The Internal Revenue Service is recommending tax professionals monitor their Preparer Tax Identification Numbers for signs of suspicious activity.

The IRS has been stepping up its efforts to curb identity theft and tax fraud, in part by focusing on ways to make tax preparers more aware of cybersecurity threats. At a meeting in June of its “Security Summit,” bringing together the IRS with state tax authorities, major tax prep chains and tax software developers, the IRS unveiled plans to increase its educational efforts for tax preparers and set new security standards (see IRS Plans to Set Security Standards for Tax Preparers).

As part of that effort, the IRS posted an IRS Security Awareness Tax Tip on Tuesday urging preparers to check their PTIN accounts to make sure the number of tax returns filed using their PTIN matches the IRS’s own records. The IRS noted that criminals are increasingly targeting tax professionals, stealing client data, electronic filing identification numbers, and passwords for IRS eServices, in addition to PTINs.

As part of its security effort, the IRS is giving many tax preparers the ability to monitor “Returns Filed Per PTIN.” The information is available in the online PTIN system for preparers who meet certain criteria:

• They must have a professional credential (such as CPA, Enrolled Agent, Attorney, Enrolled Retirement Plan Agent, Enrolled Actuary) or participate in the IRS’s Annual Filing Season Program for voluntary tax education and testing, and

• They must have processed at least 50 tax returns from the Form 1040 series this year.

Even if preparers only file a small number of tax returns, the IRS noted that it is still important to monitor this information. If no data shown on the system, less than 50 returns have been processed with their PTIN.

To access “Returns Filed Per PTIN” information, the IRS recommends tax professionals follow these steps:

1. Visit http://www.irs.gov/ptin and log into their PTIN account.
2. From the Main Menu, find “Additional Activities.”
3. Under Additional Activities, select “View Returns Filed Per PTIN.”
4. A chart labeled Returns Per PTIN should be visible.
5. A count of individual income tax returns filed and processed in the current year will be shown. 

The information in the Returns Per PTIN chart is updated each week, the IRS noted, and tax professionals should check the information on a regular basis. If the number of returns processed is much larger than the number of tax returns prepared, and possible PTIN misuse is suspected, tax professionals should complete and submit Form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer, to the IRS.

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