The Internal Revenue Service is sending letters to more than 9,000 tax preparers across Iowa, reminding them they need to sign up for a special I-D number. IRS spokesman David Williams says it’s the first stage of a multi-year plan to more closely regulate the tax return preparation industry.

“There was really a need to establish some basic, minimal competencies and requirements for people who prepare tax returns,” Williams says. “We believe that’ll help the IRS improve tax administration but it really goes to helping the American consumer know that when they identify and talk to someone who’s preparing their return, that person knows what he or she is doing.”

The IRS says 60% of taxpayers get professional help to do their taxes, making tax preparers essential players in the process. Williams says tax preparers will need this special number to start filing returns as of January 1st.

“Part of my message to the tax professional community is, if you’ve been waiting to get what we call the P-TIN, a Preparer Tax Identification Number, don’t wait any longer,” Williams says. “You need to use that number when you prepare returns next year and we have an online system you can use to get it in about 15 minutes.”

There is a fee of around $64 to sign up for the number and Williams says it will be an annual fee. “What we’re trying to do is defray the cost of the program with the fee,” Williams says. “That means, not only the outreach and advertising, that’s the system that they need to use and it’s also making sure that if preparers have issues or concerns, we have the staff to support and help them deal with those issues.”

The letters are going out to more than 9,200 Iowa tax preparers. Williams says some tax preparers will be required to pass competency tests and take continuing education courses annually. Standard ethics provisions will apply to all tax return preparers. Learn more at: