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KAREN RUSSELL: It is nearly the top of the hour. And I want to welcome everyone that has joined us. And thank you for coming to today's webinar, Return Preparer Office: What You Should Know.

We're glad you're joining us today. My name is Karen Russell and I'm a Stakeholder Liaison with the Internal Revenue Service and I am the moderator for today's webinar, which is slated for 75 minutes. Before we begin, if there is anyone in the audience that is with the media, will you send an e-mail to the address on the slide? Be sure to include your contact information and the news publication you're with. Our Media Relations and Stakeholder Liaison staff will assist you and answer any questions you may have. And as a reminder, this webinar will be recorded and posted to the IRS Video Portal in a few weeks. And again, that portal address is located at And just note continuing education or certificates of completion are not offered if you view any version of our webinars after the live broadcast. We hope you don't or won't experience any technology issues today. But if you do, this slide shows helpful tips and reminders. We've also posted a technical help document that you can download from the, Materials, section on the left side of the screen and it provides the minimum system requirements for viewing this webinar, along with best practices and quick solutions. So, if you have completed and passed your system check and you're still having problems, try one of the following. The first option is to close screen where you're viewing the webinar and relaunch it. The second option is to click on, Settings, on your browser viewing screen and select, HLS. You should have received today's PowerPoint in a reminder e-mail, but if you didn't, you don't have to worry about that. You can download a copy of the PowerPoint by clicking on the, Materials, drop-down arrow on the left side of your screen as shown on the slide. Closed captioning is available for today's presentation. So, if you're having difficulty hearing the audio through your computer speakers, just click the Closed-Captioning drop-down arrow located on the left side of your screen and this feature will be available throughout the webinar. During the presentation, we will take breaks to share knowledge-based questions with you and, at those times, a polling-style feature will pop up on your screen with a question and multiple-choice answers.

You'll select the response you believe is correct by clicking on the radio button next to your selection and then clicking, Submit. So, if some of you do not get the polling question, it may be because your pop-up blocker is on. So, please take a moment right now to disable your pop-up blocker, so you can answer the questions. OK. If you have a topic-specific question today, please submit it by clicking the, Ask Question, drop-down arrow to reveal the textbox. Type your question in the textbox and then click, Send. And this is very important, do not enter any sensitive or taxpayer-specific information, please. So, again, I want to welcome you and thank you for joining us for today's webinar. Before we move along with our session, let's make sure everyone is in the right place. Today's webinar is, Return Preparer Office: What You Should Know, and it's scheduled for approximately 75 minutes. I'm going to introduce our speaker today. We're very lucky to have her. Carol A. Campbell is the director of the IRS Return Preparer Office. As Director, she is responsible for registering and promoting a qualified tax professional community. Her office handles the Preparer Tax Identification Number program, registration and renewal for more than 800,000 tax return preparers annual, provides oversight for the Annual Filing Season Program, and the enrollment and renewal for tax practitioner programs, Enrolled Agent, Enrolled Retirement Plan Agent, and Enrolled Actuary. The IRS Return Preparer Office also oversees continuing education and PTIN compliance. And, with that, Carol, I'm going to turn it over to you. CAROL A. CAMPBELL: Thank you so much, Karen. Good afternoon. And I am so glad to be with you today. I want to share just a little bit about matters addressed by the IRS Return Preparer Office. In the time we have together this afternoon, we will touch upon the four areas listed on the agenda. Hopefully, that's right before you. For some of you, it will be new. For others, it'll be just a refresher. So, what do we do? The Return Preparer Office serves taxpayers and tax professionals by being able to identify who is a tax return preparer by overseeing certain programs that promote preparer education, professionalism and compliance and addressing stakeholder issues that improve tax administration for us all. We do what we do because of your impact on successful tax administration. So, if you had never thought about it, thought about the importance of tax professionals to taxpayers, and tax administration, take a look at these numbers. Ninety-five million individual and business income tax returns were prepared by paid preparers in 2019, which amounted to $8.6 trillion, not billion, trillion dollars in total income, $1.4 trillion in total tax, and $340 billion in total refunds. I can't even wrap my mind around what those dollars actually look like and probably never will in my lifetime, but that's OK. Anyway, tax administration would not be what it is without you. So, who makes up the paid preparer community? By the numbers, at the end of August, we had 780,000 valid and active PTIN holders. Those numbers break down to 297,000 credentialed preparers, attorneys, Enrolled Agents and CPAs, and 484,000 non-credentialed preparers. As stated before, all of you provide a significant service to tax administration. But for just a minute, I'd like to talk to those of you who lack of credential. I want to be clear that the only requirement to prepare a tax return is to be at least 18 years of age and have a valid preparer tax identification number, a PTIN.

But I have listened to the frustration expressed by so many of you about preparers who abuse the process or misuse taxpayers, about trying to clean up a taxpayer's return that somebody else was paid to do, and that's a complete disaster. Or worst yet, about being lumped together with preparers, take taxpayer's money and then disappear. You worked so hard to advance the interest of taxpayers and tax administrations. What I would suggest to you is that you get the credential that recognizes you for the tax professional that you are. I encourage you to become an Enrolled Agent. And we'll talk a little later about the requirements for becoming an Enrolled Agent. But secondarily, while you work on that credential, participate in the Annual Season Filing Program.

We'll talk about those requirements a little later too. But I think now it's time for a polling question. Karen, do you think we can do that? RUSSELL: I think we can. So, let's go over our first polling question which is how many individual and business returns were prepared by paid preparers in 2019. Was it a) 62 million, b) 80 million, c) 95 million, or d) 75 million? Take a moment, review the question, click the radio button next to the answer that you believe is correct and click, Submit. How many individual and business returns were prepared by paid preparers in 2019? I'm going to give you just a few more seconds. OK. Let's close the polling and share the correct answer on the next slide. And the correct response is C, 95 million. And let's see how many of you got that correct. Seventy-six percent got that correct. Carol, do you want to go back over those numbers just to refresh the audience? CAMPBELL: Certainly. C is correct because last year, 2019, there were 95 million individual and business tax returns prepared by paid tax return preparers. So, if you selected any other number, you short changed yourself. Anyway, all right. RUSSELL: OK, Carol. Yes, thank you, Carol. So, let's keep going.

CAMPBELL: Yes. I was not going o go back, Karen. RUSSELL: I know. Ninety-five million. CAMPBELL: Ninety-five million, 95 million. All right. Let's move on. As most of you know, or at least I hope you do, if you're preparing tax returns and getting paid to do it, you are required to have a PTIN, which means you must be at least 18 to apply. PTIN is good for the calendar year from January 1 to December 31. We have a peak renewal season that usually starts in mid-October and we'll talk about that in a moment and it runs through December 31. You may not prepare returns in 2021 if you do not have a valid and an active PTIN. You may apply for or renew a PTIN online, by online or by using Form W-12. Form W-12 is the paper version of the form. The vast majority of you use the online system. I'm happy for that. For the few of you who don't, think about it. It's not hard to do. Not only must you have a valid PTIN to prepare a tax return, all Enrolled Agents must have an active PTIN. Although Enrolled Agent license renewals, which we will also talk about later, are generally every three years, Enrolled Agent PTINs, just like everybody else is, is required to be renewed every year. There are a few folks who always get that wrong, who believe that the PTIN only has to be renewed when their license has to be renewed. No. Your PTIN is required to be renewed every year. PTINs are, PTIN requirements are actually outlined a little later in this presentation, but I thought it was important to address that first because the next section is about, in the slide that's in front of you is about reinstatement of the PTIN's user fees. This year, in order to obtain your PTIN, we are reinstating the user fee. The cost to register for or renew your PTIN for 2021 is $35.95, $35.95. The user fee reflects the cost to the IRS to administer the program, which is the $21, and the vendor or contractor fees that represents the cost for processing the applications and staffing the call centers. The PTIN costs are related to the 2021 filing season and going forward. For those of you who might be a little delinquent in obtaining your PTIN for 2018, 2019 or 2020, you still must apply for the PTIN, but the user fee does not apply to those years. So, while you digest that a second, Karen, you want to set us up for another polling question? RUSSELL: I do. I do. Let's get the audience, keep them on their toes. OK. So, the second polling question is how much will it cost to obtain or renew a PTIN for 2021. Is it zero, which is a; b) $64; c) $35.95; or d) $182. What will it cost to obtain or renew a PTIN for 2021? I'm thinking everyone's going to get this right and we're going to have 100 percent accuracy. So, click the radio button next to the correct response and click, Submit. Let's just take a few more seconds to make your selection. All right. We're going to stop the polling and I will share the correct answer on the next slide. And the correct response is C, $35.95. And let's check this out. We have 97 percent accuracy rate. Way to go. All right, Carol.

So, it looks like you're going to cover PTIN requirements next. CAMPBELL: Actually, I think I'm going to skip this one. These are the PTIN requirements that I spoke about earlier. So, very quickly, anyone who prepares the tax return for compensation must have a PTIN. It will cost $35.95 to obtain or renew your PTIN for 2021. You must renew annually by December 31. And most of you know, we'll let you renew after that, but we always aim to get it done by December 31. You may renew online or use the Form W-12 and Enrolled Agents must have a PTIN. All right. Let's move to the next slide. This year's PTIN renewal season is scheduled to begin on October 15 for all PTIN holders. There will be some PTIN holders who will be invited to renew beginning on or around October 9. This allows us to ensure that the system is working correctly. So, there is no special people being allowed to renew before others. There are just some folks who generally come in early and they help us test the process. We want to ensure that the system is bug free and user friendly before we open it up to everyone. So, you know what, let's see if we can sneak in another polling question. How about it, Karen? RUSSELL: Okey dokey, let's do it. OK. I happen to have another one, obviously. OK, audience, this is our third polling question and it is a true-false statement. A PTIN must only be obtained by U.S. tax return preparers who are compensated for preparing all or substantially all of any U.S. federal tax return and by all enrolled agents. Is that a true statement or a false statement? A PTIN must only be obtained by U.S. tax return preparers who are compensated for preparing all or substantially all of any U.S. federal tax return and by all enrolled agents? Take a minute, read over the question, click the radio button next to the answer that you believe is correct. A few more seconds. OK. Let's stop the polling and I will share the correct answer on the next slide. And that is actually a False statement.

Let's see how everyone did. That is 18 percent accuracy rate. OK, girl tell them why. CAMPBELL: Karen was actually trying to telegraph. When she was reading that question, she kept highlighting, only, only. All right. A PTIN must be obtained by all being compensated to prepare a U.S. tax return, not just U.S. return preparer. So, if you are in India, being compensated to prepare a U.S. tax return, you are required to have a PTIN. So, we have U.S. tax return preparers and foreign tax return preparers. Everyone is required to have a PTIN if they are preparing U.S.

tax returns. I hope that helps clarify that. It was a little tricky and, you know, it was intended to be because I wanted to ensure that you were with me this afternoon. but anyway. But think about, and you'll be OK. All right. Let's move on to something other than PTIN. The next slide is about the Enrolled Agent credential and I highlighted this briefly at the start of this presentation. The Enrolled Agent credential is an elite credential offered by the IRS that is, has a reputation for proficiency in tax planning, individual and business tax return preparation and representation. You also must be 18 years of age to get an Enrolled Agent credential and you have to have, and you have to establish competency in tax matters. How do you establish competency in tax matters? You test. There is a three-part test and we'll talk about that in just a moment. But once you become an Enrolled Agent, you have unlimited practice rights. What does that mean? It means you may represent your client before the IRS whether the issue is collection, exam, or appeals . It's not dependent upon whether you actually prepared a return for the taxpayer. You have unlimited practice rights before the IRS. You are also listed in the IRS online preparer directory. It's called the Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with credentials and select qualifications, and it identifies prepare by name, zip code and credentials. It allows taxpayers to find a preparer that meets their specific needs in a location that is suitable to them. So, how do you become an Enrolled Agent? How? You must pass the Special Enrollment Exam. The Special Enrollment Exam is a three-part test covering individual taxation, business taxes, ethics and representation. Each part of the test currently costs $182.

Generally, you must complete the three-part exam within two years of the time you passed your first test. So, it's a three-part test, but you don't have to take the parts in any particular order. Whatever order you are most comfortable with, you can do. I said, generally, you must complete the three-part exam within two years of the time you passed your first test. And the reason I said, generally, is because we've extended the two years to three years at the moment due to COVID and the shut-down of the testing centers. While most of the testing centers are again operational, the number of testing applicants that can be seated are limited to meet social distancing requirements and any other requirement the state and local authority where the centers sit may have imposed. I know some of you have had difficulty getting a test schedule or having test rescheduled. Most of it has to do with the capacity with the center to seat candidates. It also could relate to a positive exposure in a site. So, please make sure… RUSSELL: Carol? CAMPBELL: Yes? RUSSELL: I'm sorry to interrupt. CAMPBELL: Yes. RUSSELL: Can you turn up your volume on your mic a little bit? There are some folks in the audience that are saying they're having a hard time hearing you. Please pardon my interruption. I, you're sharing such wonderful information that I know the audience would like to hear everything about that.

CAMPBELL: I think I'll hold it a little closer to my mouth, it is turned all the way up.

RUSSELL: OK. Thank you. CAMPBELL: Yes. We were addressing problems with testing and getting rescheduled. Well, most of this has to do with the capacity of the center to seat candidate as I've said. But one of the things I want you to make sure of is that you check your messages the night before you're scheduled to test because, if someone has tested positive for COVID at that location, the center actually may have had to shut down for cleaning. So, they try to get the messages out the night before or as soon as they possibly can or no later than the night before.

So, please, please make sure you check your, check your messages before you leave for a testing center. Anyway, once you passed all three parts of the special enrollment exam, congratulations.

And then, you may submit your application for enrollment. The application should be submitted within one year of passing that third examination. There are a few people, for whatever reason, who pass the third examination and then don't come in to apply to be an Enrolled Agent for significantly large periods after that. So, I know for some people that exam may have been exhausting, but we need you to come in within one year of finishing that last test. The application for enrollment currently costs $67. OK. So, before you're actually enrolled as an Enrolled Agent and you've submitted, you'll have to pass both a criminal background check and a tax compliance check, OK. It does not seem odd that we would want people who are doing taxes and representing people about taxes to have a tax compliance check. But after your application is approved, you will receive a certificate, an EA number and an EA card with your number on it and the period of your enrollment. As a general matter, once you become an Enrolled Agent, you must complete 72 hours or continuing education every three years including an ethics requirement every year. There are also requirements for the minimum number of hours you have to complete each year, but we won't go into that here. It's all on the web site. Please take a moment. Take a look and, if you have questions, let us know. Your Enrolled Agent license must be renewed every three years. Now, the only time, if that's not the case, is generally in the instance that your, at the time that you are enrolled, your social security number is out of sync with the three-year cycle. Yes, the last digit of your social security number determines what renewal cycle you are on. So, if you get enrolled mid-cycle, it is, it is extremely possible that you will be renewing your license in less than three years. But that is to get you on cycle with everyone else with the same last-digit social security number. Those requirements are also on the web site. Take a few minutes, take a look at it, read it, so there won't be any surprises. One other thing you are responsible for keeping up with your renewal cycle. Although we may send renewal notifications, the IRS is not required to do so. So, you really want to keep up with this because failing to timely renew makes you inactive. Now, once we inactivate your account, you may again renew, we will ask you for some additional information. But you may activate your account, so to speak, by providing that information. But if you missed two renewal cycles, so we're talking six years here folks, if you miss six years, you are terminated from the program. And the only way to get back in is to retest. That's right, yes. To go back and take that special enrollment exam all over again, all three parts. Nobody wants that. So, please, please keep up with your renewal cycles.

We send you the renewal card with the date of your renewal on them for a reason. All right. So, if you're working on obtaining your EA license or you've determined that the EA license is just not something you want to pursue, are there other options for setting yourself apart? Well, yes, there are. Actually, we have something called the Annual Filing Season Program. It is generally a continuing education program that encourages filings and readiness. It encourages you to stay up to date on the latest tax law, latest ethical requirements, and it enables taxpayers to distinguish non-credentialed return preparers who have completed some basic continuing education and ethics training. It also provides you limited practice rights. And remember when we're talking Enrolled Agents, I said, unlimited practice rights. Well, as a participant in the Annual Filing Season Program, you have limited practice rights. What does that mean? It means you may represent your client before the IRS in limited circumstances. So, if you prepared and signed the client's return, and we're participating in the Annual Filing Season Program, you had your Record of Completion for that year, and the client is subsequently before Exam, Taxpayer Advocate Service or a Customer Service function and you are also currently participating in the Annual Filing Season Program, you may represent that client before Exam, the Taxpayer Advocate Service or Customer Service function. But you had to have prepared and signed the return, participated in the Annual Filing Season Program at the time the return was prepared and signed.

The client is before one of the limited functions where you can represent, and you are currently participating in the Annual Filing Season Program. That's a lot. But think about it. All right.

One of the other benefits is you are also listed in the IRS online preparer directory. That Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with credentials and select qualifications that I was talking about, you are also listed in that directory for that year that you participate in the Annual Filing Season Program. RUSSELL: Carol, may I interrupt, please? I want to make sure I have something right. CAMPBELL: Sure, Karen. You know I always have time for you. RUSSELL: Thank you. OK. I am a non-credentialed preparer participating in the 2021 Annual Filing Season Program.

If I prepare and sign a return for a taxpayer in 2021 and that taxpayer is subsequently audited in, let's say, 2023, I can represent that taxpayer before exam if, in 2023, I am also participating in the Annual Filing Season Program. Is that right? CAMPBELL: Exactly, Karen. You got it. You got it. RUSSELL: OK. But I cannot, in the same situation, same scenario, but the taxpayer has a collection issue, I can't do it, then. CAMPBELL: I'm better than I thought. You got this down cold. Very good. In order to, RUSSELL: Good. CAMPBELL: represent that taxpayer before collection, you would need your Enrolled Agent license. RUSSELL: That's, OK. That's exactly what I was going to say. So, I could do it if I was an Enrolled Agent and I have my Enrolled Agent's license. OK. Because I wasn't limited, OK. CAMPBELL: That's right. That's right. She's actually paying attention to me, OK. All right. Let's spend a few minutes talking about the requirements for participating in the Annual Filing Season Program. As I said before, the Annual Filing Season Program, in essence, is a continuing education program ensuring that you are ready for the filing season. For some participants, you will need 15 hours of continuing education; for others, you will need 18 hours. Whether you need 15 hours or 18 hours depends on a number of factors. So, for those of you who took and passed the Registered Tax Return {reparer test we offered in 2011 and 2012, there are some of you who still remember that before it was shut down. But those of you who took it and passed, we give you the benefit of participating.

So, if you took it and passed and we know who you are, you only have to have 15 hours of continuing education. If you have passed part one, individual test of the special enrollment exam in the prior two years, you too only have to have an additional 15 hours of continuing education.

If you passed examinations in a few states, there are a few states that require tax return preparers to test to practice in their state, I think they are Oregon, California and Maryland at the moment. There are some other states who have a few other requirements, but at the moment, I believe that these are the only three that require you to test. So, if you've taken their test and passed it, you only need the 15 hours. We also have some other specialized examinations that can be found on our web pages that will limit your continuing education to 15 hours or if you are a credentialed preparer who just opts to participate in this program, you too can participate with 15 hours of continuing education. So, what does the 15 hours look like? Simple. Ten hours federal tax law, any topic you want; three hours federal tax law update; two hours ethics; 15 hours. So, if you don't fall into one of those specialized buckets that I talked about, that I just talked about, you will need 18 hours of continuing education; 10 hours of federal tax law, just like the folks with the 15 hours; 2 hours of ethics, again, just like the folks with the 15 hours; but you need a six-hour annual federal tax refresher course. It is a course on general filing season issues, new tax law updates and ethics. To pass the class, you must take 100 questions, multiple choice test on the material covered in the class. All right. So, this is a class. It is offered every year so that the current filing season issues, any changes in the tax law, common problems that we see preparers struggle with, all those things are covered in that six-hour class. OK. So, in order to participate in the Annual Filing Season Program, you must have either 15 hours or 18 hours of continuing education. All continuing education for the Annual Filing Season Program must be completed by December 31 of the year preceding the effective date of your Record of Completion or to say it another way, preceding the year in which you want to participate. So, for those of you who want to participate for 2021 with the filing season that is upcoming, you have to complete your continuing education by December 31 of this year, December 31, 2020. All right. The continuing education always has to be completed year in which you are going to participate in the program, sorry, OK. All participants in the Annual Filing Season Program are required to complete a consent to specific ethical requirements outlined in Circular 230. That information is also outlined on the Web site. The consent itself is found in your PTIN account and you'll check a box acknowledging that you agree to abide by the ethical requirements. The only way to get your Record of Completion is to check the box. So, you can complete all the continuing education requirements, but if you don't go back in to your PTIN account and check the consent, you can't get a Record of Completion. So, there are several applicants to this program every year that forget to check the box and then they contact us wondering why they haven't received their Record of Completion. They haven't checked the box. As a matter of fact, we've had so much difficulty with people understanding how to check the box and where the box is that we have a video on exactly how to check this box and where to look for it.

So, it's on the web site. Don't miss it. OK. Also, Annual Filing Season Program participants must have a tax compliance check as well as a criminal background check. But once you completed all of these, you should be good to go. RUSSELL: Hey, Carol, the web site that you're referring to, is that the RPO landing page or, CAMPBELL: It's, what is the rest of it, news and. RUSSELL: I'm sorry to throw that out there. Maybe we can look that up because we had gotten some questions about the web site. CAMPBELL: What web site? Yes. Actually, if you, if you go to and in the search box, you type, tax pro, it'll all come up. It will all come up.

RUSSELL: Great. Thank you. CAMPBELL: OK. We are, let's see where we are. I think I lost my, RUSSELL: We're moving to the, CAMPBELL: Safeguarding Taxpayer Data, all right. All right.

RUSSELL: That's it. CAMPBELL: You through me off, Karen. That's OK. RUSSELL: Sorry. I'm sorry.

CAMPBELL: We're all good. We are all good. And this is another one of those important issues for tax return preparers and tax professionals. The Federal Trade Commission Safeguard Rules requires financial institutions and paid tax return preparers fall into their definition of financial institutions to create and maintain written security plan to protect client data based on an assessment of your risk. So, tax return preparers have a responsibility to protect all that information and data in their offices, on their systems related to taxpayers. It makes sense when you think about it. You know, tax return preparers, many of you have heard me say many, many times have become the target for cyber thieves and cyber criminals. Why? Because you have more taxpayer information that can be used and exploited for identity theft or scams or any number of illicit purposes than virtually anybody else. So, you need to think about who has access to information in your office, who you disclose certain information to in your office. Decide who needs to know who really needs to know. It may be a simple matter that everybody knows everything, but that is the most unsecure way to manage your business. You need to set up appropriate security controls and safeguards for your office and for the information that flows in and out of your office. You need to designate someone to be responsible for the security posture of your office. And, most of all, once you set up a plan, don't set it up and leave it sitting there forever and ever amen. That plan has to be monitored, evaluated, adjusted because the world continues to change. As long as the world keeps spinning, cyber thieves will keep trying different options. They will use whatever accesses they can, remote or otherwise, to get information in your system. And to the extent that you have folks who have access and they may not be happy with you for some reason and they leave your business, please make sure that whatever keys, passwords, whatever they had, that you recover them or you change locks, change passwords, whatever, when they leave because the easiest way to lose control of what is happening in your business is to have somebody else give it away because they are not happy with you. All right. Although the specifics of any assessment and security plan will depend on the type and the size of your business, there are some safeguards that everyone should be practicing. Phishing is the most common threat to the security of information you possess. Repeatedly we are told not to open messages or attachments in messages from people we don't know. Sometimes we're just on rote and we are just clicking. It's like don't do it. Make sure you know who the message came from.

And sometimes you will know the name of the person sending the message, the e-mail, but the message is not actually from them. So, if you are not sure that the e-mail you receive is from the person that you know or that it's stated to be from, reach out to them before you open the e-mail. So many times, I have received messages from people who are supposed to be some person I know, and I have reached out and said, Did you send me that e-mail? They said, No, what are you talking about? And it's like it's somebody trying to get me to click on something so they can get access to my system. Sometimes it seems a little bit tedious to do it, but it is certainly worth it. And another thing that may be tedious is changing passwords. But it's something that you have to do. You cannot use the same password for everything. Just don't do it. You need strong and unique passwords and I'm here to tell you, 12345678 is not unique. You and everybody else has had that thought. Birthdays are not unique. Your spouse or your children's names are not especially unique. And just like 123, ABCD is not a unique password. These are the first things cyber criminals will try. If this is what you have as a password for your system and your business, you will shortly be out of business. You want to ensure that you encrypt taxpayer information that you are sending and secure your remote location if you are in a remote location by using a Virtual Private Network It's sort of a secure encrypted tunnel to transmit data between a remote user and the company network that they work for. It is critical to protecting internet connection. Otherwise, you don't know what you have subjected your business to, actually, it's probably subjected to remote takeovers by cyber criminals. But that being said, one of the other things that I want to point out is that now there are so many of us working from home. Remember that you are still responsible for safeguarding taxpayer information even from those with whom you share your home. OK. You have to have security protocols no matter where you are and you have to enforce them. It's not just good enough to have them. If you don't enforce them, if you don't change them regularly, you haven't done a thing. And one more thing, one more thing, please, please do not use the same computer for home and work, OK. You know, I know there are a number of us who are at home, whose children are at home and they're doing virtual learning because of COVID and it's time for class and the child can't find their computer, you don't want them to miss their class, you have stuff you need to do, you don't have time to look for their computer, so you give them your sign-in and allow them to take their class on your computer.

Well, guess what, children get bored. Class is over before you thought it would be or they got tired of class and moved out of the classroom that you had set up on the computer for them.

Sometimes they're just curious. If you compromise your home and your work information, you are looking for trouble. Just don't do it. We've covered a lot, but I think we have time for one more polling question. Karen, you up to it? RUSSELL: I am. And we do have time for one more polling question and it is our final polling question. So, I'm really glad that you've pointed out about the whole home-work situation because kids do get bored. They multi-task just like the rest of us. They're supposed to be paying attention with class and then they decided to start surfing the net and they're on their parent's work computer that happens to have taxpayer files on it.

Yes, bad, bad, bad. So, it's a good thing you pointed that out. All right. So, let's get back to our polling question since that's my job. OK. Federal law requires paid tax return preparers to have a risk-based security plan for protection of customer information. Is that a true statement or false statement? Federal law requires paid tax return preparers to have a risk-based security plan for the protection of customer information? OK. Click the radio button next to the answer that you believe is correct. We've had plenty of time to answer it. It's true/false. So, let's go ahead and stop the polling and let's share the correct answer on the next slide. And the correct response is A. That is true. The Federal Trade Commission is federal law that requires paid preparers to have a risk-based security plan. And we have a 94 percent accuracy rate. That is way to go, audience. We appreciate that. And, Carol, let's go ahead and move to the security campaigns and all that good stuff that we have for the tax professionals. CAMPBELL: I think we can. I think we can. Good enough. Very glad to hear all of you, or the majority of you got that last polling question correct. It is so very important. Now, the next slide covers a number of security campaigns that the Internal Revenue Service or the Internal Revenue Service in partnership with the security summits have come up, come out with. They are Tax, Security Together, Protect Your Client, Protect Yourself, Don't Take the Bait, Tax Security 101, Tax Security 2.0. The following media campaigns were designed to better inform you and assist you in protecting the safety and integrity of client information and in a business, you have worked so hard to build. You can find this information in any of the, here is the link. And we have addressed this afternoon on, It's all there. There are additional resources that are available, a number of publications. I won't go through them all, but I really want to point out that, if you do not have security protocols or security plans that you take a look at Publication 4557, Safeguarding Taxpayer Data. It's a wealth of information. It will get you started on the right path and get you answering the right questions. The other publications here are also good information to have. But the last one, e-news for Tax Professionals, it's a good source of information on threats and scams, but it is a good source of information for tax professionals, period. It has all the latest updated information on any issue that a tax preparer would want to know about. And subscribe to it. It's free. It doesn't cost a thing. All right.

There are a few of you who have had concerns about trusted e-mail addresses from the IRS. The two, the two e-mail addresses that appear on this slide are trusted e-mails. You can take these two to the bank. Now, be careful because you need to take a look and ensure what they say. The scammers will move a letter, add a letter, move a period et cetera and, all of a sudden, it's not the right e-mail address. So, we've put them up here for you. And look at them carefully. Those e-mail addresses, you can trust. Let's see. An additional sources of information are right here on this slide. So, we,,, All good sources of information. Of course, we have a Facebook page, a Twitter account, YouTube account. We try to provide the best and latest information for tax return preparers on these sources. So, with that, I think I'm going to stop, Karen. That's really all I have. So, I'm going to turn this over to you for the Q&A session. RUSSELL: Awesome. Thank you, Carol. OK. So, hi, everyone. Again, it's me, Karen Russell and I will be moderating the Q&A session. And before we start the Q&A, I want to thank everyone for attending today's presentation, Return Prepare Office: What You Should Know.

And earlier, I mentioned we want to know what questions you have for our presenter and here is your opportunity. If you haven't input your question, there's still time. Click the drop-down arrow next to, Ask Question, the field, type in your question in the textbox and click, Send. And Carol is staying on to answer your questions. And, before we do start, we may not have time to answer all the questions, but we will get to as many as time allows. And if you're participating to earn a certificate and related continuing education, you will qualify for one credit by participating for at 50 minutes from the official start time of the webinar which was the top of the hour. That's little bit of chatting I did before the top of the hour does not count. You have to stay on for 50 minutes to get your credit, OK. And let's get started so we can get to as many questions as possible. OK. You know, this is funny because you just went over this, but I'm going to go ahead and ask. The participant asked if it's mandatory to have a cyber data or cyber data breach insurance, Carol, is it mandatory? CAMPBELL: Insurance, no. Having a written security plan, yes. Now, you may want to have insurance. And it may be beneficial to you depending on size of your practice, your office et cetera. But the Federal Trade Commission, as far as I know, does not require that you have insurance. RUSSELL: Awesome. Thank you. Another question, is an IRS program? CAMPBELL: No, it is not,, there are a number of, there was a, a, a PTIN, they're all trying to sell you something. That is not the IRS. Don't fall for it. RUSSELL: OK, good to know. There is, someone in the audience would like to know how can they obtain study material to, for being an Enrolled Agent. Is there any study material out there to help prep them for the exams? CAMPBELL: There are a lot of organizations who actually offer study plans and material for the Enrolled Agents' exam. The IRS have, has had some former past testing material on its web site, but it does not offer a study course. Those you have to pay for or you may have to pay for from some of the many organizations that offer them. But there's no shortage of organizations who will offer study material for the Enrolled Agent exam. RUSSELL: OK. And then, speaking of those exams, is, can you clarify, the $182 is that for all three tests or is that $182 for each test? CAMPBELL: It's $182 for each test. RUSSELL: OK. All right. Now, let me see there is a question. How do I get listed in the IRS online preparer directory? I was a former IRS employee and became an EA through the program, but I'm not showing up in the directory. CAMPBELL: All right. If, yes, that can be fixed. But go into your PTIN account and ensure that we have updated accurate information for you and that you didn't inadvertently check the, opt out, box. Some people check, there are some people who have enough work, who have enough clients who do not want to be listed in the preparer directory. And for those folks, we have an, opt out, indicator on the, in the, in the PTIN account. So, some, there are other people who check every PTIN related, they check every box without having paid attention to what it means. So, if you check the, opt out, box, you will not be listed in the directory. If you go through and ensure all your information is updated and you, in the, in your PTIN account and you are not listed in the directory, just reach out to us and we will see what the problem is and we will get back to you. RUSSELL: And you must have been read my mind because my next question was how can they opt out. So, that was answered. Good. CAMPBELL: OK. RUSSELL: You're like my twin sister reading my mind. OK. So, there are, someone would like to know in the audience how and when should they report unethical tax preparers, how and when. CAMPBELL: OK.

The how is easy. There's a complaint referral form, Form 145, no, that's not it. I'm missing a number, anyway, let me think about it in a minute. It'll come back to me in a second. But the, with the how and when or how and why, how and when, how and when, all right. If you have some actual direct information about a prepared behavior, not a lot of second hand, not a lot of supposition about what you think this person is doing, if you have some specific reportable information, then you should submit that information to us on a 14157 Form 14157. I knew it'll come back to me. It's a complaint referral form available on the web. RUSSELL: OK. Great. OK.

And actually, I think I've seen that on on a particular page about reporting. CAMPBELL: Yes. RUSSELL: unethical return preparers. OK. For an Enrolled Agent, what happens if they don't obtain the minimum 15 hours of CE or the ethics requirement for a specific year? May they make it up in the following year and still be eligible for renewal? CAMPBELL: OK. There are two answers to this question and I will say it this way. If, at the time you renew your Enrolled Agent credential, you timely renew that between November 1 and January 31, we don't generally look at your continuing education credit. When you got your credit, you are certifying that you have the appropriate number of hours credited. So, as long as you do it within the renewal period, we don't check. However, however, we occasionally do audit, actually more than occasionally, probably every two years. We do audits of continuing education information. And if we find that you are out of compliance with your continuing education requirements, you will hear from us. Depending on what you did, how far out, how many times et cetera, et cetera, all of that will go into how we respond to it. So, I can't tell you right here and right now what would happen. It will be based different based on the specific circumstances of what you have done.

But if you want to, you certainly want to go ahead and complete your renewals, you have your 72 hours. However, you may not be done with us. And I'll just leave it at that. RUSSELL: So, the best thing is to get your CE hours in on time, so they don't hear from the IRS. CAMPBELL: Of course. RUSSELL: Nobody wants to hear from the IRS. OK. I have, about the data security plans, does that have to be in writing? CAMPBELL: Yes. A data security plan should, or the information security plan should be in writing, yes. RUSSELL: OK. And to piggyback on that, say a tax preparer doesn't have any employees. Is he or she required to create and maintain written data security plans to protect client data? CAMPBELL: The federal safeguard rules is not about size.

So, they leave it to you to determine certain things. But even individuals ought to have a plan with regard to what information they have, what taxpayer information they have, where it is, how it's secured, what to do in the event of a breach hopefully, that will never happen but you need a written plan to outline those things, having it in your head is not especially helpful when and or if you have a problem. Now, one of the other things that I probably need to clarify, if you are a preparer who works for certain organizations, most of the time they will have the plan for you. But if it's your business, then you need to have a plan. So, or, just for example, if you are preparing returns for H&R Block, H&R Block will determine what your security protocols ought to be. So, you ought to be talking to H&R Block. However, if you are on your own, you need to have a security plan. RUSSELL: OK. Good information. OK. So, the next one is a pretty interesting one. If I am an AFSP participant for the year a client is audited, I can assist them with representation as long as collections aren't involved. What happens if, at the time the clients return is audited, I am no longer an AFSP participant? Can I still help them since I was participating at the time the return was prepared? CAMPBELL: Yes, the quick answer to that is no. You have to be a part of the Annual Filing Season Program on both ends of that action. You have to have prepared and signed the returns for the clients while you were participating in the Annual Filing Season Program. And when they get audited, you also have to have a Record of Completion for the Annual Filing Season Program for that year. So, you go back to the example that Karen asked the question on. So, you have to, you have to participate on both ends of the transaction. And you have to have prepared and signed on that return. RUSSELL: Yes. I thought so. OK. So, now, I have an interesting question. Are you able to represent a taxpayer on a return that you signed off on in a specific year even if you aren't an Enrolled Agent or part of the Annual Filing Season Program? CAMPBELL: If it was before December 31, 2015, yes, because there was some limited practice tools in effect at that time. But any return you, that was signed after that, no, you cannot represent that client before Exam, Taxpayer Advocate Service, or a Customer Account Service. RUSSELL: And another interesting question. Is Form 2848 or Form 8821 required for the return preparer to represent a taxpayer? CAMPBELL: Yes. So, if you are, if you are a credentialed preparer and you, and the and the taxpayer is before Exam, yes, you should have a 2848. If you participated in the Annual Filing Season Program at the time the return was prepared to sign and you were the person who prepared and signed it and you continue to participate in the Annual Filing Season Program at the time that taxpayer is before, is before Exam, you still need the 2848. I think it's HI, but don't quote me on that. They change those alphabets on me all the time, so, but anyway, there is a place on the 2848 for you to check that box. RUSSELL: OK. All right. And then, let's see here. One super easy question and then we got to close up.

What does VPN stand for again? CAMPBELL: Virtual Private Network. RUSSELL: Say that one more time, please. CAMPBELL: Virtual, V-I-R-T-U-A-L, Private Network. RUSSELL: Awesome. OK, that's what VPN stands for. OK. So, audience, let's get back to closing out of our webinar. And Carol, what key points would you like the attendees to remember from today's session? CAMPBELL: All right, all right. Well, there are, there are a few key things, Karen. One, that PTIN user fee is being reinstated for 2021. That the amount of the user fee is, excuse me, $35.95. That the user fee will not be charged for PTINs for 2018 through the 2020 years. Get the credential that says you are a tax professional by becoming be an Enrolled Agent. Non-credentialed tax insurance preparers can set themselves apart by participating in the Annual Filing Season Program. And tax professionals have a legal obligation to protect client data through strong security practices, including implementing a data security plan. So, I want to thank you all for your time and attention this afternoon. I hope this has been helpful and please stay safe and be well. And thank you, Karen, for putting up with me. RUSSELL: Carol, you were awesome. It was my pleasure.

So, audience, we are planning additional webinars throughout the year. To register for an upcoming webinar, visit and do a keyword search, “webinars” and then select, Webinars for Tax Practitioners, or “Webinars for Small Businesses. And when appropriate, we will offer certificates and CE credit for those webinars. We invite you to visit our Video Portal at and you can view archived versions of our webinars. And, again, please remember continuing education credits or certificates of completion are not offered if you view any version of our webinar after the live broadcast. Again, a big thank you to Carol Campbell.

She was awesome. It was a great webinar. She has so much knowledge. She shared her expertise and stayed on to answer your questions. I also want to thank you, the audience, and our attendees for coming to today's webinar, Return Preparer Office: What You Should Know. Now, if you did attend today's webinar for at least 50 minutes from the official start time of the webinar, you will qualify for one possible CPE credit, or excuse me, CE credit. And again, the time we spent chatting before the webinar started doesn't count towards the 50 minutes. And if you're eligible for continuing education from the IRS and you registered with your valid PTIN, your credit will be posted to your PTIN account. If you registered through the Florida Institute of CPAs, your participation information is provided directly to them. If you qualify and have not received your certificate or credit by October 22, please send an e-mail to

And the e-mail address is on the slide too. If you're interested in finding out who your local Stakeholder Liaison is, go ahead and send us an e-mail using the same e-mail address on the slide and we'll get that information out to you. complete a short evaluation before you exit the webinar. And if you'd like to have more sessions like this one, let us know. If you have thoughts on how we can make them better, let us know that too. We're always up for positive feedback or feedback period, just let us know how we're doing. If you have requests for future webinar topics or pertinent information you would like to see in an IRS Fact Sheet, a Tax Tip or in FAQ on, let us know that. Please include those suggestions in the comment section of the survey.

And then click the, Survey, button on the screen to begin. And if it doesn't come up, check to make sure that you disabled your pop-up blocker. It has been a very big pleasure to be with you here today. And on behalf of the Internal Revenue Service and our presenter, our RPO director, Carol A. Campbell, we want to thank you for attending the webinar. It's important to the IRS and for the IRS to stay connected with the tax professional community, individual taxpayers, industry associations along with federal, state and local government organizations because you guys make our job a lot easier by sharing the information that allows for proper tax reporting. Thanks again for your time and attendance. We wish you much success in your business or practice. And you may exit the webinar at this time.