How to Become a CTEC-Registered Tax Preparer (CRTP)

By Jennifer Smith, CPA, JD, CDEI, & Trevor Antley
Apr 19, 2022
How To Become a CTEC-Registered Tax Preparer

It's important for professional tax preparers in California to follow the state guidelines, which include the requirement that tax preparers register with the California Tax Education Council (CTEC). If you want to become a tax professional in the State of California, you will need to complete a CTEC Qualifying Education tax course and then register with CTEC to become a CTEC-Registered Tax Preparer (CRTP).

In this article, we discuss the steps required to register with CTEC, who is required and who is not required to register with CTEC, the substantial penalties for tax preparers who do not register with CTEC, and finally how to take your CTEC Qualifying Education (QE) course and become a CTEC-Registered Tax Preparer.

4 Steps to Becoming a CTEC-Registered Tax Preparer (CRTP)

If you are seeking to register for the first time as a CTEC-Registered Tax Preparer (CTRP), there are a few steps you will need to take. We've summarized what you need to do to register with CTEC and becoming a professional tax preparer in California with the following four steps:

  1. Complete a 60-hour CTEC Qualifying Education (QE) course within 18 months of when you register with CTEC.
  2. Purchase a $5,000 tax preparer bond.
  3. Obtain a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) from the IRS.
  4. Register with CTEC and submit the $33 registration fee to CTEC online.

In order to register with CTEC, potential tax preparers must also now 1) pass a criminal background check; and 2) submit fingerprint images to CTEC for submission to the Department of Justice. After everything has been verified and finalized, CTEC will issue you a Certificate of Completion along with an identification card that will have your name, CTEC number, and the current year. After that, you will be a CTEC-Registered Tax Preparer (CRTP).

Who Needs to Register With CTEC?

What types of tax preparers need to register with CTEC? The answer is anyone who assists with or prepares state or federal income tax returns, in exchange for a fee, and isn't an exempt preparer. All of the following individuals in California would need to register with CTEC:

  • Tax preparers who take income tax data and are not on the exempt list (see below)
  • Individuals who work for an exempt tax preparer but are not exempt themselves and who sign the income tax return
  • If the individual does not sign the tax return, they are not required to register
  • Individuals who work for a CTEC-Registered Tax Preparer (CRTP) and who take income tax data from a client
  • Individuals who work for a CRTP and who enter tax information into a computer but who have no contact with clients are not required to register with CTEC
  • Inactive CPAs or non-California CPAs who prepare tax returns in California

If you want to be a professional tax preparer in California and don't fall in any of the exempt categories listed below, it’s time to take the steps to become a CTEC-Registered Tax Preparer!

Who Is Exempt from Registering With CTEC?

California law requires individuals who prepares tax returns in exchange for payment to register as a professional tax preparer with CTEC. Some professionals are exempt from this requirement. Exempt tax preparers who do not need to register with CTEC include:

  • California CPAs (Certified Public Accountants)
  • Enrolled Agents (EAs)
  • Attorneys who are members of the California State Bar
  • Certain specified banking or trust officials

What Are the Penalties for Not Registering With CTEC?

If you are not on this list of exempt tax preparers, you are required to register with CTEC in order to prepare tax returns in California in exchange for fees. The California Franchise Tax Board (FTB) has authority to penalize tax preparers who are not CTEC-Registered Tax Preparers. The penalties for not registering with CTEC include:

  • First failure to register: $2,500 fine
  • Continued failure to register: $5,000 fine

Clients also have the ability to confidentially report non-compliant tax preparers in California. If you are required to register with CTEC in California, it is in your best interest to complete your registration.

CTEC License, Certification or Registration?

Many people search online for how to obtain a CTEC license — but the term “CTEC license” is not technically correct. The term “CTEC certification” is not correct either. CTEC actually doesn’t issue any licenses or certifications. Technically, tax preparers are registered with CTEC. The misuse of these three terms is common but understandable.

If you are looking for how to get your CTEC “license”, you really want to learn how to register with CTEC and become a CRTP (CTEC-Registered Tax Preparer).

Where Do I Take My CTEC Qualifying Education (QE) Course?

WebCE is a CTEC-approved education provider, and we are proud to offer the CTEC Qualifying Education (QE) Course online! WebCE is consistently the top online resource for online professional certification and continuing education courses. With WebCE's CTEC QE course and study aids, you can quickly become a CTEC-Registered Tax Preparer in California, even with no prior tax experience. After you've registered with CTEC, you can also use WebCE's convenient platform to complete your CTEC Continuing Education (CE) as well!

Why Choose WebCE for CTEC Qualifying Education?

Why choose WebCE over other education providers? WebCE has been in the business for over 20 years, and we continually offer higher quality education at more affordable prices on a more convenient platform. WebCE's CTEC Qualifying Education course also has the following features:

  • Graphics & Visual Aids
  • Real Life, Practical Examples
  • Ability to Save & Exit Exams
  • Adjustable Fonts to Make Reading Easier
  • Take the Course at Your Own Pace!

If you want to be a professional tax preparer in California, WebCE makes taking your CTEC course and completing your CTEC registration as easy as possible. Get started today with WebCE's CTEC 60-Hour Qualifying Education Course!

CTEC Qualifying Education