Any person who is compensated for preparing or assisting in preparing federal tax returns must have a valid preparer tax identification number, or PTIN, as of 2015, according to the Internal Revenue Service. Tax preparers can apply for or renew their PTINs on the IRS website or by mail.
In order to apply for a PTIN online, tax preparers must first create an account on the IRS website by providing identifying information such as name and email address, then provide answers to security questions, advises the IRS. The IRS then emails temporary passwords that users must change. To complete PTIN applications, visitors to the IRS website must provide personal and business information, their previous year's tax returns, explanations for any felony convictions and explanations for any outstanding individual or business tax obligations. Applicants for PTINs must also include licensing information if they are certified public accountants, attorneys, actuaries or enrolled retirement plan agents.
Tax preparers applying for or renewing PTINs must pay fees when they submit their completed applications, according to the IRS. The IRS provides PTINs once applications and payments are approved. Tax preparers who prefer to apply for PTINs through the mail must fill out Form W-12 and allow several weeks for processing. Individuals must renew their PTINs every year, according to the Taxpayer Advocate Service.