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What is a PTIN (preparer tax id number)?

Marin Perez

If you're a tax professional and want to file taxes for clients, you're going to need a preparer tax identification number or a PTIN. This post walks you through what it is, how to apply for one and more.

What is a PTIN?

The IRS requires any professional who prepares or assists in preparing federal tax returns for compensation to have a valid PTIN. Basically, you'll need one if you are paid to prepare federal tax returns, are an enrolled agent or intend to become an enrolled agent.

The IRS is very clear about the fact that you can't prepare tax returns for compensation if you don't obtain a PTIN. If you don't have one and prepare returns for money, you could be subject to penalties

Luckily, it's a relatively painless process to get one. In fact, the IRS says the process can take as little as 15 minutes.

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How to apply for a PTIN?

You can get your PTIN in 4 steps:

  • Create your account - You can set up your online account here.
  • Apply for your PTIN - Complete the online application. You will need your Social Security Number, personal information, business information, previous year's tax returns, professional certification information and more.
  • Pay Your Fee - It costs $50 to obtain a PTIN. You can pay via credit card or debit card.
  • Get Your PTIN - Once you've provided the information and paid your fee, the IRS will provide your PTIN online.

If you don't want to apply online, you can apply for your PTIN via mail. Fill out Form W-12 and mail it to the IRS. You can expect this process to take 4-6 weeks.

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