The Internal Revenue Service has approved the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy and NASBA’s National Registry of CPE Sponsors as the first organizations to receive qualified accrediting status to provide continuing education as part of the IRS’s Registered Tax Return Preparer program.

The IRS now requires Registered Tax Return Preparers to obtain 15 hours of continuing education annually from qualified learning providers. The continuing education requirement is part of the IRS’s efforts to beef up regulation of the tax prep profession. The IRS is also requiring tax preparers to register and renew their Preparer Tax Identification Numbers before the end of the year and undergo competency tests.

Under the accredited classification, NASBA National Registry sponsors will only be required to complete a brief registration process with the IRS in order to obtain a continuing education provider number and course numbers, and will not be required to complete a separate approval process.

“The National Registry of CPE Sponsors has long been regarded as the gold standard in the CPE market,” said NASBA president and CEO David A. Costello in a statement. “We are pleased to have been recognized by the IRS as the first qualified accrediting organization under its new Registered Tax Return Preparer program.”

NASBA said it anticipates great demand for continuing education providers who are in a position to provide program offerings comprised of current subject matters in federal taxation or federal tax related matters, including federal tax law updates and ethics or professional conduct. Currently, more than 400,000 registered tax return preparers are required to obtain 15 hours of CE annually, beginning Jan. 1, 2012.