The Internal Revenue Service has invited the public to comment on its plans to begin administering competency examinations for registered tax return preparers.

The comments can be about the content and administration of the exams. The IRS has already selected a vendor, Prometric, to help develop and administer the competency examination for Form 1040 series tax returns and their accompanying schedules (see IRS Picks Vendors for Tax Preparer Testing and Fingerprinting). The IRS said Tuesday in Notice 2011-48 that it and the vendor would soon begin developing the 1040 competency exam.

Prior to developing the competency exam, however, the IRS said it is seeking the input of tax return preparers, industry and consumer groups, and taxpayers. The information collected in the comments will help the IRS develop the competency test. 

The IRS said it is particularly interested in any comments regarding the areas of tax law that should be covered by the examination; the approximate percentage of the examination that should be dedicated to each area of tax law identified above; the format of the examination (e.g., multiple choice, short-answer questions, written tax computations problems, or a combination thereof); the general difficulty and approximate length of the examination; the detail of examination result information reported to the applicant (e.g., pass/fail, numeric scores); the appropriate time-of-year/month to annually update the examination to reflect the most current law; the frequency that the examination should be administered (e.g., annually, semi-annually, quarterly, monthly, weekly, or daily); the period of time that applicants, other than those individuals who obtain a preparer tax identification number prior to the examination being offered, should be required to wait before retaking the examination if the applicant does not pass;  the administration of the examination in languages other than English and the other languages that should be considered; the elements of the special enrollment examination (content or test administration) for either enrolled agents or enrolled retirement plan agents that the competency examination should attempt to utilize or should not attempt to reproduce; and any additional information that the IRS should consider when developing the content of, and the procedures for administering, the competency examination.

Comments can be emailed to Notice.Comments@irscounsel.treas.gov.  “Notice 2011-48” should be in the subject line of the email.  All comments will be available for public inspection and copying, the IRS noted. Comments are requested by July 7, 2011.

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