I hate standardized tests. My daughter, a straight-A student at her elementary school, was freaking out over taking the PSSAs, the state-issued assessment tests in Pennsylvania, this week. She was a bundle of nervous energy, talking through a litany of “what if?” questions, all of which appeared to revolve around some kind of worst-case scenario. I suspect she will be on pins and needles until the results are announced.

The waiting game for test results is often stressful. Fortunately, for many tax preparers, the waiting game for the new return preparer competency test is coming to an end: the IRS has begun providing test results to those who have taken the test. Preparers who score at least 350 on the 120 question test (a perfect score is 500) will receive a passing grade. Those preparers who pass and have successfully completed a tax compliance check will be given the designation of Registered Tax Return Preparer.

For now, test results are being sent to tax preparers by letter. However, after April 16, 2012, results will be made available to preparers at the testing site immediately after testing is complete.

The test is part of the IRS effort to regulate preparers. Preparers have nearly two years to take the test. In addition, all paid tax return preparers must have a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) and pay an annual fee. Certain return preparers must also complete 15 hours of continuing education annually. Certified Public Accountants, attorneys (hooray!), and Enrolled Agents are exempt from the new continuing education and testing requirements. Also exempt are non-signing preparers supervised by CPAs, attorneys, or Enrolled Agents and those who do not prepare the federal form 1040 series.

You can schedule the test online at IRS.gov/ptin. Be prepared: it’s not cheap ($116). That fee is in addition to the annual PTIN registration fee and any fees for continuing education.

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Kelly Erb is a tax attorney, tax writer and podcaster.

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