Professional tax return preparers must renew their PTINs to prepare returns in 2013, the IRS said in a reminder to preparers. Current PTINs expire December 31.

Anyone who prepares or helps prepare all or substantially all of a federal tax return, claim for refund or other federal forms for compensation must have a valid PTIN. All Enrolled Agents also must have a PTIN. There are currently 739,000 tax preparers with 2012 PTINs, and some 350,000 of them are subject to the new testing and CE requirements.

The service added that preparers who still need to take the competency test are encouraged to schedule an appointment while they are renewing their PTIN. More than 48,000 preparers have earned RTRP certificates, leaving over 300,000 who have not. The IRS noted that there has been an increase in the number of people taking the EA exam.

The RTRP test can be scheduled up to six months in advance, depending on the location. (Preparers should select “Next Steps and Additional Requirements” within their online PTIN account to schedule the RTRP test. The other option is the Special Enrollment Exam, a three-part test to become an EA.

The IRS said those renewing PTINs can complete the process in about 15 minutes. The renewal fee is $63. Preparers obtaining a first-time PTIN must first create an online PTIN account and then follow directions to obtain a PTIN. Their fee is $64.25.

Preparers who do not prepare any Form 1040 returns or who are supervised in certain firms must self-certify that they are exempt from the testing requirement. (A supervised preparer is one who is employed by a law or accounting firm at least 80 percent owned by attorneys, CPAs or EAs who is supervised by an attorney, CPA or EA who reviews and signs the returns they prepare.) RTRPs and RTRP candidates also must self-certify that they have completed or will complete the required 15 hours of continuing education courses.

Preparers who are not EAs, CPA or attorneys must pass the RTRP test or the Special Enrollment Exam by December 31 of next year.