Nearly three years ago, the IRS launched the tax return preparer oversight program and seeds were planted in the landscape of tax return preparation services. Today, those seeds are starting to sprout.
In June, the IRS estimated there are 717,161 PTIN holders, many of which (212,975, or 29.7%) are CPAs, outnumbering Enrolled Agents (42,895) and attorneys (31,189) combined. While CPAs have dominated the regulated tax preparation arena, that landscape is about to change. More and more people are completing the final step to becoming a Registered Tax Return Preparer, or RTRP (they have until 12/31/13 to pass the competency exam). Currently, there are 4,893 RTRPs. That leaves an estimated 338,127 “provisional preparers” who may join the RTRP ranks.
That means more competition is coming and it will influence the public perception of tax return preparers. Unfortunately, the public doesn’t really understand the difference between a CPA and other tax return preparers. We have all seen the advertisements by the big box tax preparation and software chains that inflate the qualifications of their employees. They often compare them to CPAs or perhaps they feature a CPA in the ad, implying that every customer representative will have similar qualifications.