Registered Tax Return Preparer (RTRP)-more info

How do I become a Registered Tax Return Preparer (RTRP)?

We get calls and emails from our students asking “how do I become a Registered Tax Return Preparer? or “how do I prepare for the RTRP exam?”

The answer is:  You cannot become an RTRP, as the program was suspended the the IRS in January 2013. The RTRP exam is no longer offered.

In fact, the IRS does not allow the use of the designation “RTRP” even if you passed the RTRP exam, met the other requirements and received your credential before the program was suspended.


Someone who achieved the RTRP designation does get a break on the required CPE for the Annual Filing Season Program:  if you became an RTRP you are classified as “Exempt” from the AFTR course and only need to take a 3-hour tax update course.  This exemption never expires and is valid for the life of the Annual Filing Season Program.

How do I become a Certified Tax Preparer?

Another question we get concerns becoming a Certified Tax Preparer.  There is actually no such designation in the U.S., although Canada has a tax preparer program by that name.

The IRS does not allow the use of the terms “certified” or “certification” to be associated with any IRS sponsored tax preparer credential program.

There is a CTP designation available which stands for Certified Treasury Professional offered by the Association of Financial Professionals. You can read the details on our CTP page.

What tax preparer designations are available from the IRS?

Annual Filing Season Program (AFSP)

The IRS introduced a program in June 2014 called the Annual Filing Season Program available to all tax preparers at no charge.  Although it is free to join the AFSP program, preparers are required to obtain:

  • annual continuing education (CE) of either 15 hours or 18 hours, depending on whether you are classifed as Exempt or Non-exempt and
  • Preparer Tax ID Number (PTIN) annually.

No exam is required to become an AFSP, other than the exams related to the annual required CE courses.

Overview of the AFSP Program

Enrolled Agent (EA)

The IRS has offered the Enrolled Agent designation since 1884.  You must pass a rigorous 3-part exam called the Special Enrollment Examination (SEE) at a proctored exam center and pass a background check.

EA costs include:

  • Special Enrollment Examination fee
  • EA renewal fee every 3 years
  • PTIN annually
  • Continuing education (24 hours per year)

Overview of the EA program