PTINdirectory.com has launched a searchable database of more than 700,000 federally-registered tax preparers. Preparers can be found by IRS-sanctioned credentials and industries, as well as by services offered and geographic criteria. 

All tax professionals who prepare returns for compensation must obtain a PTIN and, unless exempt, meet minimum continuing education requirements and pass a competency exam. Starting in 2014, only RTRPs, CPAs, attorneys and EAs will be authorized to prepare and sign federal individual tax returns for payment. Taxpayers who allow non-registered preparers to do their returns may be subject to penalties and audit.

Some preparers, however, claimed to have been approached by private concerns -- and not the IRS -- to register their PTIN and otherwise compromise confidential information. The plan has also run into opposition from individual tax prep pros.

Some in the LinkedIn group for the National Association of Tax Professionals, for instance, question whether such sites are government-run and legitimate or merely a “phishing” and “cleverly masked” attempt to secure preparers’ personal and business information.

“It looks like a private for-profit group has started this site,” writes Kerry Freeman, owner of Freeman Income Tax Service of Phoenix, Arix. “My concern is this: How someone is using the [Freedom of Information Act) to build databases for their profit with information that is … not accurate?”

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