IRS Annual Filing Season Program

This IRS voluntary program aims to recognize the efforts of non-credentialed return preparers who aspire to a higher level of professionalism. Practitioners can meet the requirements by renewing their PTIN, obtaining 18 hours of continuing education, including a six hour federal tax law refresher course and test and consenting to adhere to specific practice obligations outlined to Circular 230 to receive an Annual Filing Season Program – Record of Completion from the IRS.

Beginning January 1, 2016, rules about who may represent clients before the IRS will change. Attorneys, certified public accountants and enrolled agents will continue to have full representation rights for all clients before all IRS offices.

Annual Filing Season Program Record of Completion Holders will have limited representation rights, meaning they can represent clients whose returns they prepare and sign, but only before examination, customer service representatives, and the Taxpayer Advocate Service. (To have limited representation rights, you must participate both in the year of return preparation and the year of representation).

Other tax return preparers who do not participate in the Annual Filing Season Program will not be permitted to represent any clients before the IRS for tax returns and claims for refund prepared and signed after December 31, 2015.

Additionally, by participating in the Annual Filing Season Program, you will be included in the "Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications" at

Annual Filing Season Program Requirements

What are the requirements for obtaining an Annual Filing Season Program – Record of Completion for 2019?

To obtain an Annual Filing Season Program – Record of Completion a return preparer must:

  • a six (6) hour Annual Federal Tax Refresher (AFTR) course that covers filing season issues and tax law updates, as well as a knowledge-based comprehension test administered at the end of the course by the CE Provider;
  • ten (10) hours of other federal tax law topics; and
  • two (2) hours of ethics.

Preparers who have passed recognized state or national tests including the ATP and ABA qualify for an exemption from the AFTR course.

The Accreditation Council for Accountancy and Taxation (ACAT) is a non-profit independent testing, accrediting and monitoring organization. Professionals receive accreditation through examination for these four credentials:

  • Accredited Business Accountant/Advisor
  • Accredited Tax Preparer
  • Accredited Tax Advisor
  • Accredited Retirement Advisor

Who is Exempt?

Who is exempt from taking the AFTR course & Exam?
Some unenrolled preparers are exempt from the AFTR course requirement because of their completion of other recognized state or national competency tests. These exempt groups are still required to meet other program requirements, including 15 CE credits (10 Federal Tax Law, 3 Federal Tax Law Updates, and 2 Ethics).

Return preparers who can obtain the AFTR – Record of Completion without taking the AFTR course & exam are:
Anyone who passed the Registered Tax Return Preparer test administered by the IRS between November 2011 and January 2013.
Established state-based return preparer program participants currently with testing requirements: Return preparers who are active members of the Oregon Board of Tax Practitioners, the California Tax Education Council and/or Maryland State Board of Individual Tax Preparers.
Other accredited tax-focused credential-holders: The Accreditation Council for Accountancy and Taxation’s Accredited Business Accountant/Advisor (ABA) and Accredited Tax Preparer (ATP) programs.
SEE Part I Test-Passers: Tax practitioners who have passed the Special Enrollment Exam Part I within the past two years.
VITA volunteers: Quality reviewers and return preparers with active PTINs.