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It feels like the last tax season just ended (okay, it kind of did), but the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is already sending out reminders for tax professionals to start the upcoming 2021 filing season. Specifically, the IRS is reminding paid preparers to renew their Preparer Tax Identification Numbers (PTINs) now. All current PTINs will expire December 31, 2020.

Any tax professional who prepares or helps prepare any federal tax return, or claim for refund, for compensation must have a valid PTIN from the IRS. Some forms which are used for informational purposes, like forms SS-4 and 2848, are excluded, as well as specific information returns, like forms W-2 and 1099. You can see the entire list of excluded forms and returns here.

Fees are $21 fee per PTIN application or renewal, plus a $14.95 fee payable to a contractor. According to the IRS, the third-party contractor fee pays for several functions, including processing applications, renewals, and operating a call center. The PTIN fee is non-refundable.

“Large segments of the taxpaying public rely on tax return preparers to assist them in complying with their filing and payment obligations,” said IRS Return Preparer Director, Carol A. Campbell. “Obtain or renew your PTIN now so you will be prepared to assist when filing season opens.”

The IRS suggests that tax preparers with a 2020 PTIN use the online renewal process, which takes about 15 minutes to complete. Here are the quick and easy instructions:

  • Start at IRS.gov/taxpros.
  • Select the “Renew or Register” button.
  • Enter the user ID and password to login to the online PTIN account.
  • Follow the prompts to verify information and answer a few questions.

The online system not only allows PTIN renewal, but can also be used by tax preparers to view a summary of the number of filed returns their PTIN has appeared on in the current year, and to receive communications through a secure mailbox from the IRS Return Preparer Office.

First time PTIN applicants can also apply for a PTIN online. Here’s how:

  • Start at IRS.gov/taxpros.
  • Select the “Renew or Register” button and select “Create Account” in the New User box.
  • First time users are issued a temporary password and will be prompted to change their password upon logging in.
  • Select the appropriate “PTIN Sign Up” option once logged in.
  • Follow the prompts to obtain the PTIN online.

If you don’t want to or can’t file online, you can file by paper by using Form W-12 (downloads as a PDF). However, the paper form can take four to six weeks to process. Failure to have and use a valid PTIN may result in penalties.

Taxpayers should avoid paid preparers who refuse to include a PTIN on a tax return. That might happen because the paid preparer isn’t eligible for a PTIN or because they don’t want to be responsible for the return. Either way, it’s bad news. Those who set up shop and refuse to get a PTIN are sometimes called ghost preparers or black market preparers (for more, click here). Seek out a competent tax preparer who will answer your questions and sign your tax return. You can also check the IRS public directory to find a listing of preparers in your area who currently hold professional credentials recognized by the IRS or who hold an Annual Filing Season Program Record of Completion.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has announced that more than a dozen new seminars from the 2020 Nationwide Tax Forums are now available on IRS Nationwide Tax Forums Online.

The self-study seminars provide use interactive videos, PowerPoint slides and audio transcripts. Here’s the list of the new courses:

Advocating for Immigrant Taxpayers    
Advocating for Taxpayers with Collection Information Statements    
Be Tax Ready – Understanding Eligibility Rules for EITC, AOTC, CTC and Head of Household Filing Status
Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015’s Centralized Partnership Audit Regime (The)
Charities & Tax-Exempt Organizations Update    
Créditos Reembolsables (In Spanish)
Diligence in Practice before the IRS: Record-Keeping
Federal Ethics for the Tax Professionals: Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) and Circular 230
Impact of Non-filing and Non-payment
IRS Key Enforcement Issues
Keys to Mastering Due Diligence Requirements and Audits
Keynote Address
Preparation of Form 1040-NR, U.S. Nonresident Alien Income Tax Return
Retirement Plan Distributions, Loans and More
Tax Changes from a Forms Perspective
Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) Update: Opportunity Zones
Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) Update: Qualified Business Income Deduction
Update from the IRS Independent Office of Appeals

The IRS Nationwide Tax Forums Online is registered with the IRS Return Preparer Office and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy as a qualified sponsor of continuing education (CE).

Certified Public Accountants (CPAs), Enrolled Agents (EAs) and Annual Filing Season Program (AFSP) participants can earn CE credits by taking the classes. To earn credit, users must create an account, answer review questions throughout the seminar and pass short tests at the end of the seminars. The fee is $29 per class.

You can also audit the courses for free. That means you can watch them, but you will not have access to the review questions or final examination, or receive credit for the seminars.

Break out those checkbooks: the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has announced the annual Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) fees for 2021. Fees are $21 fee per PTIN application or renewal, plus a $14.95 fee payable to a contractor. According to the IRS, the third-party contractor fee pays for several functions, including processing applications, renewals, and operating a call center.

All current PTINs will expire on December 31, 2020. If you don’t have a PTIN for the 2021 tax season, you may not prepare tax returns for compensation. If you don’t have a valid PTIN, you may be subject to section 6695 penalties, injunction, and disciplinary action by the IRS Office of Professional Responsibility.

Any tax professional who prepares or helps prepare any federal tax return, or claim for refund, for compensation must have a valid PTIN from the IRS. Some forms which are used for informational purposes, like forms SS-4 and 2848, are excluded, as well as specific information returns, like forms W-2 and 1099. You can see the entire list of excluded forms and returns here.

Taxpayers should avoid paid preparers who refuse to include a PTIN on a tax return. That might happen because the paid preparer isn’t eligible for a PTIN or because they don’t want to be responsible for the return. Either way, it’s bad news. Those who set up shop and refuse to get a PTIN are sometimes called ghost preparers or black market preparers (for more, click here). Seek out a competent tax preparer who will answer your questions and sign your tax return. You can also check the IRS public directory to find a listing of preparers in your area who currently hold professional credentials recognized by the IRS or who hold an Annual Filing Season Program Record of Completion.

The IRS estimates that more than 800,000 tax return preparers will apply for or renew a PTIN this year.

If you thought that the IRS had stopped charging PTIN fees, you’re right. There’s some history there. The IRS did try to regulate tax preparers, and the matter did go to court. In Loving v. IRS, 742 F.3d 1013 (D.C. Cir. 2014), the IRS’ efforts to license preparers were struck down, but the PTIN rules stuck. 

(You can find out more about Loving here.)

Shortly after the ruling, a class-action suit was filed on behalf of tax professionals who paid PTIN fees before the Loving verdict. Those tax professionals alleged that they should not have been required to pay the fees. The court agreed, ruling that the IRS could require the use of PTINs but could not charge fees for them “because this would be equivalent to imposing a regulatory licensing scheme and the IRS does not have such regulatory authority.” In the ruling, the IRS was barred from charging PTIN fees and ordered to provide a full refund of all PTIN fees paid – worth more than $175 million.

(You can read about the class action suit here.)

The IRS, of course, appealed, and the matter went back to court. It was argued in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on May 11, 2018. While the case was pending, the IRS did not charge PTIN fees.

In 2019, the court ruled that the IRS does have the authority to charge PTIN fees (Montrois, No. 17-5204 (D.C. Cir. 3/1/19)). In the ruling, the court vacated the district court’s opinion, which means that the lower court’s judgment is no longer valid. That opens the door for the IRS to reinstate those PTIN fees – which they did. It also means, for now, no PTIN refunds. The case is ongoing.

(You can read the opinion as a PDF here.)

You can read the final regulations setting the fees – slated to be published on July 17 – here.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has released the seminar schedule for the 2020 IRS Nationwide Tax Forums.

Due to COVID-19 and related restrictions, the forums will be held online this year – as opposed to the in-person events in prior years. The series will begin on July 21, 2020, and continue through August 20, 2020, with sessions held on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. Here’s the lineup:

 Date11 a.m. – noon EDT2 p.m. – 3 p.m. EDT
Tuesday, July 21Advocating for Immigrant TaxpayersKeynote Address
Wednesday, July 22Advocating for Taxpayers with Collection Information StatementsCharities & Tax-Exempt Organizations Update
Thursday, July 23The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015’s Centralized Partnership Audit RegimeBe Tax Ready – Understanding Eligibility Rules for EITC, AOTC, CTC and Head of Household Filing Status
  
Tuesday, July 28Tax Security Panel: The Taxes-Security-Together ChecklistCybersecurity for Tax Professionals – Advanced Session
Wednesday, July 29Diligence in Practice before the IRS: Record-KeepingElectronic Payments and Direct Deposits – New Options
Thursday, July 30Federal Ethics for the Tax Professionals: Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) and Circular 230Impact of Non-filing and Non-payment
   
Tuesday, Aug. 4IRS Key Enforcement IssuesKeys to Mastering Due Diligence Requirements and Audits
Wednesday, Aug. 5Other Income: Taxable or Not?Preparation of Form 1040-NR, U.S. Nonresident Alien Income Tax Return
Thursday, Aug. 6Protect Yourself and Your Clients Against A New Wave of CriminalsTaxpayer Planning Issues After the Enactment of the 2019 Disaster Act and Secure Act
   
Tuesday, Aug. 11Representing the Taxpayer Without Records, Reconstructing Income and ExpensesTax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) Update: Opportunity Zones
Wednesday, Aug. 12Retirement Plan Distributions, Loans and MoreTax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) Update: Qualified Business Income Deduction
Thursday, Aug. 13QBI Problems? We Have Solutions!Update from the IRS Independent Office of Appeals
Tuesday, Aug. 18Currency: Virtual, Digital, Cyber, Crypto, Form 1040, Schedule 1 and How to ReportWorker Classification Issues – Hiring Freelancers Is Never Free and It May Cost You A Lot, Too
Wednesday, Aug. 19Créditos Reembolsables (Spanish session)Construya su Plan de Seguridad de Datos para sus Contribuyentes (Spanish session)
Thursday, Aug. 20Tax Changes from a Forms PerspectiveCambios Tributarios desde la Perspectiva de Formularios (Spanish Session)

You can earn up to 30 continuing education credits when you register.

The early-bird registration deadline has been extended to June 30 at 5 p.m. EDT. You can save $49 if you register by the deadline (you’ll pay $240 compared to the standard rate of $289). Register at www.irstaxforum.com.

If you previously registered for the live locations, you can transfer your registration to the virtual format at no additional cost, or request a refund (you have to do this by June 30).

The law firm of Kostelanetz & Fink has announced that registration is now open for this year’s NYU Tax Controversy Forum, which will be held on Thursday and Friday, June 18 and 19, 2020 as an online webinar featuring senior IRS personnel. The entire program will be provided free of charge.

The program will consist of 2-3 hours of panels each on Thursday, June 18, and Friday, June 19 via Zoom webinar.

This year’s Forum will feature updates on what the IRS is doing to enhance compliance through communication and enforcement. Panels will highlight the new IRS focus on intra-agency collaboration, new initiatives with respect to penalties and fraud referrals, and IRS’ handling of tax collection. Speakers will include an array of distinguished senior IRS personnel, including:

  • Erin Collins, Esq., National Taxpayer Advocate, Internal Revenue Service
  • Michael J. Desmond, Esq., Chief Counsel, Internal Revenue Service
  • Don Fort, Chief, Criminal Investigation Division, Internal Revenue Service
  • Darren Guillot, Deputy Commissioner, Small Business/Self Employed Division, Internal Revenue Service
  • Eric Hylton, Commissioner, Small Business/Self-Employed Division, Internal Revenue Service
  • Andrew Keyso, Chief, Independent Office of Appeals, Internal Revenue Service
  • Sunita Lough, Esq., Deputy Commissioner for Services and Enforcement, Internal Revenue Service
  • Paul Mamo, Director of Collection, Small Business/Self-Employed Division, Internal Revenue Service 
  • Brendan O’Dell, Coordinator, Promoter Investigations Coordinator, Office of the Deputy Commissioner, Services and Enforcement, Internal Revenue Service, Washington, D.C. 
  • Douglas O’Donnell, Commissioner, Large Business and International Division, Internal Revenue Service.
  • Tamera Ripperda, Commissioner, Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division, Internal Revenue Service 
  • Damon Rowe, Executive Director, Fraud Enforcement Office, Small Business and Self-Employed Division, Internal Revenue Service 

TAX CONTROVERSY FORUM CO-CHAIRS

  • Bryan C. Skarlatos, Esq., Partner, Kostelanetz & Fink, New York, NY 
  • Armando Gomez, Esq., Partner, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, Washington, DC

The Forum’s Planning Committee, which includes Forum founder and Kostelanetz & Fink partner Bryan Skarlatos, and the New York University’s School of Professional Services, has decided to offer this program remotely via Zoom webinar in order to ensure the health and safety of conference attendees and panelists during the COVID-19 pandemic.

You can register at http://www.cvent.com/events/12th-annual-tax-controversy-forum-webinar-sessions/event-summary-1ccc89ce43ca4d66b131cb08c90eec37.aspx

Each year, the NYU School of Professional Studies Tax Controversy Forum brings together representatives from the government and expert private practitioners to compare perspectives on a variety of topics involving federal tax audits, appeals, and litigation. The forum covers a wide range of controversy work, from procedural seminars to substantive programs, international issues, ethical problems, current enforcement initiatives, sensitive audits, and civil and criminal tax penalties.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has announced that the 2020 IRS Nationwide Tax Forums will go virtual in 2020. The agency will be hosting a series of live-streamed webinars beginning this July.

“Given restrictions on large gatherings and difficulties with travel, we’ve made the decision to present the IRS Nationwide Tax Forums in a virtual format this year,” IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said. “While we’re unable to meet in person, tax professionals will still be able to choose from a wide variety of virtual seminars on tax law. Many will be able to fully satisfy their annual continuing education requirements by registering and attending.”

The IRS Nationwide Tax Forums allow the IRS to reach out to the tax professional community. The 2020 forums were scheduled to take place in six cities around the country this summer. Those in-person events are canceled.

However, the change to a virtual format allows experts from the IRS and its association partners to still educate and update the tax professional community on tax law, cybersecurity, ethics, and other topics. There will be a plenary session with tax law and publications update, as well as multiple sessions on high-interest topics such as qualified business income, exam and enforcement priorities, due diligence, cybersecurity, and more. Presentations are made by both IRS experts and partner associations.

I’m not gonna lie. I’m pretty excited. I mean, I’m not thrilled about the circumstances, but the virtual format offers the chance for folks like me who usually can’t make it to the forums to attend online. My summers are generally packed with summer camps and other kid-related events. Getting away to attend a professional event can be challenging: now, I don’t have to.

The 2020 Nationwide Tax Forums will begin on July 21 and continue through August 20 with live-streamed webinars broadcast on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. Registration entitles you to participate in all of the live webinars and earn up to 30 Continuing Education (CE) credits for just one price. 

Y este año, se ofrecerán varios seminarios (incluida la sesión plenaria) en español.

Tax professionals who register by June 15 at 5 p.m. ET qualify for an Early Bird rate of $240 per person. The standard rate, starting June 16, will be $289. Registration information, as well as information on transfers and cancelations, is available at www.IRSTaxForum.com.

Members of partner associations listed below qualify for a discount of $10 off the Early Bird rate, but only if they register by June 15. Participating association members should contact their association directly for more information:

 • American Bar Association (ABA) Section of Taxation

 • American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA)

 • National Association of Enrolled Agents (NAEA)

 • National Association of Tax Professionals (NATP)

 • National Society of Accountants (NSA)

 • National Society of Tax Professionals (NSTP)

 • Low Income Taxpayer Clinics (LITC)

 • Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA)

More details, including course titles, dates, and times, will be available beginning in early June.

Wondering what registrations will get you? Check out these presentations from past forums:

 • IRS PowerPoint Presentations from 2019 Tax Forums

 • IRS PowerPoint Presentations from 2018 Tax Forums

There’s so much happening now. Here’s where you can find information on how COVID-19 is affecting tax returns and, of course, those stimulus checks.

Got questions about stimulus checks? I’ve got answers. There are separate pieces for high school seniors and college students, as well as seniors (seniors piece is updated here).

IRS has pushed filing deadlines to July 15. Not all state and local tax authorities are following the feds. If you’re looking for updates on local and state tax authority closings and extensions, you’ll find those here.

If you’re looking for a summary of the CARES Act, you can find it here.

All local Social Security offices will be closed to the public for in-person service starting Tuesday, March 17, 2020. According to the Social Security Administration, “This decision protects the population we serve—older Americans and people with underlying medical conditions—and our employees during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.” You can find out more here.

IRS is closing down some operations. The upside is that they’re offering some relief, too. You can find those details here.

Finally, if you’d like to help out, there are many organizations offering services during the crisis.

PLEASE DON’T LEAVE QUESTIONS IN THE COMMENTS! I may not see them. Best to ask here.

Have a Tax Court matter? If you’ve clicked over to the Tax Court web site lately, you’ve likely seen this:

It reads:

The U.S. Tax Court would like to assure the public that the Court is following recommended guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with respect to the COVID-19 Virus. For more information, click here.

So how do these measures affect taxpayers and tax professionals? Here’s what the Court says:

  • Effective March 9, 2020, and until further notice, out of an abundance of caution, the Court is encouraging social distancing and will therefore limit the number of people in the courtroom at any one time.
  • If you are required to appear in Court and are experiencing any flu like symptoms, have a fever, or are coughing or sneezing, please contact the Court before appearing. The Court will make reasonable accommodations and reschedule appearances, hearings, and trials as needed.
  • If you have recently traveled from an area with widespread or ongoing community spread of COVID-19 and you have symptoms of the disease (fever, cough, shortness of breath) reach out to your healthcare provider for details on how to proceed with proper medical care.

The Court also advises you to check with the CDC, WHO, and to monitor the Court’s website for updates.

Taxpayers are often quick to complain about customer service issues. Now, the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel (TAP) is seeking volunteers who are willing to help the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) identify ways to improve customer service and satisfaction. 

TAP was established in 2002 under the authority of the Department of the Treasury. It’s a Federal Advisory Committee made up of approximately 75 volunteers representing all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico (the Puerto Rico member represents the interests of U.S. taxpayers living overseas, including dual citizens, who must meet U.S. tax obligations). These volunteers generally spend between 200 and 300 hours per year on member activities that further TAP’s mission to improve the IRS.

You can check the list of current TAP volunteers here.

TAP listens to taxpayers, identifies taxpayers’ issues, and makes suggestions for improving IRS service and customer satisfaction. After TAP submits a recommendation, IRS program areas review the proposal and implement it if appropriate and feasible.

Sound like something you’d be good at tackling? TAP is looking for members to serve on the 2021 panel. TAP will begin accepting applications on February 18, 2020. 

To be selected for TAP, you must be a citizen of the United States of America and current with all federal tax obligations. You’ll also have to pass an FBI fingerprint and background check. You must have access to and use of a computer with Internet, e-mail, and word processing capability, and be willing and able to travel to attend TAP meetings several times during the year (be prepared to fund reimbursable travel expenses – except airfare). 

There are some dealbreakers, too. You may not be a federally registered lobbyist, and you may not be a Department of Treasury or IRS employee. 

Since 2002, TAP submitted 2,039 recommendations to the IRS. In 2018, TAP provided 152 recommendations to the IRS; you can read more details in the TAP 2018 Annual Report.

To sign up to receive an alert when TAP begins accepting applications, please visit www.improveirs.org.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my websiteKelly Phillips Erb

Years ago, I found myself sitting in law school in Moot Court wearing an oversized itchy blue suit. It was a horrible experience. In a desperate attempt to avoid anything… Read More

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With tax season in full swing, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has issued a reminder to taxpayers to avoid unethical “ghost” tax return preparers.

A ghost preparer is a paid tax preparer who isn’t on the IRS’ radar because he or she doesn’t have a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). And to stay hidden, a ghost preparer will take money from a taxpayer to prepare a tax return but not sign the return which means that, to the IRS, the return appears to be self-prepared. For e-filed returns, the ghost will prepare but refuse to digitally sign as the paid preparer.

By law, anyone who is paid to prepare or assists in preparing federal tax returns must have a valid PTIN. Paid tax preparers are supposed to sign and include their PTIN on the taxpayer’s return. But some tax preparers do not, often because they don’t want to be responsible for the consequences. Those preparers are referred to in the business as ghost preparers or black market preparers.

Ghost preparers tend to set up shop around tax time, usually as a short time rental in a busy area, or a community gathering place like a church. They tout “big and fast” tax refunds to taxpayers, almost always in combination with a refund anticipation type loans. They advertise low fees to get taxpayers in the door, but the costs for other services, like refund loans, which are tied to the size of a refund, quickly add up. The result? Incentives to cheat, including reporting bogus Head of Household filing status, inflated Earned Income Tax Credits, made-up education credits, and fabricated business expenses.

Here’s what those taxpayers don’t realize: The potential for audit in these cases is high since those missteps are IRS targets.

By the time the behavior catches up with the taxpayer, the tax preparer is often out of the picture. He or she won’t return calls if the tax preparer had even provided a number. In almost every case, the taxpayer braves any audit on their own. There is no documentation and no real excuses. The result? Refund repayments. Tax obligations. Penalties. Interest. And a financial mess.

No matter who prepares the return, the IRS urges taxpayers to review it carefully and ask questions before signing. Taxpayers should verify their routing and bank account numbers on the tax return for any direct deposit refund (ghost preparers may try to include their own bank account information instead).

The IRS urges taxpayers to choose a tax return preparer wisely. Find a competent tax preparer who will answer your questions and sign your tax return. You can also check the IRS directory to find a list of tax preparers in your area who currently hold professional credentials recognized by the IRS or an Annual Filing Season Program Record of Completion.