Legislative / Regulatory | Taxation

IRS PTIN confusion

Have you received e-mails about PTIN registration recently?


Chances are they are not from the IRS, but rather from a myriad of tax providers wanting to sell you services related to the IRS PTIN requirement.


The official PTIN notices (and yes, you do have to file and pay annually) will be coming from the IRS. You should only respond to the official IRS e-mails or just renew online at the IRS PTIN site.


Yes, you have to have a PTIN. If you are an inactive licensed CPA, you will need to regster for a PTIN, take the exam, and take 15 hours of CPE to be qualified as a RITP (Registered Income Tax Preparer), or get your license renewed to "active" before year-end.


Actively licensed CPAs and non-signing staff are exmept from all of the other PTIN requirements, including the CPE requirement.


Here is some offical guidance from our friends at the Texas Society of CPAs:

Several PTIN sites go live; be wary of providing profile information

PTINdirectory.com and several other companies have launched searchable consumer databases. They are primarily advertising websites using information from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) list purchased legally under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). They are not IRS third-party vendors or otherwise associated with the IRS, but may look very similar to irs.gov. The IRS Return Preparer Office is aware that some PTIN websites are up and running. The IRS plans to have an official searchable PTIN database for taxpayers to verify the credentials of preparers sometime next year.

These websites do not have access to preparers' PTIN numbers. However, the IRS advises that if you used your personal mailing address as your business mailing address on your PTIN application or used a street address when you would have preferred to provide a post office box (now an option), you may want to update your contact information. It is not exempt from disclosure under FOIA rules and it will be released even if it is the same as your personal mailing address.

Vendors have access to PTIN holders' e-mail addresses. Preparers may receive e-mails from these sites to verify and update PTIN profiles. They also will likely offer an annual upgrade to promote personal data for a nominal fee. If you receive unwanted solicitations due to this required disclosure, the Federal Trade Commission Bureau of Consumer Protection provides guidance on whether an e-mail or other contact violates the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 and how to report violations. So far, we have not seen PTIN holder e-mails shared with the general public through the databases.

Never fall for a fake IRS e-mail

Some preparers and their clients are experiencing a higher volume of bogus IRS e-mails. The phishing scams often advise unsuspecting recipients that they have a refund due, are under investigation, have been assessed a late-file penalty, that a federal tax deposit or payment has been rejected, or possibly refers to a non-existent tax form.

It's a good time to remind clients that the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by e-mail or any social media tools to request personal and financial information. Further, credit card or PIN numbers would never be required to inquire about the status of a tax return. To avoid malware, taxpayers should not click on any links, open any attachments, or reply to the sender for this or any other unsolicited e-mails about their tax account.

You can report suspicious e-mails to phishing@irs.gov. The IRS can use the information, URLs and links in the bogus e-mails to trace the hosting websites and alert authorities to help shut down fraudulent sites.