How Tax Preparers Can Meet PTIN and EFIN Renewal Requirements

July 29, 2020

As a paid tax preparer, the Internal Revenue Service requires that you have and maintain an active Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). This is a 9-digit number that identifies you as the tax preparer when you file a return for a paying client. If you’re filing more than 10 tax returns for clients each year, you also need an Electronic Filing Identification Number (EFIN). The EFIN is a 6-digit ID that is issued to tax preparers or tax preparation firms by the IRS. If you use IRS e-file services to file tax returns on behalf of clients, this ID is required. 

Keeping your IRS-issued PTIN active ensures you can continue filing tax returns each calendar year. Without it, you won’t be able to legally accept payment for filing tax returns. 

Let’s look at the renewal period for your PTIN and EFIN, how to renew and keep your PTIN active, and what to do if your PTIN expires.

PTIN Renewal Period

Your Preparer Tax Identification Number, or PTIN, can be in Active, Voluntary Inactive, or Inactive status. Active status is required to prepare and file tax returns for your clients. To stay in Active status, your PTIN must be renewed every calendar year by December 31st. The IRS opens the renewal season in mid-October each year so you’ll have plenty of time to renew your PTIN before the end of the year. 

You can renew your PTIN and keep it in Active status online or through the mail, but renewing online is much faster - it only takes about 15 minutes.   

EFIN Renewal Period

Once you’re issued an Electronic Filing Identification Number (EFIN), it doesn’t expire. Your EFIN number covers you and anyone working at your tax preparation firm. When changes at your firm occur, you will have to update your e-file application to reflect those changes. This includes:

  • Changes in the people working at your firm as tax preparers

  • Address or phone number changes for people working at your firm as tax preparers

  • Changes in the principle listed on the application (the person you authorize to act on behalf of your business in tax and legal matters)

  • Additions to or changes in responsible officials listed on your application

  • Business address additions or changes (each location requires its own EFIN)

  • The sale or closure of your business

When something on your application changes, you must update your application within 30 days. If you don’t make the updates within 30 days, your EFIN could be inactivated and require a new application. 

If you need to make any changes to your e-file application or want to be sure the information in your application is up-to-date, you’ll use the IRS Tax Professionals online portal and click on E-File Providers on the navigation menu on the left side of the page. 

Do You Need Both a PTIN and EFIN?

Most tax preparers need both. Every tax preparer needs their own PTIN, but EFINs are issued to either individuals or firms who e-file. The PTIN is always required for individuals to prepare tax returns that you receive compensation for. 

One EFIN is needed for every firm or physical location from which you file tax returns for clients. If you’re filing more than 10 tax returns each year, you’ll need an EFIN whether you’re working as a sole practitioner or own the business. Filing 10 or more returns in a year requires you to use IRS e-file instead of paper filing, so you need an Electronic Filing Identification Number (EFIN) in order to log in and file tax returns electronically. 

The only way you won’t need an EFIN is if you file fewer than 10 tax returns each year and are using paper filing rather than e-filing. 

How to Renew Your PTIN 

Renewing your PTIN annually is a simple, quick process that you can complete entirely online. The renewal period typically begins in mid-October and ends on December 31st. Renewing your PTIN online to keep it in Active status only takes about 15 minutes. 

Before you sit down to renew your PTIN, compile your documents. You’ll need last year’s tax return and your Social Security number. When you’re ready, visit the IRS PTIN Renewal page and log in to your PTIN account. 

If you have trouble remembering your login information, you can click Forgot Password, Forgot User ID, or Forgot or Cannot Access Email for help. Make sure you enter your login information under Returning User. Clicking Create Account will submit a new application, giving you two PTINs under the same Social Security number. 

Next, you’ll complete the online renewal application. In this section, you will enter the following information:

  • Your SSN

  • Your name, address, and date of birth

  • Your business name, address, and phone number

  • Last year’s tax return information (name, filing status, and address)

  • Any tax obligation or felony convictions, if applicable

  • Certification numbers, jurisdiction of issuance, and expiration dates if you hold CPA, attorney, or enrolled agent certifications

Once you’ve entered your information and clicked Submit, you’ve completed the PTIN renewal process and won’t need to renew until next year’s deadline. 

What Are the EFIN and PTIN Renewal Costs?

The IRS does not charge a fee for PTIN registration or annual renewal. There is no fee to submit an EFIN application or to receive your EFIN, and no renewal is required for the EFIN.

What If Your PTIN is Inactive or Expired?

Your PTIN must be in Active status for you to legally file tax returns on behalf of paying clients. Sometimes, you may run into a problem that results in your PTIN being listed as Inactive. This usually occurs if you fail to respond to IRS correspondence that requests more information about your application. 

If you don’t have an Active PTIN and are accepting payment to file tax returns for clients, the IRS may impose IRS Code section 6695 penalties, injunction, or disciplinary action by the Office of Professional Responsibility. It’s essential to renew each year and respond to any requests the IRS may send for additional information.

Even if you forgot to renew or discover your PTIN has been Inactive, you can still get back on track. 

  • If your PTIN has expired for a full calendar year or more and you continued filing returns: You’ll have to renew for each year your PTIN has expired, but once you’re done, you’ll have the same PTIN.

  • If your PTIN has expired or been inactive for 3 or more consecutive years: You’ll need to submit a new registration application. You will receive a new PTIN once you complete the new application.

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