As you prepare for the holiday season ahead, it's easy to forget that the 2019 tax season is hot on its heels. For tax preparers who want to take advantage of the IRS's Annual Filing Season Program (AFSP) benefits, there are several things you'll need to do by December 31, 2018. Learn more about this year's AFSP Kickoff and how you can obtain your Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) for the 2019 tax year.

AFSP Kickoff for Record of Completion Holders

The AFSP allows non-credentialed tax return preparers who fulfill certain continuing education (CE) requirements to be listed in the IRS's online Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers. Enrolled Agents (EAs) are also eligible for inclusion in the Directory, and both statuses allow non-CPA tax preparers to expand their client base and prove their ability to prepare taxes without sitting for the CPA exam.

To achieve an AFSP Record of Completion for the 2019 tax year, you'll need to do three things: (1) complete your 18 hours of CE requirements by December 31, 2018; (2) sign a consent to maintain certain professional requirements, set forth in Treasury Circular No. 230; and (3) obtain a valid 2019 Preparer Tax Identification Number by the end of this year.

Getting Your PTIN 

There are more than three-quarters of a million tax preparers living and working in the U.S., and each federal tax return preparer has (or had) a PTIN through the IRS. Charging a client to prepare their taxes without having a valid PTIN on file can lead to civil penalties and may increase the risk of audit. 

Every 2018 PTIN will expire when the New Year's Eve ball drops, so those who wish to maintain their tax preparer status for 2019 will need to renew their PTIN before this point. Because there's often a post-holiday rush on PTIN applications, getting yours in as early as possible will improve the processing time and ensure you can get a jump start on the 2019 tax preparation season.