The Internal Revenue Service said the competency exam for Registered Tax Return Preparers will be available starting in October.

For those tax preparers who plan to take the exam in the next few months, the forms and publications they should study are from tax year 2010, the IRS noted in an email to tax professionals on Friday. The IRS has included a list of the 2010 versions of the forms and publications on a new information page that it set up Tuesday on its Web site. The IRS wants people to avoid printing out too much paper, however.

“We encourage you to go green (some of these are large files) and download electronic copies of the reference material for study purposes,” said the IRS. “Simply click on the publication. Once it opens, select ‘File’ and then ‘Save As’ to save it to your computer."

The IRS recently released the specifications for the exam (see IRS Issues Specs for Tax Preparer Exam).

The exam is part of a three-prong approach to regulating the tax preparation profession. Ahead of last tax season, the IRS began requiring paid tax preparers to obtain a Preparer Tax Identification Number to use on their tax returns. The IRS is also in the process of instituting a continuing education requirement.

The IRS noted on the new information page that CPAs, attorneys and enrolled agents are not subject to the new testing requirements. Nor are “supervised preparers” who do not sign tax returns but help prepare tax returns for CPAs, attorneys and enrolled agents and are supervised by them. Those who don’t prepare Form 1040 series tax returns also are not subject to the requirements. For more information on who is exempt from the requirements, click here.

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