3 Things You Need to Know Before You Take Your AFTR Exam

The Annual Federal Tax Refresher course (AFTR) is designed for non-credentialed tax preparers (preparers that are not CPAs, EAs, CFPs, and Attorneys) that seek to obtain the IRS Annual Filing Season Program (AFSP) – Record of Completion. 

The Annual Filing Season Program is a voluntary program that has been designed to encourage non-credentialed tax return preparers to participate in continuing education courses so they are in the know every single year on the latest legislation regarding tax law. Return preparers fulfill the requirements for the Annual Filing Season Program with a specified number of hours’ worth of federal tax law topics, ethics, and an annual federal tax refresher course through an IRS accredited education provider.

The AFTR course consists of six continuing education (CE) credit hours regardless of the delivery method (online, in-person, self-study). The AFTR course that leads to the AFSP certification requires that the entire six credit hour AFTR course be taken together with the test in order to earn the IRS Record of Completion.

To qualify, the 100 question test that is administered over three hours has to be completed before the 31st of December 2020 in preparation for the 2021 financial year.

Once completed, participants will be issued a Record of Completion that they can display and use to differentiate themselves in the marketplace. It also gives them the right to speak to the IRS directly and represent their clients.

Now, here are 3 things you shold know before you take your AFTR course:

1. You may be exempt from taking the course

Some unenrolled preparers are exempt from the AFTR course requirement because of their completion of other recognized state or national competency tests. These exempt groups are still required to meet other program requirements. The following applicants are not required to take the refresher course as a condition of eligibility to apply for a Record of Completion:

  • Attorneys, CPAs, and EAs described in section 10.3 of Circular 230;
  • Former IRS Registered Tax Return Preparers (RTRP) (Learn more about RTRP)
  • Enrolled Retirement Plan Agents (ERPA)
  • Preparers who have passed Part 1 of the Special Enrollment Exam (SEE) within the past 2 calendar years
  • Preparers currently registered with California Tax Education Council (CTEC)
  • IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) volunteers
  • Preparers who are currently registered with Oregon Board of Tax Practitioners
  • Preparers who have passed the Maryland examination and/or are currently registered with Maryland

Applicants who qualify for this exception must, upon request, present proof of their license, registration, or passage of an approved examination as required by the IRS in forms, instructions, or other appropriate guidance. Every year, they must also successfully complete 15 hours of continuing education from an IRS-approved provider during the calendar year prior to the year for which the Record of Completion is sought.

2. The test is open book

You can take the test online with all your notebooks around for reference. This is allowed.

However the test is notoriously difficult due to the wide breadth of topics it covers. If you fail the test, you can retake it an unlimited number of times. Just keep in mind that the test questions change at every third attempt and you need a minimum of 70% to pass the test.

3. Once you are done, you must complete Circular 230 Consent to the IRS

Upon completion of the Annual Federal Tax Refresher course and all other required credits, the participant MUST complete the Circular 230 Consent located at https://www.irs.gov/tax-professionals/annual-filing-season-program. If you do not complete this, you will not receive your record of completion.

Taking The Test

Each AFTR test includes 100 questions that assess a return preparer’s comprehension of each of the three domains on the AFTR course outline. Each AFTR test consists of ONLY multiple choice questions with four potential answers and only one correct answer.  A maximum of three continuous hours are allowed to complete the 100 question test. The test examines knowledge across three particular domains – New Tax Law, Recent Updates, General Review and Practices, Procedures and Professional Responsibility.

Any new tax law enacted after publication of the outline may be voluntarily incorporated into the course. However, there is no requirement that this new material must also be included in the test. In order to participate in the program, all participants must go into their PTIN account and sign the Circular 230 Consent statement.

Once you pass your AFTR, you are eligible to enroll and fulfill the rest of the requirements of the Annual Filing Season Program.  MyTaxCoursesOnline has been running three different IRS approved AFSP courses since 2014. We have a 98% pass rate and our revision methods not only cover all IRS set requirements, we also provide a transferable understanding of tax law that you can share in your daily interactions with your clients.

Check out our three different IRS approved courses on fulfilling your AFSP requirement’s here.