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The IRS specifications for the competency test individuals must pass to become a Registered Tax Return Preparer identify the major topics that will be covered by the test, which is now available.

Although individuals who already have a provisional preparer tax identification number (PTIN) from the IRS do not have to pass the exam until Dec. 31, 2013, they may take the exam at any time once it is available. The test must be taken at one of the roughly 260 Prometric facilities nationwide.

To be designated as a Registered Tax Return Preparer, you must complete:
  • The competency test,
  • a background check,
  • a tax compliance check, and
  • 15 hours (annually) of continuing education.
The competency test will have approximately 120 questions in a combination of multiple choice and true or false format. Questions will be weighted and individuals will receive a pass or fail score, with diagnostic feedback provided to those who fail. The time limit for the test is two and a half hours. 

The IRS provided the following list of study materials to assist in test preparation.

Publication 17, Form 1040, and Form 1040 instructions will be available during the test as reference materials.

The fee for the test is $116, which is separate from the PTIN user fee. Currently there is no limit on the number of times preparers can take the test, but they must pay the fee each time. Individuals must pass the test only once.

Attorneys, Certified Public Accounts, and Enrolled Agents (EAs) are exempt from testing and continuing education. Exempt individuals are required to identify themselves when they renew an existing PTIN or obtain a new PTIN.

The IRS will notify those preparers who have a testing requirement and provide more details. Once the test is available, preparers who have on-line accounts at can use their accounts to schedule a test time and select a Prometric site.

For additional information, please visit the IRS website Registered Tax Return Preparer Competency Test Information.

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