How do I apply for Professional Employer Organization certification?


CPEO applicants must complete an application through the IRS Online Registration System. Both the CPEO applicant and its responsible individuals must complete portions of the application. A “responsible individual” is generally an individual who:

  •  owns at least 33 percent of the CPEO applicant;
  • is a director, officer, managing member, or sole proprietor of the CPEO applicant; or
  • controls, manages, or supervises the CPEO applicant, its operations, finances, or federal employment tax compliance.

Section 301.7705-1(b)(13) provides the technical definition of a responsible individual for purposes of the CPEO program.

CPEOs and CPEO applicants that are members of a Controlled Group create a Controlled Group license (CGRP-######) within the IRS Online Registration System. Controlled group refers to any controlled group of corporations or trades or businesses under common control within the meaning of sections 414(b) and (c) of the Internal Revenue Code and related regulations. Only CPEOs and CPEO applicants that are members of a controlled group of which other CPEOs or CPEO applicants are members are permitted to create a controlled group license. The Controlled Group license will link its members in the system and allow for certain documents (i.e. Surety Bond and Annual Audited Financial Statements) to be submitted once for all CPEO and CPEO applicant members of the controlled group, so that each member doesn’t have to submit the same documents separately. 

The portions of the application that relate to the CPEO applicant must be completed and submitted under penalty of perjury by the CPEO applicant’s designated application submitter. Any responsible individual who is legally authorized to receive the CPEO applicant’s return information is authorized to serve as the application submitter.

Background and suitability checks will be conducted on all responsible individuals. Each responsible individual needs to submit fingerprints electronically for the criminal background check to be conducted. Fingerprinting for the CPEO program is completed electronically by following the steps below:

  1. Schedule an appointment at Fieldprint®
  2. Attend your appointment with the proper identification documentation
  3. Upon completion of your appointment, notify the application submitter of the CPEO that you have completed the fingerprint process

For additional instructions on scheduling your appointment please see Publication 5249 PDF.

The sequence for completing an application for certification is:

  1. Individual Identity Verification
  2. Responsible Individual Personal Attestation (RIPA)
  3. Complete the fingerprint process
  4. Create a controlled group (If applicable)
  5. CPEO Application

The user fee for Professional Employer Organization certification is $1,000. You will be prompted to pay this fee from the online system.

Refer to Publication 5375, How to Upload Documents to the IRS Online Registration System (CPEO) PDF for details on how to upload documents successfully.

After you have submitted the information requested for each sequence, you will be notified via the online system that the submission is complete, and you will be offered a one-time opportunity to print a summary of that information for your records.

For more information about the application process, see Revenue Procedure 2023-18 and the CPEO FAQs.

Refer to the CPEO Application Privacy Act and Paperwork Reduction Act Notice for guidance on why this information is being requested, how it may be used or disclosed, and the estimated average time needed to complete and submit the application.

CPEO application

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