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What is an IRS PTIN (Preparer Tax Identification Number)?

Jo Willetts, EA

Director, Tax Resources

Published on: June 07, 2023

A preparer tax identification number, or PTIN, is a substitute for a tax professional’s Social Security number (SSN). The PTIN is required for all paid preparers of individual income tax returns. This number is issued by the IRS and must be included in the paid-preparer section of all Forms 1040 and other series requesting a PTIN.

Do I need a PTIN?

Paid tax return preparers need to get a PTIN to prepare Form 1040 series tax returns, in whole or part, or claims of refund. The IRS has an exhaustive list of tax forms that don't require a PTIN to prepare, such as the 1099 and W-2 series if you are a professional payroll provider, and 5500 series if you administer retirement plans and need to complete the subsequent tax forms.

Enrolled agents (EAs) are required to get a PTIN regardless of what practice areas they focus on. CPAs and attorneys only need to get a PTIN if they are paid to prepare tax returns or file other tax forms not on the list. Unenrolled tax preparers who do not have any of these professional designations will need a PTIN if they are paid to prepare tax returns. In addition, some states require paid tax return preparers to have a PTIN.

Do bookkeepers or employees preparing taxes need a PTIN?

Generally, bookkeepers and employees of tax preparation offices who do not prepare tax returns do not need to register for a PTIN unless they actually work on the tax return or forms in the tax return.

If the bookkeeper or employee gathers clients' books and records, communicates with the clients, and helps with organizing and providing the information needed to complete the tax return, then a PTIN is not required.

However, if the bookkeeper is actually entering information on the tax forms, even if they are not signing off on them, then they need to register for their own PTIN separate from the firm owner or signing preparer.

How do I find a tax preparer with a PTIN?

The IRS has a public database of paid tax preparers who have active PTINs, which can be found here.

If I’m studying to become a tax preparer, how do I get a PTIN?

First, you need to create a PTIN account through the IRS website. For the 2022 tax year, you will need to pay a $30.75 fee to obtain or renew a PTIN (there was no fee for the 2018-2020 tax years). A PTIN is good for one year and must be renewed each year before the preparer does tax returns. While there is no formal business or educational requirements to get a PTIN, you need to be least 18 years old to register. You then need to fill out the rest of the application.

The IRS will ask for your SSN and will verify your identity by asking for numbers that were reported on your last federal income tax return. If you have a valid SSN and never filed an income tax return, or you last filed more than four years ago, you can still complete the online application by selecting "No Recent Tax Return" for the tax year in which you want to register for a PTIN.

You can also complete your application on paper with Form W-12. Mail the completed form along with an original or notarized copy of your Social Security card plus a government-issued ID like a passport, driver's license, non-driver ID card, or military ID. All of the documents must verify your name and if your ID has two sides, both the front and back must be included.

The completed Form W-12 and supporting documents can be mailed to:

IRS Tax Pro PTIN Processing Center

PO Box 380638

San Antonio, TX 78268

Certified mail is recommended so you can be assured that an IRS employee received your application.

If your name has changed since your Social Security card was issued, or since you last filed a tax return or even the PTIN application itself, you can use the online PTIN portal to submit a name change or mail supporting documentation to the above address to confirm your name change. If your name has NOT changed but there is an error in how your name is spelled, you should contact the IRS Tax Professional PTIN Information Line at 877-613-PTIN (7846).

How to renew a PTIN

PTINs expire on December 31, every year, no matter your professional designation or whether you are preparing taxes on your own or as an employee or intern.

Once you have a PTIN account with, all you need to do is select "Renew Your PTIN" and log in. You will need to provide the same information as when you initially signed up for a PTIN, including your SSN, personal and business information, information from your last filed tax return (if you have one), professional designations and jurisdictions, and if you need to provide explanations for tax-related or felony convictions.

You will need to renew your PTIN every year that you prepare tax returns for compensation. If your duties fall outside of this scope, and you are not an enrolled agent, you will not need to renew this number.

About the Author

Jo Willetts, Director of Tax Resources at Jackson Hewitt, has more than 35 years of experience in the tax industry. As an Enrolled Agent, Jo has attained the highest level of certification for a tax professional. She began her career at Jackson Hewitt as a Tax Pro, working her way up to General Manager of a franchise store. In her current role, Jo provides expert knowledge company-wide to ensure that tax information distributed through all Jackson Hewitt channels is current and accurate.

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