California Tax Preparer License work

How to Beomce a CTEC-Registered Tax Preparer in California

This California tax preparer license guide is for informational purposes only. does not regulate or manage licensing for tax preparers in California. Contact the California Tax Education Council (CTEC) for the state's latest official tax preparer license requirements.

The California Tax Education Council (CTEC) requires tax preparers working in the state to fulfill several license and registration requirements, including educational course completion and surety bond filing. California tax preparers assist with or prepare state or federal income tax returns for a fee. All California Registered Tax Preparers (CRTP) must abide by these regulations and renew their registration with the CTEC annually for as long as they wish to continue preparing income tax returns. 

Professionals exempt from CRTP registration requirements include certified public accountants (CPAs), enrolled agents (EAs), attorneys who are members of the California State Bar, and other specified banking or trust officials.

How to get a California Tax Preparer License

How do I get a tax preparer license in California?

1.  Determine if you need to register with the CTEC. 

Not all people who file taxes need to register with the California Tax Education Council. You're required to register for a tax preparer license if you assist with/prepare state or federal income tax returns and assume final responsibility for these returns for a fee or other consideration. 

You're exempt from registering with the council if you are: 

  • A California Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
  • An enrolled agent (EA)
  • An attorney you is a member of the California State Bar 
  • A specified banking or trust official 

2. Take an educational course.

You must complete a 60 hour qualifying education course before registering as a tax preparer. You need to take this course at least 18 months before applying for your license, and the course must be CTEC-approved

You have 2 types of course offerings to choose from when taking an educational course. A face-to-face (FF) course is an instructor led class, usually through live conferences or educational seminars. Self-study (SS) classes are self paced classes you can do at home, materials are typically provided through mail or virtually. 

3. Get your Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). 

You'll need to get your Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) from the IRS. You can do this online in about 15 minutes through the Internal Revenue System's website.

  1. Create your PTIN account. 
  2. Apply for your PTIN online by providing certain required information. 
  3. Pay the $30.75 fee by credit, debit, ATM card or eCheck. 
  4. Get your PTIN online after all these steps are completed. 

If you would prefer to apply by paper, mail in a completed W-12 Paid Tax Preparer Identification Number (PTIN) Application form along with the fee payment the PTIN processing center in Texas. 

IRS Tax Pro PTIN Processing Center
PO Box 380638
San Antonio, TX 78268

You'll get your number in about 4-6 weeks once your application has processed. 

4. Purchase your California tax preparer surety bond. 

The California Tax Education Council requires that you have a $5,000 surety bond to get licensed as a tax preparer. You can buy your California Tax Preparer Bond online 24/7, delivered in minutes by email.

You can chose a 2, 3, or 4-year term for your tax preparer bond.

  • 2-year tax preparer bonds cost $55.
  • 3-year tax preparer bonds cost $70.
  • 4-year tax preparer bonds cost $80.

5. Pass a background check and submit your fingerprints. 

As an applicant, you're required to pass a background check and electronically document your fingerprints through an approved LiveScan facility. 

Create or login to your CTEC account to access all the required Livescan forms and find approved LiveScan locations near you. Complete the background questionnaire, and be sure that you report ALL offenses, regardless of their status or when they occurred. Then, take the required documentation you accessed through your account to an approved location, where you will electronically process your fingerprints and send this information electronically to the California Department of Justice. The CDOJ will notify the CTEC with your background information, which will then be processed for review. Approval can take anywhere form 2-8 weeks. 

Once you're approved, you can apply for your California tax preparer license. 

6. Apply for your California tax preparer license. 

Once all the above steps are complete and you have purchased your surety bond, you can apply for your license. You can do this online through your California Tax Education Council account you created in step 5. There is a $33 registration fee that you can pay online. It'll take anywhere between 4-6 weeks before receiving your Certificate of Approval. 

Below find the fees required to apply for your California tax preparer license.

Fee TypeAmount
Application Fee$33
PTIN fee$30.75
Renewal fee$33
Late renewal fee$55

Do I need to renew my California tax preparer license?

To keep your California tax preparer license, you'll need to renew annually with the CTEC. 

To renew your license, you must take at least 20 hours of continuing education from a CTEC approved provider. This course needs to meet certain requirements for it to be approved. 

  • 10 hours of federal tax law
  • 3 hours of federal tax update
  • 2 hours of ethics 
  • 5 hours of California tax law.

You'll also need to renew your PTIN with the IRS and your surety bond whenever it expires. There is a $33 renewal fee, that needs to paid along with your renewal registration each year before October 31st. The late renewal fee is $55, and needs to be paid by January 15th. If you don't renew your license by January 15th, your license will expire and certain penalties will be enforced. 

What is the California Tax Education Council (CTEC)?

The CTEC is a non-profit corporation that registers tax preparers for residents of California. It was created by California legislature to promote competent tax preparation. The CTEC also approves tax education providers required for the registration process, and maintains and distributes a list of those approved education providers.

How does regulation for tax preparers in California differ from other states?

Maryland, New York, Oregon, and Connecticut also regulate tax preparers. Minnesota and Illinois have implemented a few regulations for tax preparers, but they are not as in-depth as the other states mentioned.

  • Maryland imposes the mandatory education requirement and requires preparers to register after passing a state or IRS exam or bring proof of considerable experience preparing tax returns. Additionally, Maryland authorizes the state attorney general to obtain injunctive relief in the event a tax preparer does not abide by state requirements.
  • New York has annual registration and continuing education requirements for its tax preparers.
  • Oregon tax practitioners and consultants must pass a state exam with a score of at least a 75% and complete 30 hours of continuing education in order to maintain their license.
  • Connecticut imposed increased regulation for tax preparers starting in October 2017. The state borrows components from the other existing states with regulatory procedures.
  • Minnesota developed standards of conduct for tax preparers.
  • Illinois recently initiated PTINs to identify fraudulent tax preparers.

Review the graphic below for a visual guide to to see how to get your California tax preparer license.

California tax preparer license infographic guide

Last Updated: March 28, 2024

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