The Internal Revenue Service has awarded a five-year contract to consulting firm Accenture to design, implement and operate its tax return preparer registration program.

Under the contract, which includes a one-year base period and four one-year extension options, Accenture will work with the IRS to develop and maintain a new, secure system for online registration and renewal, user fee collection, and issuance of a unique identification number for all paid tax return preparers.

The return preparer registration program is designed to allow the IRS to regulate and improve the quality of the paid preparer community by requiring registration and mandating competency-level testing and annual continuing education requirements. The IRS anticipates that better tracking and qualification of preparers will result in increased taxpayer compliance and more uniform ethical standards of conduct for preparers.

“The RPR program is really a win-win-win situation in which the IRS will gain the ability to identify and regulate paid tax preparers, taxpayers will have better information about tax preparers before selecting one, and tax return professionals will be able to differentiate themselves in this competitive market,” said Lisa M. Mascolo, managing director of Accenture’s U.S. federal client service group, in a statement.

Accenture has been doing other contract work for the IRS and plans on drawing on its experience working for the IRS. The Accenture team will also provide customer service operations that include a call center, payment processing, fee accounting and marketing assistance.

With paid professionals preparing almost 60 percent of all tax returns filed in the U.S., the program will provide the IRS with more details about the tax preparer community and a method to better identify and regulate preparers.

Accenture grew out of Andersen Consulting, the consulting arm of defunct accounting firm Arthur Andersen, which went out of business in the wake of the Enron and WorldCom accounting scandals.

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