Associations and vendors are starting to offer more tools and sets of sample question to help tax preparers ready themselves for the new IRS competency test for non-exempt preparers to earn the Registered Tax Return Preparer designation.
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In addition to obtaining and annually renewing a PTIN and completing 15 hours of CPE annually, non-exempt return preparers must also pass a one-time competency test by Dec. 31, 2013, and pass a tax compliance check. (Preparers can schedule the test by accessing their PTIN account online. The test can be taken at more than 260 sites, and the test fee is $116. Tax preparers can learn more online about the test, which is administered by the testing company Prometic.
Associations have responded to the IRS program with tools to help preparers. Among them:
• The National Society of Accountants has created an checklist of tips for taking the RTRP test, including a walk-through of which steps to take in what order (obtaining PTINs, practicing the test taking and viewing a webinar on the subject); review of IRS Publication 17 and Circular 230, including reminders of which will be available as resources at test centers; locations and procedures of test centers and a warning of no-refund policies; and personal test-taking tips. Also offered in the toolkit/checklist are links to additional resources such as the IRS RTRP Candidate Information Bulletin with information on scheduling the exam, exam content, and test center procedures, and links to NSA exam-prep webinars and courses.
• The National Association of Tax Professionals has updated its guide to the tax preparer registration process, which covers preparer requirements, PTINs, becoming an RTRP, options for studying for the test, recommended CE packages and Circular 230.
• Several IRS-approved education providers also offer test-prep courses. Here's the most up-to-date list.
Sample test questions for the test abound on the Net, as well. Among them:
• Prometic's online tutorial provides a series of screens designed to orient test takers to the computer-testing environment. Time limit on the tutorial is 20 minutes.
• Twenty sample questions are available from Tax Preparer Learning Systems. The questions, taken from the vendor's test-prep course, are interactive, provide hints and immediate feedback, and are in the same format as those on the full course. The primer for the sample test also lets takers know the full course covers all areas that will be tested by the IRS.
• John Wiley & Sons, which recently teamed with The Tax Institute at H&R Block to create the test study guide Wiley Registered Tax Return Preparer Exam Review 2012, also offers a sample 30-question quiz on the exam and a chance to sign up for monthly updates on the exam PasstheTaxExam.com.