Starting 2014, only Registered Tax Return Preparer (RTRP) passers will be authorized to prepare federal individual tax returns. The International Revenue Service (IRS) also expects tax preparers to complete the basic competency exam by end of next year. Unless the unregistered tax preparers are Enrolled Agents or Certified Public Accountants, they will need to take the test to offer services professionally.

The RTRP exam must be scheduled by appointment in advance. Tax preparers can take them any time of the year except the first half of April. The exam must also be taken in person in an IRS-approved testing center. The test has 120 questions, which the examinee must take on a computer for two and a half hours.

Some subject areas covered include management of taxpayer information, treatment of assets and income, practices and procedures, and ethics. The IRS itself has given helpful materials on their website to allow examinees see what to expect on the RTRP test.

Preparing for the exam is extremely easy. Apart from resources available online, there are RTRP review centers where any tax preparer enroll in. IRS Tax Training, for instance, offers practice tests that are the exact simulation of the exam environment. It has also replicated the look, feel, and content of the RTRP exam.

IRS Tax Training is so confident in their methods that they even offer to pay the costs for the net examination if the examinee does not pass on his first attempt. The perfect score for the exam is 500 and the passing is 350. Only examinees who failed get to see their scores so they will know the areas they need to improve on.

Passing the Registered Tax Return Preparer (RTRP) exam is both a personal and professional achievement. It demonstrates a tax preparer’s mastery on his area of specialty and gives him a competitive edge over those who didn’t. While tax preparers continue to grow and compete for clients, the RTRP gives passers an opportunity to elevate their status and set themselves apart from the rest.