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, then you should know who can represent you before the IRS if there is a problem with your return. Here's what you should know:
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
- Certified Public Accountants
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.
For returns filed after December 31, 2015, the only tax return preparers with limited representation rights are Annual Filing Season Program Participants. The Annual Filing Season Program is a voluntary program. Non-credentialed tax return preparers who aim for a higher level of professionalism are encouraged to participate.
Other tax return preparers have limited representation rights, but only for returns filed before January 1, 2016. Keep these changes in mind and choose wisely when you select a tax return preparer.