The Internal Revenue Service is reminding tax preparers that they need to complete 15 hours of continuing education, under new requirements starting this year, and has posted a list of providers.

The annual education hours must come from IRS-approved providers, the IRS warned Friday.

The new continuing education requirement is part of the IRS’s beefed-up tax return preparer oversight efforts, in response to problems the IRS has experienced with unqualified preparers. It applies to the same tax preparers who are currently required to pass the IRS’s new Registered Tax Return Preparer competency test, which is another part of the tax preparer regulation effort.

CPAs, tax attorneys and Enrolled Agents are currently exempt from the annual 15-hour CE requirement, as well as the testing requirement, because they already meet separate requirements, such as passing the Uniform CPA Examination. Non-signing preparers supervised by CPAs, attorneys or Enrolled Agents in law, accounting, and recognized firms also are exempt from the continuing education and test requirements, according to Notice 2011-6, as are tax return preparers who do not prepare any Form 1040 series returns, such as estate and trust returns.

The 15 hours of continuing education must include 10 hours of federal tax law, three hours of federal tax law updates, and two hours of ethics each calendar year. Tax return preparers must provide their Preparer Tax Identification Numbers—another prong of the IRS’s tax return preparer regulation effort—to the CE providers so their continuing education can be properly reported to the IRS.

Completion of the CE requirement for these preparers is a condition for the annual renewal of the PTIN, which is required to prepare federal tax returns. The requirement is prorated for preparers who obtain a PTIN during the year.

All individuals with an IRS continuing education requirement, including enrolled agents and enrolled retirement plan agents, can access a listing of IRS Approved Providers at www.IRS.gov/taxpros/ce.  The list is updated regularly.

To date, 163 providers have applied and been approved through the new provider application process launched in December 2011 (IR-2011-115).  Providers must be one of the following:

• An accredited educational institution,
• Recognized for continuing education purposes by the licensing body of any state or U.S. territory,
• Approved by an IRS Accrediting Organization (at this time, the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy is the only IRS Accrediting Organization) as a provider of CE to Registered Tax Return Preparers, Enrolled Agents, and Enrolled Retirement Plan Agents, or
• Any other professional organization, society or business recognized by the IRS as a provider of CE to Registered Tax Return Preparers, Enrolled Agents, and Enrolled Retirement Plan Agents.

Accredited educational institutions must now register for their programs to qualify for IRS CE credit. Previously, Enrolled Agents and Enrolled Retirement Plan Agents could obtain IRS CE credit for completing qualified continuing education at an accredited educational institution even if the educational institution did not register with the IRS.

Instructions for individuals and organizations interested in becoming an IRS approved CE provider or IRS Accrediting Organization are available on the IRS Continuing Education Providers page.