Annual Filing Season program (AFSP)
The Annual Filing Season Program (AFSP) was implemented by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to encourage non-credentialed tax return preparers (those who are not CPAs, Enrolled Agents, or tax attorneys) to maintain a working level of tax knowledge through continuing education. Because tax law is dynamic, it is imperative for all tax preparers to keep abreast of any changes in the law as well as maintain a level of proficiency in general tax knowledge to adequately assist taxpayers with their income tax filing needs. The AFSP is aimed at providing standards that allow noncredentialed preparers to meet these educational goals. The program also allows preparers to be recognized for participating in the program by providing a certificate of completion, inclusion in the IRS public directory of tax return preparers, and limited representation rights* before specific government offices.
What are the AFSP requirements?
The IRS provides Publication 5227, Annual Filing Season Program, as a guide for those wishing to participate in the AFSP. To complete the program, tax preparers who are not credentialed and not exempt are required to complete 18 hours of continuing education courses for the 2017 tax year; 2 hours of ethics, 10 hours of federal tax law, and a 6 hour Annual Federal Tax Refresher (AFTR) Course and exam. The AFTR comprehensive exam consists of a minimum of 100 questions and must be completed within 3 hours. The courses and exam must be administered by an IRS authorized contiuing education provider.
Who is exempt from the AFTR course?
Credentialed preparers (Certified Public Accountants, Tax Attorneys, Enrolled Retirement Plan Agents, and Enrolled Agents), State-certified tax preparers**, and tax preparers who have passed the Registered Tax Return Preparer Test offered by the IRS in 2012 and 2013 are exempt from the AFTR requirement to complete the AFSP. Preparers who have passed the Special Enrollment Exam, Part 1 within the past two years, VITA volunteers, and those credentialed in the ABA and ATP programs are also exempt from the AFTR requirement. Exempt preparers who still wish to obtain the AFSP Record of Completion must complete a minimum of 15 hours of continuing education courses for the 2016 tax year; 2 hours of ethics, 10 hours of federal tax law, and 3 hours of federal tax law updates.
AFSP Continuing Education Requirements
|Federal Tax Law||Federal Tax Law Updates||Ethics||Annual Tax Refresher Course||Total CE Hours|
What is the benefit to participating in the AFSP?
Participation in the AFSP allows noncredentialed tax return preparers to be proficient in their knowledge of the latest individual income tax law. Clients of AFSP participants can be assured that their tax preparer is a qualified professional who is aware of current tax law and has the knowledge to accurately prepare their return. Successful completion of the AFSP allows the participant to be included in the IRS directory of tax return preparers and allows them to have limited representation rights with regard to their clients' returns. The participant will also receive a Record of Completion to attest that they have met all requirements of the AFSP.
To receive the benefits for successful completion of the AFSP, the tax preparer must consent to adhere to the obligations set forth in Circular 2303, Regulations Governing Practice, subpart B, and section 10.51 to receive their Record of Completion. Information regarding the Circular 230 consent process can be found through the following link: Consenting to Circular 230 Requirements.
* Tax preparers with limited representation rights can represent clients (whose returns they have prepared and signed) with respect to initial audits and customer service matters. They can also represent their clients (whose returns they have prepared and signed) before the Taxpayer Advocate Service.