The IRS has released its long-awaited Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers, available at http://irs.treasury.gov/rpo/rpo.jsf. However, you should understand what this directory is, and is not.
But first, let’s talk about accessing the directory. By clicking on the link above, you will be taken to a page where you can enter the zip code for the area you wish to search and choose a distance from that zip code to search. You may optionally enter the last name of a preparer that you are searching for. Alternatively, you can omit the zip code and get a list of all preparers with the same last name. You may also choose which credential you wish to search for – CPA, Enrolled Agent, Attorney, or other.
This will give you a listing of all tax return preparers in the data base who meet the criteria you seek. I discovered that there are seven tax return preparers in the database whose last name is Stancil, I am the only one in Florida, and five of the seven are CPA’s.
The preparers included in the database are those who hold a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) and hold one of the listed credentials.
The database does not include tax return preparers who hold a PTIN but do not hold one of the listed credentials. These individuals are not necessarily incompetent but simply do not have a professional credential.
It does not give any information about the individual, other than name, credential, and city and state of residence. You must go elsewhere to find contact information for the individual you wish to contact.
It may be that someone holds a PTIN but does not prepare tax returns for compensation. It does not distinguish between the types of tax preparation that the individual focuses on. Does this person do individual, corporate, trusts, estates, etc? The database will not tell you.
As it stands, I do not see very many taxpayers using the database to find a tax preparer. People turn to friends, advertisements, or other sources. However, it can be utilized to determine if the individual does have a valid PTIN if he or she also holds one of the recognized credentials. IRS regulations require that an individual hold a PTIN if preparing tax returns for compensation.