The confusion over PTIN registration continues.

Not long ago, Tom Hood reported that tax preparers have been receiving e-mails that tout PTIN-related services provided not by the IRS, but rather by outside opportunists. The lesson: All official PTIN-related notices will come directly from the IRS. All others are being sent by folks looking to make a buck.

Case closed, right?

If only …

It turns out other outside forces are publishing directories of tax preparers who have registered for a PTIN with the IRS — and that those directories may contain personal information of some of those tax preparers.

That personal information (which can include home addresses and e-mail addresses) appears to have been obtained legally. The folks who publish these directories get their information by buying the IRS’s PTIN list, which is permitted under the Freedom of Information Act.

The AICPA is quick to point out that these directories “are private, commercially oriented ventures and are not endorsed by the IRS.”

The AICPA is working with the IRS in an effort to limit the type of personal information the IRS makes available through the PTIN registration process. Here’s what the AICPA says:

“The IRS did re-visit its FOIA releases and made some changes to partially restrict some of the data being collected from PTIN holders to protect their privacy.

“First, the IRS now permits tax return preparers to list either a physical address or a P.O. box as the ‘business address’ when registering or renewing their PTIN.

“Second, any valid e-mail address can be provided to the IRS as long as the PTIN holder regularly checks the e-mail address for PTIN communications.

“These changes provide the PTIN holder with the ability to stop the release (under FOIA) of a tax return preparer’s home address or of an e-mail address that the preparer does not want made public.”

In short, it appears these PTIN directories can include the contact information you provide to the IRS … but it also appears you have some control over the information that’s made available to them.

Get more details from the AICPA here.

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