Preparer Compliance - Focused and Tiered

Our paid preparer due diligence compliance program has expanded to include more preparers. It now includes the earned income tax credit (EITC), the child tax credit (CTC), the refundable part of the CTC, additional child tax credit (ACTC), the partial child tax credit for other dependents (ODC), and the American opportunity tax credit (AOTC) and the head of household (HOH) filing status.



We look at the characteristics of returns claiming the EITC, CTC/ACTC/ODC and AOTC completed by the same preparer and concentrate our review on questionable claims. We focus on a combination of characteristics that we know indicates the returns have a high likelihood of error and assign a risk level.



We assign an appropriate compliance treatment in line with the preparer’s risk level. We consider what may be the cause of the errors:

  •  Not knowing the tax law?
  •  Not applying it correctly? 
  •  Or, intentionally disregarding the tax law?


The Paid Preparer Compliance program takes a tiered approach depending on what category best fits the preparer. Our tiered approach includes educational letters and visits, audits, penalties and may result in barring preparers from filing tax returns in extreme cases.


Why Have a Preparer Compliance Program?

We estimate around 24 percent of all EITC claims have some type of mistake which cost the government roughly $16 billion in 2017. We are completing a study for the ACTC and AOTC error rates and will have that information soon.

Some errors are caused by misinterpreting the law; some because the preparer accepted client-provided information at face value and others are outright fraud. You, as part of the tax preparation community, are crucial in stemming these errors because paid preparers complete the majority of refundable credit claims.

We know most paid preparers practice due diligence and prepare accurate refundable credit claims. But, we developed this preparer compliance program to ensure you compete on a level playing field.

Where Do We Find Most Errors?

About 60 percent of EITC errors fall into three key categories:

  • claiming a child who does not meet the relationship or residency tests,
  • over-or under-reporting income or business expenses to maximize the credit, and
  • filing as single or head of household when legally married.


The most common CTC/ACTC errors are:

  • claiming the CTC/ACTC for a child who is over 16 years old at the end of the tax year,
  • claiming the CTC/ACTC for a child who doesn't meet the dependent qualifying child requirements, and
  • claiming the CTC/ACTC for a child who was not a U.S. citizen, U.S. national or a U.S. resident.


The most common AOTC errors are:

  • claiming AOTC for a student who didn’t attend an eligible educational institution,
  • claiming AOTC for a student who didn’t pay qualifying college expenses, and
  • claiming AOTC for a student for too many years.

See tips for avoiding these errors

What are the Paid Preparer Compliance Treatments?

Preparers filing returns claiming questionable credits may receive any of the tiered treatments listed below: 

The IRS can assess a $500* (indexed for inflation) penalty per return to preparers who do not submit the Form 8867, Paid Preparers Due Diligence Checklist, with all EITC, CTC/ACTC and  AOTC claims. The penalty for returns filed beginning in 2019 is $520. The form must be submitted electronically or attached  to each claim you mail in or give directly to  your clients for filing. Find out more about the Form 8867 and  the consequences of not completing or submitting it.

Find out more about the Consequences of Failing to Meet Your Refundable Credit Due Diligence Requirements

Educational Opportunities for Avoiding Errors

We reach out to preparers and provide education and other resources to help you avoid errors and help you practice due diligence. This Tax Preparer Toolkit has a wealth of resources:

  • Take the online Due Diligence Training Module, to help you refresh your tax law and due diligence knowledge. The training is available in English and Spanish and may qualify you for one continuing education credit.
  • Learn how to meet your due diligence requirements while preparing returns with self-employment income using our Schedule C and Record Reconstruction Training. Plus, get tips on helping your clients reconstruct their business records.
  • View the popular Due Diligence Videos to help you avoid common  error situations and improve your due diligence interview process.
  • Attend our Due Diligence seminar or view archived sessions from the Nationwide Tax Forums.
  • Visit the Frequently Asked Questions for guidance on similar questions you might have. 
  • Use the headings on the left navigation bar for more tips and tools to help you avoid errors.