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IRS Shuts Down, Then Restores, Tax Preparer I.D. Registration

June court ruling invalidating fees prompted system to go dark.

The Internal Revenue Service, after losing a court case earlier this month, shut down its registration site for tax professionals to obtain or update their Preparer Tax Identification Number. After 19 days, the site, which contained a note saying “currently unavailable due to system maintenance,” was back up on Wednesday morning.

Preparer I.D. numbers have been required since 2010 as a means for accountability in case of errors and to encourage those who prepare returns for others to be properly educated.

The IRS had charged an annual fee of $50 to recover costs for what it argued was a benefit of certification to paid tax preparers.

On June 1, the U.S. District Court for District of Columbia ruled in a class-action case (Adam Steele et al. v. the United States of America) that the IRS has the authority to require preparer tax identification numbers, but that it does not have the authority to charge fees.

The National Association of Enrolled Agents, which stresses the need for tax preparers to be certified as competent, on Wednesday put out an alert to its 50,000 members describing a Tuesday “invitation-only” conference call with IRS Return Preparer Office Director Carol Campbell.

“No new information was shared on the call with respect to whether or not the IRS planned to appeal the recent federal district court ruling,” the association said. “Similarly, no new information was shared about any plans to begin issuing refunds to return preparers for PTIN fees already paid.”

In a statement to reporters, the IRS said, “The IRS, working with the Department of Justice, is still considering how to proceed, but will make PTINs available while deciding how to address the court order. The IRS is resuming the issuance of PTINS, without charge, on June 21, 2017.”