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IRS CPE Requirements for Tax Preparers

IRS CPE Requirements for Tax Preparers

While maintaining up-to-date records of requirements set forth by the IRS can often be arduous, we at Drake Software hope to alleviate this and present concise, relevant information that is crucial for you as a tax preparer. For your ease, we've composed a comprehensive overview of the IRS requirements for Continuing Professional Education (CPE) for enrolled agents (EAs), including the critical aspects of meeting these requirements, online resources to find additional details, and potential consequences of not fulfilling the yearly CPE requirements. 

CPE Basics 

Continuing Professional Education (CPE) is essential to maintaining professional competence for tax preparers. Read on for an at-a-glance explanation of the IRS CPE requirements, steps to ensure compliance, instructions for locating the requirements online, and possible consequences in the event of non-compliance. 

IRS CPE Requirements for Tax Preparers 

The IRS requires tax preparers who qualify as an Enrolled Agent (EA) to complete a specified number of CPE hours within a designated period to maintain their status with the federal government. The current requirements include the following: 

  1. Annual Requirement: Enrolled agents must obtain 72 hours of continuing education every three years. A minimum of 16 hours must be earned per year, two of which must be ethics.  The CE requirement is slightly different for newly enrolled EAs applying for their first renewal (see IRS Publication 5186 for details). 
  2. Subject Matter: The CPE courses must cover federal tax law topics relevant to the tax preparation profession. The IRS encourages tax preparers to focus on areas where they have the most significant professional activity or where they may lack expertise. 
  3. Qualified Providers: The IRS requires tax preparers to obtain their CPE from qualified providers to ensure the quality and accuracy of CPE courses. Such providers include professional organizations, recognized educational institutions, and certain other IRS-approved entities. 

Ensuring Compliance with IRS CPE Requirements: 

To meet the IRS CPE requirements, tax preparers can follow the steps outlined below: 

  1. Select Appropriate Courses: Tax preparers should choose CPE courses that align with their professional needs and interests. Courses should cover relevant tax law topics and address areas where the preparer may benefit from additional knowledge. 
  2. Choose Qualified Providers: It is crucial to select CPE providers recognized by the IRS. These providers offer courses that meet the necessary standards and ensure the quality of the content. They also report credits earned to the IRS. To ensure you are taking courses from an IRS approved provider, view the IRS Public listing of approved CE providers.  
  3. Attend CPE Courses: Tax preparers should actively participate in CPE courses by attending in-person or virtual sessions, completing self-study modules, or engaging in webinars. Each completed course should provide a certificate or evidence of completion.  
  4. Maintain Documentation: It is essential to retain documentation of completed CPE courses, including certificates or records of attendance. This documentation serves as proof of compliance in case of an audit. 
  5. Check your PTIN Account: Check your online PTIN account to see a display of the CE programs reported to the IRS for you by providers.  

Online Resources for IRS CPE Requirements: 

The IRS provides valuable online resources to assist tax preparers in understanding and maintaining compliance with the CPE requirements. Please navigate to the following websites for additional comprehensive information and guidance: 

  • IRS Website: The IRS website provides detailed information on CPE requirements for EAs, including the latest updates and guidelines. Tax preparers who qualify as enrolled agents can visit this page for a list of frequently asked questions regarding continuing education requirements. Additionally, the IRS Continuing Education web page is a valuable, thorough resource that provides additional information not covered in the scope of this article. 
  • Tax Professional PTIN System: The IRS Tax Professional PTIN System allows registered tax preparers to manage their Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) and provides resources related to CPE requirements.  
  • IRS Continuing Education Provider Program: The IRS maintains a list of approved Continuing Education Providers on its website. Tax preparers can visit the IRS website and search for "IRS Continuing Education Provider Program" to find the current list. 

Consequences of Non-Compliance 

Failure to meet the IRS CPE requirements can have significant consequences for tax preparers. Non-compliance may result in penalties, sanctions, or even the loss of the tax preparer's credentials. Moreover, not meeting the CPE requirements could lead to a diminished level of professional competence, potentially jeopardizing the quality of service provided to clients and harming the provider-client relationship. 

CPE Compliance in Action 

Adhering to the IRS CPE requirements is crucial for tax preparers to maintain their professional proficiency and stay up-to-date with evolving tax laws and regulations. DrakeCPE is here to help you fulfill annual requirements and avoid potential penalties. As an IRS-qualified sponsor of continuing professional education, we offer high-quality and convenient training modules. You have freedom to opt for self-study learning, live webinars, or on-demand webinars so that complying with CPE requirements fits into your existing schedule. With a selection of over fifty ranging courses, DrakeCPE can supplement your knowledge, enhance your business needs, and ensure compliance with governmental CPE regulations. 

This information is derived from the IRS web page for Continuing Education for Tax Professionals. 



Emily McCollin