In 2010, the IRS created the current form of the PTIN (Preparer Tax Identification Number) Program.
Unless you are a tax geek like me, you don’t know the relevance of this program. For my 27 years of practice, I have always signed tax return as the preparer and included my identification number. In my ignorance, I assumed the IRS kept track of the returns I prepared and ran analytics against those returns. Well, I guess that was naive. The IRS did no such tracking and has not regulated who can actually prepare a return for a fee.
The PTIN program was an attempt to regulate this unregulated area. The main purpose was to try to eliminate fraud and scamsters from stealing your money and identity. This sounds like a good idea, right?
The PTIN Program required people who complete returns to meet minimum (emphasis added) standards and pass a test (open book none the less). Not much of protection for the consumer, but a start.
Unfortunately, a group of people sued the IRS and argued that they did not have the authority to create such a requirement. Unfortunately, the Courts agreed. The Courts have shut down this program and once again put a target on the consumer.
If you do not use a CPA or EA to prepare your taxes, please do your homework on the person providing the service (education, qualifications, experience,liability insurance, etc.). This will save you significant problems down the road.
Good luck, it looks like you’ll need it.