Frequently Asked Questions: Do I Need a PTIN?
a. General Guidance
1. Who needs a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN)? (revised 2/22/12)
A PTIN must be obtained by all enrolled agents, as well as all tax return preparers who are compensated for preparing, or assisting in the preparation of, all or substantially all of any U.S. federal tax return, claim for refund, or other tax form submitted to the IRS except the following:
Form SS-4, Application for Employer Identification Number;
Form SS-8, Determination of Worker Status for Purposes of Federal Employment Taxes and Income Tax Withholding;
Form SS-16, Certificate of Election of Coverage under FICA;
Form W-2 series of returns;
Form W-7, Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number;
Form W-8BEN, Certificate of Foreign Status of Beneficial Owner for United States Tax Withholding;
Form 870, Waiver of Restrictions on Assessment and Collection of Deficiency in Tax and Acceptance of Overassessment;
Form 872, Consent to Extend the Time to Assess Tax;
Form 906, Closing Agreement On Final Determination Covering Specific Matters;
Form 1098 series;
Form 1099 series;
Form 2848, Power of Attorney and Declaration of Representative;
Form 3115, Application for Change in Accounting Method;
Form 4029, Application for Exemption From Social Security and Medicare Taxes and Waiver of Benefits;
Form 4361, Application for Exemption From Self-Employment Tax for Use by Ministers, Members of Religious Orders and Christian Science Practitioners;
Form 4419, Application for Filing Information Returns Electronically;
Form 5300, Application for Determination for Employee Benefit Plan;
Form 5307, Application for Determination for Adopters of Master or Prototype or Volume Submitter Plans;
Form 5310, Application for Determination for Terminating Plan;
Form 5500 series;
Form 8027, Employer’s Annual Information Return of Tip Income and Allocated Tips;
Form 8288-A, Statement of Withholding on Dispositions by Foreign Persons of U.S. Real Property Interests;
Form 8288-B, Application for Withholding Certificate for Dispositions by Foreign Persons of U.S. Real Property Interests;
Form 8508, Request for Waiver From Filing Information Returns Electronically;
Form 8717, User Fee for Employee Plan Determination, Opinion, and Advisory Letter Request;
Form 8809, Application for Extension of Time to File Information Return;
Form 8821, Tax Information Authorization;
Form 8942, Application for Certification of Qualified Investments Eligible for Credits and Grants Under the Qualifying Therapeutic Discovery Project Program
Refer to the scenarios for additional guidance.
2. Are individuals who are active attorneys and certified public accountants required to obtain a PTIN if they do not prepare all or substantially all of any tax return? (revised 2/22/12)
Attorneys and certified public accountants do not need to obtain a PTIN unless they prepare for compensation all or substantially all of a federal tax return or claim for refund.
3. Are enrolled retirement plan agents required to obtain a PTIN? (posted 11/4/11)
Enrolled Retirement Plan Agents are only required to obtain a PTIN if they prepare or assist in the preparation of all or substantially all of any tax return or claim for refund that is not on the list of forms exempt from the PTIN requirement. ERPAs that prepare only Form 5300 or 5500 series returns are not required to obtain a PTIN. See Notice 2011-91 for more information.
4. Can multiple individuals or one office share one PTIN? (revised 6/9/11)
No, every individual who, for compensation, prepares or assists in the preparation of a tax return or claim for refund must have his or her own PTIN and each tax return preparer may only obtain one PTIN.
5. If I don't have a PTIN, can I still prepare tax returns for compensation? (revised 10/10/13)
No. You must have a PTIN to prepare tax returns for compensation.
6. Is there an age requirement for obtaining a PTIN? (posted 9/30/10)
Yes, applicants must be at least 18 years of age.
7. What penalties can be imposed against tax return preparers who don't have a current PTIN? (revised 2/22/12)
Failure to have a current PTIN could result in the imposition of Internal Revenue Code section 6695 penalties, injunction, and/or disciplinary action by the IRS Office of Professional Responsibility.
8. What is the difference between a PTIN and an EFIN? Does a preparer need both? (revised 6/21/17)
A Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) is a number issued by the IRS to paid tax return preparers. It is used as the tax return preparer’s identification number and, when applicable, must be placed in the Paid Preparer section of a tax return that the tax return preparer prepared for compensation. There is no fee for a PTIN.
An Electronic Filing Identification Number (EFIN) is a number issued by the IRS to individuals or firms that have been approved as authorized IRS e-file providers. It is included with all electronic return data transmitted to the IRS. There is no fee for an EFIN.
Preparer Tax Identification Numbers are issued to individuals. Electronic Filing Identification Numbers are issued to individuals or firms. Most preparers need both.
9. If an employee of a business prepares the business’ tax returns as part of their job responsibilities, do they need to obtain a PTIN? (revised 9/28/10)
No. An employee who prepares his employer’s federal tax returns is not required to sign as a paid preparer. Accordingly, unless the employee prepares other federal tax returns for compensation, he or she is not required to register and obtain a PTIN.
10. Are e-file transmitters or intermediate service providers that do not prepare returns subject to the PTIN requirements? (revised 9/28/10)
No. E-file providers that assist in the formatting and transmission of tax returns electronically, but do not prepare all or substantially all of a federal tax return or claim for refund for compensation, are not required to obtain a PTIN.
11. Will the IRS share my PTIN application information with other people? (revised 4/19/12)
The law allows vendors and others to obtain the PTIN holder listing. PTIN holders are not allowed to opt out of the disclosure of their contact information because Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) laws make the information public. If you receive unwanted email solicitations due to this required disclosure, the Federal Trade Commission, Bureau of Consumer Protection can best advise you whether an email violates the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 and how to report violations.
In order to maintain privacy PTIN holders may want to review and/or update contact information.
12. What are the requirements for people who prepare returns other than the Form 1040 series? (revised 2/7/13)
Non-1040 preparers generally need a PTIN. For exemptions to the PTIN requirement, see FAQ 1 at the top of this page under General Guidance
13. When multiple paid preparers are involved in preparation and/or review of a return, who is required to sign the return? (posted 8/11/10)
Existing Treasury regulations under sections 1.6695-1(b) and 301.7701-15(b)(1) provide that a signing tax return preparer is the individual tax return preparer who has the primary responsibility for the overall accuracy of the preparation of a return. The PTIN requirements, which require all preparers to register and obtain a PTIN, do not change the existing rules regarding who is the signing tax return preparer.
14. Are non-signing preparers disclosed on each return prepared even if another preparer reviews and signs it? (revised 2/7/13)
No, the names of non-signing preparers are not disclosed on the return. Although there is no plan to expand the paid preparer section of the return to include non-signing preparers, they still are required to have a PTIN.
15. If I don't prepare any Form 1040 returns but prepare returns that flow-through to Forms 1040 such as Schedules K-1 for Forms 1065 or 1120S, how do I answer the question, "Do you prepare Form 1040 series tax returns?" (posted 10/12/11)
You should answer "no".
b. PTIN Scenarios
1. I am a tax return preparer, and I have a PTIN. My firm employs a bookkeeper. She gathers client receipts and invoices, and organizes and records all information for me. Although I use the information that our bookkeeper has compiled, I prepare my clients’ tax returns and make all substantive determinations that go into computing the tax liability. Does my bookkeeper need to have a PTIN? (posted 9/28/10)
No, she is not a tax return preparer, and is not required to have a PTIN.
2. I am a tax return preparer, and I have a PTIN. Every tax filing season I hire two paid interns from the accounting program at a local college to help me during the busy season. The interns perform data entry from the tax organizer that my clients fill out, and assemble the documentation that the clients have submitted. Where clients have submitted incomplete information, or more information is needed, the interns may call clients to gather information missing from the tax organizer, but they are not allowed to provide advice or answer tax law questions. I prepare and sign all my clients’ returns. Do my interns need to have a PTIN? (posted 9/28/10)
No, the interns are not tax return preparers, and are not required to have a PTIN.
3. Same facts as above, but in order to help my interns get exposure to the tax system, I allow them to work with clients who have very simple tax situations, and prepare the Form 1040-EZ. I review the forms carefully, and sign them. Are my interns required to have PTINs? (posted 9/28/10)
Yes, the interns are tax return preparers and are required to have a PTIN, whether or not they sign the returns.
4. I am a tax return preparer, and I have a PTIN. I have an administrative assistant in the office who also performs data entry during tax filing season. At times, clients call and provide him with information, which he records in the system. Using the data he has entered, I meet with my clients and provide advice as needed. I then prepare and sign their returns. Is my administrative assistant required to have a PTIN? posted 9/28/10)
No, the administrative assistant is not a tax return preparer, and is not required to have a PTIN.
5. I am a retired tax professional, and I volunteer during the tax filing season. I volunteer at a VITA site, where I prepare individual tax returns for lower-income individuals for no compensation. Do I need to have a PTIN? (revised 10/10/13)
No, you are not required to have a PTIN.
6. I run a small tax return preparation business that is heavily software-based. I employ four associates who sit with taxpayers and walk through a step-by-step software program that uses an “interview” process that results in a draft tax return. I check and sign the returns, and I have a PTIN. Do my four associates need to have a PTIN? (posted 9/28/10)
You will need to perform additional analysis to determine whether your four associates must have a PTIN. The answer depends on the specific circumstances of your firm. In general, if individuals prepare, or assist in preparing, all or substantially all of a tax return, including making determinations that affect tax liability, they must have a PTIN.
7. I am a reporting agent who prepares Forms 94X series returns for my clients for compensation. I do not exercise any discretion or independent judgment on my client's underlying tax positions and I do not render tax advice to any of my clients. Do I need a PTIN? (revised 1/3/11)
No. The PTIN regulations incorporate the carve-out from the definition of tax return preparer in Treasury Regulation section 301.7701–15(f) for individuals who provide only typing, reproduction, or other mechanical assistance in the preparation of a return or claim for refund. Example one under Treasury Regulation section 301.7701-15(f)(6) provides that reporting agents who do not exercise any discretion or independent judgment on the client's underlying tax positions and who do not render tax advice to any clients are carved-out under this exception and, therefore, are not tax return preparers.
8. I am a reporting agent who prepares Forms 94X series returns for my clients for compensation. On occasion, my clients ask me for assistance with issues such as determining whether their workers are employees or independent contractors for federal tax purposes. Do I need a PTIN? (revised 1/3/11)
Yes. The PTIN regulations require all tax return preparers who are compensated for preparing, or assisting in the preparation of, all or substantially all of a tax return or claim for refund of tax to register and obtain a PTIN.The carve-out from the definition of tax return preparer for individuals who provide only typing, reproduction, or other mechanical assistance in the preparation of a return or claim for refund does not apply to reporting agents who render tax advice to any client (example two under Treasury Regulation section 301.7701-15(f)(6)).
9. I am a retirement plan administrator who prepares Forms 5500 and the accompanying schedules for my clients. I also prepare Forms 8955-SSA and Form 5558 for my clients. While the Form 5500 series returns are included in the list of forms exempted from the PTIN requirements in Notice 2011-6, the Forms 8955-SSA and Forms 5558 are not included in that list. Am I required to obtain a PTIN? (posted 3/4/11)
No. The Form 8955-SSA, Annual Registration Statement Identifying Separated Participants With Deferred Vested Participants, and Form 5558, Application for Extension of Time to File Certain Employee Plan Returns, are, for purposes of Notice 2011-6, part of the "Form 5500 series" of tax returns inasmuch as these forms are prepared either in conjunction with the filing of a retirement plan's Form 5500 filing or to request an extension of time to file a Form 5500 series tax return.
10. Is an attorney or a certified public accountant required to obtain a PTIN if the attorney or certified public accountant only advises a client regarding an issue that is reflected on a claim for refund? (posted 3/4/11)
An attorney or certified public accountant is required to obtain a PTIN if the attorney or certified public accountant prepares, or assists in preparing, all or substantially all of a return or claim for refund. Under the authority of section 1.6109-2(h), however, an attorney or certified public accountant will not be required to obtain a PTIN if the attorney or certified public accountant only advises a client regarding an issue that is reflected on a claim for refund and neither the attorney or certified public accountant nor any person in the firm of the attorney or certified public accountant signs or is required to sign the claim for refund under Treasury Regulation sections 301.7701-15(b)(1) and 1.6695-1(b). The attorney or certified public accountant in question is still a nonsigning tax return preparer subject to penalty under section 6694 if the attorney or certified public accountant has prepared all or a substantial portion of the claim for refund within the meaning of Treasury Regulation section 301.7701-15(b)(3).
11. Our company prepares Forms 2290 for our clients. It is the only federal tax form we prepare. Are our employees subject to any of the new regulations? (revised 2/7/13)
Yes, any individual who receives compensation for preparing Forms 2290 is required to register with the IRS and obtain a PTIN.
12. If someone only prepares or assists with preparing Form 1023 for compensation, should they obtain a PTIN? (posted 3/7/12)
Generally yes. More information about PTIN requirements for preparers of exempt organization forms is available here.
13. I own a tax preparation business and I review and sign all the returns my employees prepare. Do they need PTINs? (revised 2/7/13)
Yes. Anyone you hire to prepare tax returns needs a PTIN regardless of whether you review and sign the returns.
c. SSN Requirements for Obtaining a PTIN
1. Is a social security number required to obtain a PTIN? (revised 4/13/11)
Individuals generally are required to provide their social security numbers when they obtain a PTIN. However, U.S. citizens who have a conscientious objection to obtaining a social security number for religious reasons and foreign persons who are not eligible to obtain a social security number and have a permanent non-U.S. address may obtain a PTIN without a social security number. These individuals are required to provide supplemental documentation to verify their identity and substantiate their eligibility for a PTIN under these specific exceptions. See questions 2 and 3 below or Revenue Procedure 2010-41 for additional guidance.
Individuals who have an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) are not eligible for a PTIN unless they are foreign persons with a permanent non-U.S. address, and can provide documentation to support that status.
2. How do U.S. citizens without a social security number due to a conscientious objection for religious reasons obtain a PTIN? (revised 3/21/14)
U.S. citizens who have a conscientious objection to obtaining a social security number for religious reasons must complete Form W-12, IRS Paid Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) Application, either online or on paper, and a paper Form 8945, PTIN Supplemental Application For U.S. Citizens Without a Social Security Number Due To Conscientious Religious Objection.
Documentation to substantiate identity, U.S. citizenship, and status as a member of a recognized religious group must accompany the Form 8945. Documentation requirements and mailing information are included in the Form 8945 instructions. Allow 4-6 weeks to process your PTIN application.
3. How do foreign preparers without a social security number obtain a PTIN? (revised 12/7/16)
A foreign preparer who does not have and is not eligible to obtain a social security number and is neither a citizen of the U.S. nor a resident alien of the U.S. as defined in section 7701(b)(1)(A) will need to complete the Form W-12, IRS Paid Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) Application and Form 8946, PTIN Supplemental Application For Foreign Persons Without a Social Security Number. This can be completed through your online PTIN account or by submitting a paper Form W-12 and Form 8946. Only preparers that have a foreign (non-U.S.) address may file this form.
Individuals who have an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) are not eligible for a PTIN unless they are foreign persons with a permanent non-U.S. address.
Original documents, or notarized or certified copies of documents must be submitted that verify your foreign status identity. This documentation can be mailed to the address included in the Form 8946 instructions if submitting by mail or uploaded using your online PTIN account.
Examples of acceptable supporting documents verifying foreign status identity:
- Passport (the only stand-alone document)
- Visa Issued by U.S. Department of State
- Foreign Military ID card
- Foreign voter’s registration card
- Civil birth certificate
- National ID card
- Foreign driver’s license
Notarized copies - must be notarized by a U.S. notary public or foreign notary legally authorized within his or her local jurisdiction to certify that each document is a true copy of the original. The notary must see the valid, unaltered, original documents and verify that the copies conform to the original. You must submit the copy that bears the mark (stamp, signature, etc.) of the notary.
Certified copies - must have a stamp or an ink seal. Any copy certified by a foreign official must be issued by the agency or official custodian of the original record. The foreign certification must clearly certify that each document is a true copy of the original. All certifications must be included when the documents are submitted.
Note: A notarized Passport is considered the only acceptable stand-alone document. If you do not have a current Passport, you will need to provide 2 notarized documents from the list of acceptable documents below.
Please allow 4-6 weeks for the IRS to review. Once the foreign status and identity documents have been verified and approved, you will be notified to log in and finish the online PTIN application process.
4. I have a social security number, but have not filed an income tax return with the IRS. My individual income tax returns were filed with the Departamento de Hacienda (Puerto Rico). How do I obtain a PTIN? (revised 1/30/2017)
If you are a Puerto Rican resident who has never filed a U.S. individual income tax return, you can complete and submit an application online through your online PTIN account. From the main menu select PTIN Sign-up (No Recent Tax Return) for the year you wish to register for a PTIN. Follow the online prompts to complete the application process.
If you prefer, you can register for a PTIN by submitting a paper Form W-12. Ensure the address on Line 8b of the Form W-12 matches the information from your Hacienda tax return information. You must submit the original or a notarized or certified copy of your social security card along with one other government issued document that contains a current photo ID. Examples of acceptable supporting documents are listed below. All documents must be a current original documents or notarized or certified copies, and must verify your name. Refer to Form W-12 instructions for complete information regarding acceptable supporting documentation and application requirements.
Examples of acceptable supporting documents:
- Passport/Passport Card
- Driver's License
- U.S. State ID Card
- Military ID Card
- National ID card
Send Form W-12 and supporting documentation to:
IRS Tax Pro PTIN Processing Center
1605 George Dieter PMB 678
El Paso TX 79936
Note: The IRS will accept original documents or notarized or certified copies of documents. Original documents will be returned to the preparer at the mailing address shown on the Form W-12. Although the IRS will accept original documents, it is recommended that preparers submit copies of original documents in accordance with either of the requirements outlined below:
- Certified copies - must be certified by the issuing agency or official custodian of the original record. All certifications must stay attached to the copies of the documents when they are submitted to the IRS.
- Notarized copies - must be notarized by a U.S. notary public. The notary must see the valid, unaltered, original documents and verify that the copies conform to the original. You must submit the copy that bears the mark (stamp, signature, etc.) of the notary.
Photocopies or faxes of notarized or certified documents are not acceptable.