Many people use a tax professional to prepare their taxes. Anyone who prepares, or assists in preparing, all or substantially all of a federal tax return for compensation is required to have a valid Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). All enrolled agents must also have a valid PTIN.

If you choose to have someone prepare your federal tax return you should know who can represent you before the IRS, if there is a problem with your return.

Representation rights, also known as practice rights, fall into two categories:

  • Unlimited Representation
  • Limited Representation

Unlimited representation rights allow a credentialed tax practitioner to represent you before the IRS on any tax matter. This is true no matter who prepared your return. Credentialed tax professionals who have unlimited representation rights include:

  • Enrolled agents (EAs)
  • Certified Public Accountants (CPAs)
  • Attorneys

Limited representation rights authorize the tax professional to represent you if, and only if, they prepared and signed the return. They can do this only before IRS revenue agents, customer service representatives and similar IRS employees. They cannot represent clients whose returns they did not prepare. They cannot represent clients regarding appeals or collection issues, even if they did prepare the return in question.

Currently, the only tax return preparers with limited representation rights are those who complete the IRS’s Annual Filing Season Program (AFSP). The AFSP is a voluntary program. Non-credentialed tax return preparers who aim for a higher level of professionalism are encouraged to participate.

A preparer who has only a PTIN and is not an EA, a CPA, an attorney or an individual who has completed the AFSP cannot represent you before the IRS should the need arise. Choose wisely when you select a tax return preparer.

Confused about your next steps? Contact us for assistance and explanation.

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