The Internal Revenue Service recently launched an effort to provide oversight over the tax preparation industry. Here's what we're doing:

All paid tax-return preparers must register with the IRS and obtain a new or renewed preparer tax identification number (PTIN) before preparing a return in 2011. There is a $64.25 fee.

Starting in mid-2011, the IRS plans to require that certain paid tax preparers pass a competency test. Certified public accountants, attorneys, and enrolled agents will be exempt from this exam because their professional requirements also include testing.

The IRS plans to require certain paid tax preparers to take 15 hours of continuing education courses annually beginning sometime in the future. The same exceptions apply.

The IRS will create a new designation for preparers who obtain a PTIN, pass the test, and take their education courses: registered tax return preparer. This credential will signal to taxpayers a certain level of competency and qualification.

Sixty percent of taxpayers use a tax preparer. They deserve some peace of mind that the person they are paying to do their taxes has some degree of proficiency and high ethical standards.

Mark William Hanson

Interim IRS spokesman for Pennsylvania

Greensboro, N.C.