What is the Annual Filing Season Program (AFSP)?
The IRS started the Annual Filing Season Program in July 2014. The purpose of the program is to encourage all non-credentialed (not EA/CPA/Attorney) tax preparers to take continuing education (CE) courses so that they are better prepared to work in the tax preparation industry. The AFSP is voluntary, but there are certain benefits to participating, as well as restrictions if you do not participate.
In 2012, the IRS created the Registered Tax Return Preparer Program (RTRP) in an effort to accomplish similar goals of requiring education for all tax preparers. The RTRP program was discontinued in January 2013. If you took and passed the RTRP exam before it was discontinued, you are recognized for your advanced tax knowledge and receive the benefit of being considered exempt from the Annual Tax Refresher Cours (AFTR). View the types of tax preparers who are "exempt" here.
The IRS is trying to get legislation passed to allow competency testing and required CE for all tax preparers, and the AFSP program is seen as an interim measure to encourage tax education for all tax preparers.
CE Credit Hours Required for calendar years 2016 and beyond
Non-Exempt (need 18 hours) - FunCPE Tax Package #6
- 6 CE hours - Annual Federal Tax Refresher (AFTR) Course
- 2 CE hours - Ethics
- 10 CE hours - Federal tax law (any other Federal tax course besides AFTR course and Ethics course)
Exempt (need 15 hours) - FunCPE Tax Package #5
- 3 CE hours - Tax law update
- 2 CE hours - Ethics
- 10 CE hours - Federal tax law updates (any other Federal tax course besides update course and Ethics course)
Are you exempt or non-exempt?
Find out which category you are in here. The only difference in CE requirements is the non-exempt tax preparers have to take the 6 hour AFTR course, while the exempt tax preparers take the 3 hour tax update course. The AFTR course is a timed 3 hour exam with 100 randomly selected questions, in accordance with IRS regulations.
CE Requirements the first year in 2014
Since the AFSP program was created in mid-year, the CE requirements for 2014 were pro-rated to lower amounts. View the requirements for 2014 here.
When should I take my CPE courses for the AFSP Record of Completion credential?
The IRS requirement for CPE sponsors is to only offer the AFTR course in the second half of the year. As a result, our AFTR course is available on our site from June 1st to December 31st.
All other CPE courses besides the AFTR course can be taken at any time during the year, but must be completed by December 31st.