehension Test

1. Can a tax preparer take an AFTR comprehension test without completing the AFTR course? (posted 6/25/14)

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? (revised 4/1/15)

One hundred questions are required.

3. What types of questions are allowed on the comprehension test? (revised 3/30/16)

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. No true/false questions may be included. 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. 

4. Can the maximum three hour time period allotted for an AFTR comprehension test be extended by the CE provider? (revised 4/1/15)

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? (revised 3/30/16)

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 parameters.

6. Should evaluative feedback (answers to final test questions) ever be given? (revised 3/30/16)

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. No specific evaluative feedback that includes the test question or answer is allowed. 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? (revised 3/30/16)

No. All review questions should be different from those offered on the comprehension test or included in the test bank.

AFTR Recordkeeping and Upload

1. What is the deadline for submitting CE completion records for the AFTR course? (revised 2/3/16)

The AFTR course can be offered beginning June 1 and through December 31. CE providers can only submit AFTR course program completion information 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 held on December 31.

Note: A CE provider can submit a “corrected” program completion record at any time, as long as the PTIN holder completed the AFTR course by midnight local time of the student December 31.

2. How long do states/agencies have to report a preparer’s exemption status? (posted 8/27/14)

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

Annual Filing Season Program Record of Completion

1. Will the AFSP Record of Completion indicate the filing season for which it was issued? (revised 3/30/16)

Yes, each record of completion will clearly identify the filing season for which it is valid (e.g., Annual Filing Season Program Record of Completion for Filing Season 2017).

AFTR Course Fees

1.  What is the cost for an AFTR course to the return preparer? (revised 3/30/16)

As an IRS-approved CE provider, you will determine the fee that you will charge participants to purchase your AFTR course and related comprehension test. You will issue the standard Certificate of Completion and upload the associated PTIN records for participants who successfully complete the course and pass the test. IRS will be responsible for delivering the Annual Filing Season Program Record of Completion to preparers once all AFSP requirements are met.

Recordkeeping and Upload

1. What information do I need to report for participants to earn CE credits? (revised 9/14/16)
You should obtain the first and last name of the participant (as it appears on their PTIN card / PTIN welcome letter) and their preparer tax identification number (PTIN). You will also need the program number assigned by the IRS, the date the participant completed the program, and the number of credit hours granted. You should submit your participants’ information through your online CE provider account using this Excel template.

2. Whose responsibility is it to compute and report instructor hours – the CE Provider or the instructor? (posted 9/16/14)

It is a joint responsibility – the instructor gets instructor credit as long as he/she has not already earned his/her annual maximum amount of CE credit per Circular 230, Section 10.6. It is the instructor’s responsibility to discuss the need for instructor credit with the CE Provider so the CE Provider knows what to report, if required.  

3. If a student instructs a portion of a program or an entire program, can they earn both instructor and student credit hours? (revised 10/12/17)

If they are the only instructor for a program, they may only earn instructor hours (maximum of 6 credit hours annually).

If they instruct a portion of a program and also attend a portion as a student, they may earn both instructor credit and student credit, in certain situations. For example, if they instructed 1 hour of an 8 hour program, they would earn instructor credit for the portion they taught (1 hour of credit per contact hour plus actual preparation time not to exceed 2 credit hours per contact hour) and, if they attended the remaining 7 hours taught by another instructor(s) they would earn 7 student credit hours.  However, if they instruct the entire program, they can only receive instructor credit, no student credit, up to the maximum annual credit limit.

4. Does a program have to be present in my listing of currently approved programs for the current calendar year (or on my current year renewal letter) in order for me to report PTIN program completion records? (revised 2/8/17)

Yes, a program must be present in your current year program listing in order to report PTIN program completion records.

5. Do CE providers have to retain records of program materials? (revised 6/23/14)

Yes. You must retain all program materials in either paper or electronic format (syllabus, program material, evaluation forms, master certificate of completion, and all records of who took programs and when) for a period of 4 years. See Standard No.13 for a complete list of records to be kept.

6. As a provider, do I have to upload PTIN information on everyone who took my programs? (revised 6/23/14)

Yes, you should report information for everyone who provides you a PTIN, regardless of their designation. It is the responsibility of the participant to provide you their PTIN. See Standard No.14.

7. How do I report program completion/PTIN information to the IRS? (revised 2/8/17)

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 and select "Programs/Manual PTINS". Then select PTIN Manual Reporting listed under Program Options for the appropriate program you wish to input data. 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. Note: If you are reporting instructor hours, you must use the manual reporting method.
  2. You can input the individual PTIN holder data into the PTIN Upload Template on the right side of the main menu and upload the document by selecting PTIN Upload on the left side of the main menu. This method is recommended for providers submitting more than 25 individual PTIN-level CE records at one time, but can be used for any number of records.

8. How often do I have to report program completion information to IRS? (revised 2/3/16)

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.

AFTR course completion information can only be submitted with completion dates of July 1 through December 31. 

Programs/courses must be completed by midnight local time of the student on December 31 to count for current calendar year credit.

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

9. Where can I find the template for uploading PTIN information? (revised 9/14/16)

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

10. 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.

11. What do I do if an attendee doesn’t have a PTIN? (revised 6/23/14) 

Participants must provide a PTIN if they wish to obtain IRS credit.

12. How will I know if the PTIN that I collected is correct? (revised 9/14/16)

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

13. 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.

14. What should I do if I incorrectly reported a participant’s program completion/PTIN information to the IRS? (revised 3/6/17)

If you submit a PTIN record with incorrect information, you should delete the incorrect PTIN record by clicking the Remove button next to the appropriate PTIN record, under the specific program in your CE Provider account. Wait at least 24 hours after removing the incorrect record before submitting the corrected record.

Adding/Changing/Deleting Programs

1. My organization has already received approval, but I want to add programs.  How do I do that? (revised 2/8/17)

Log into the CE Provider system. On the front page, select “Program/Manual PTINS” and then click the Add Program button. Your program numbers will appear on your most recent approval/renewal letter and Form 8498 as they are added to your account.  These documents can be found at the bottom of your CE Provider home screen under "CE Provider Applications".

New programs generally will be approved and a program number issued within 24 hours..

2. When is it okay to delete a program? (revised 2/4/15)

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. 2015) 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. 2013, 2014), you no longer intend to offer or sell the program moving forward, and you have reported ALL PTIN records, you may delete it from your current account.

    IMPORTANT TIP! If you have a PTIN to report in the current year that has a prior year completion date, the program MUST be in your CE provider account under the prior year program link found on the main screen of your account in order to successfully report the record.
  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. What information do I need to include on the certificate of completion? (revised 6/23/14)

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 or an approved provider for other organizations, can my certificate of completion for the IRS be a joint certificate? (revised 6/23/14)

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


1. What information must be on an evaluation form? (revised 6/23/14)

See the sample evaluation (pdf). 

2. Is completion of the evaluation form required by participants? (revised 6/23/14)
Providers must provide participants a means of evaluation, but completion of the form by participants is voluntary. Evaluation forms must be retained for a period of four years. The feedback should be utilized to improve your program material or delivery. RPO may request this information while conducting a CE Provider Review. (see Standard No.9).


1. How often must my organization renew its continuing education provider status? (revised 9/14/16)
Your organization must renew its continuing education provider status and pay the annual CE Provider fee each calendar year (currently $565). 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 11/13/14)
It depends. During the renewal process, all of your existing 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 prior year program exactly the way it is with no changes whatsoever, the program will retain its original program number
  2. If you want to edit an existing program, you may make changes to all fields – content, category, credit hours, audience type and delivery method. Selecting this option will generate a new program number. Remember, program content changes are defined as significant changes to the program material, not a simple update such as the current mileage rates, or new tax rates, etc. Selecting this option will generate a new 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.

Note: You cannot renew an AFTR course. You must add a new AFTR course each year to ensure course content is current. 

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 9/14/16)

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 $565.00). PLEASE DO NOT create a new application by selecting the "Apply Now" button on the login page.

5. Does renewal cause my CE provider number and/or program numbers to change? (revised 6/23/14)

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.

6.  How long do I have to report PTIN records if I choose not to renew an existing program? (revised 6/23/14)

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

7. If a self-study program was offered one year and will not be offered the next, does that program need to be renewed to report PTIN data? (revised 6/23/14) 

No, prior year program numbers can be uploaded with current year completion dates as long as the program is NOT removed from the prior year program link in the CE Provider system on the main page.