IRS Prepares for its Public Database of Return Preparers

Many taxpayers don't know where to find a reliable and competent return preparer. Given the activities of fraudulent tax specialists, taxpayers have become more cautious of whom they're dealing with and who handles their information. In an effort to safeguard taxpayers and to protect the integrity of legitimate return preparers, the IRS is working on preventative initiatives.

The IRS will be starting a public database of return preparers that it will make available on its website. Along with the database, the IRS also will launch a public education campaign next year. This has been designed to inform taxpayers of steps they should take when choosing a tax preparer. Both these initiatives will be launched in 2015.

For those return preparers that don't currently posses credentials, the IRS has begun a new program where they can enhance their knowledge and skills to become better at their job. After meeting the requirements of 18 hours of continuing education, the IRS will award the non-credentialed return preparers with an Annual Filing Season Program (AFSP), which is the IRS record of completion. The IRS will also include the return preparers with the AFSP in its pubic database. This will allow less seasoned preparers to be more visible and accessible to the general public.

The IRS' public database will include the name, city, state, zip code, and the credentials of the return preparer. It will include tax attorneys, enrolled agents, enrolled actuaries, enrolled retirement plan agents, and AFSP record of completion holders. The database will allow taxpayers to find reliable return preparers in their immediate area within minutes. This IRS initiative should prove beneficial to both taxpayers and the return preparers, and will also help in the fight against fraud.

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