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PTIN Requirements

What is a PTIN?

PTIN stands for Preparer Tax Identification Number. Every person who prepares tax returns for compensation must obtain a PTIN from the IRS. Tax preparers are required by law to include their PTIN on each tax return they prepare. If you work in an office setting where there are many preparers, every individual in the office should have their own PTIN.


Who Needs to Get an IRS PTIN?

A PTIN is necessary for every tax professional who receives compensation for preparing, or assisting in the preparation, of U.S. federal tax returns. Certified public accountants, enrolled agents, participants in the Annual Filing Season Program, and other tax preparers fall under the PTIN requirements. 


While PTIN requirements may seem simple, there are very specific rules to determine who needs to get a PTIN:

  • PTIN Required if Receiving Compensation: Means the tax professional is getting paid to prepare federal tax returns. For example, if you’re a volunteer who only prepares tax returns for free, then you do not need to get a PTIN.

  • PTIN Required if Assisting in Preparing Tax Returns: Means the tax professional prepares part of a tax return and makes determinations that impact the client’s tax liability. However, interns who only perform routine data entry and don’t make tax determinations are not required to get a PTIN.

How to Get a PTIN in Four Steps:

1. Gather Information for PTIN Registration

Before applying for a PTIN, tax preparers should download Form W-12 and read the instructions. Use Form W-12 as a checklist to make sure you have all the required information. At a minimum, tax preparers should have the last tax return handy as well as details about their professional credentials (such as their CPA license).

  • Social Security Number

  • Personal information (name, mailing address, date of birth).

  • Business information (name, mailing address, telephone number).

  • Previous year’s individual tax return (name, address, filing status)

  • Explanations for any tax obligations or felony convictions (if applicable).

  • Any certification information (including certification number, jurisdiction of issuance, and expiration date) for all certifications you hold including CPA, attorney, enrolled agent, etc.


2. Create a PTIN Account

When applying for a PTIN for the first time, tax professionals are strongly encouraged to create a PTIN account online with the IRS. With an online PTIN account, first-time applicants can fill out the paperwork and receive their PTIN in about 15 minutes.

3. Apply for a PTIN

Tax preparers apply for a PTIN either through the IRS website or by mailing in Form W-12. Applying for a PTIN online takes about 15 minutes. After creating an online PTIN account, tax preparers log in to the PTIN system and select the option to sign up with their Social Security number.

4. Receive Your PTIN

After completing the online PTIN application, most tax preparers will receive their Preparer Tax Identification Number immediately once the application is complete. If you mailed in the paper forms, you will receive your PTIN after the IRS processes your PTIN application in about four to six weeks. You may want to save or to print the welcome message from the IRS containing your PTIN. If desired for your records, print the screens of your PTIN application after you complete them, as the IRS will not email you a copy of your completed application.

How to Renew Your PTIN

Tax preparers must renew their Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) each year. PTINs expire on the last day of the year, December 31. Preparers can renew their PTIN as early as mid-October. Prepares should renew their PTINs before filing tax returns in the new year. Preparers can renew their PTIN online or by mail.


The three steps for a PTIN renewal are:

1. Log into Your PTIN Account

Log into the PTIN System on From the main menu, click on the Select button next to PTIN Renewal. Follow the prompts on the screen. Alternatively, you can fill out and mail in Form W-12.

2. Verify Your PTIN Information

After selecting the PTIN Renewal link, review and verify the information displayed on the screen. Update any information. Complete all required fields, which are marked with a red asterisk.

3. Get Your PTIN Renewal Confirmation

After verifying your information, your PTIN is renewed for the year. From the main menu, you will see that your PTIN has an active status. You will notice that the year your PTIN expires is also updated; view this by clicking on Show Details. The IRS will also send a PTIN renewal letter to your PTIN inbox.

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