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Fee-free PTINs are available again at IRS website

Efiling tax return computer key

After a brief hiatus, the Internal Revenue Service has reinstated its online tool where professional tax preparers can obtain the official identification numbers required to file returns.

On June 1, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia issued a mixed ruling in a class action lawsuit against the IRS, Adam Steele, et al. v. United States of America (Case No. 1:14-cv-01523-RCL).

The federal judges said that while ruled that while the IRS has the authority to require tax pros to get Preparer Tax Identification Numbers, or PTINs, the tax agency cannot charge for the ID numbers.

The next day, the IRS took its online PTIN tool offline. On Wednesday, June 21, it reactivated the system.

So if you've been waiting to get or renew your PTIN, wait no more.

Other PTIN options also are back: With the resumption of PTIN issuance, the PTIN Helpline also has reopened.

And if you're a tax pro and simply want to check your continuing education, now that the PTIN system is back all the previous information there is once again available in your PTIN account.

PTIN graphicNext PTIN steps: As for the future of ID number fees and what might happen to the previously paid PTIN amounts, the IRS says it is working with the Department of Justice and "considering how to proceed."

When it has additional information about past or future PTIN fees, the IRS promises to post it on the Tax Pros page. (And I'll share it with you here at the ol' blog, too.)

What is certain is that the IRS can continue to require tax preparers to get PTINs if, per the IRS announcement on the reopening of the PTIN system, the person "prepares, or assists in preparing, all or substantially all of a federal tax return for compensation."

PTIN FAQs and follow-up: If you have more questions about the IRS required tax numbers, the IRS has created a checklist to help you start the PTIN application process.

You also can find more at the IRS' updated PTIN FAQ page.

As for previously paid PTIN fees, don't call the IRS. It hasn't decided yet whether to appeal the ruling, much less how to handle any possible refunds.

Instead, any questions about claims should go to the PTIN Fees Class Action Administrator, who can be reached at the case's Web page.

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