The period to renew Preparer Tax Identification Numbers for 2013 has begun, and the IRS is also reminding the nation’s 730,000 federal tax return preparers that they must renew their PTINs, and that preparers who have a competency test requirement should schedule their exam soon.

Anyone who is a paid federal tax return preparer must register with the IRS and have a PTIN, as must all Enrolled Agents. Additionally, some return preparers have new continuing education and competency test requirements.

The IRS maintains that the online PTIN renewal process takes about 15 minutes. Renewed PTINs will be valid for calendar 2013. The IRS also claims it has “significantly upgraded the PTIN system to make it easier to use and more intuitive.”

Renewal costs $63. Preparers who have forgotten their log-in information, password or e-mail address can use online tools to resolve these issues.

Preparers have been talking about PTIN renewal on such discussion boards as LinkedIn’s Tax Business Owners of America group. Many preparers confirm that the process is simple and quick, though many also continue to express concern about the IRS releasing preparer information to third parties under the Freedom of Information Act.

New CE and testing requirements also now apply to approximately 340,000 preparers who must certify when renewing their PTIN that they have completed the 15-hour requirement for CE in 2012. The service also urges preparers with a testing requirement to schedule their tests, either the RTRP test or the Special Enrollment Exam for those interested in becoming Enrolled Agents. Candidates can also compare the tests and credentials online. The RTRP test can be scheduled online through the PTIN system by selecting “Next steps and additional requirements” from the PTIN account main menu. The SEE can also be scheduled online at a separate site.