December 05, 2018

Questions and Answers on How to Become a Certified Acceptance Agent

immigrant clients CAA

A Certifying Acceptance Agent is a person who is authorized to assist individuals who do not qualify for a Social Security Number but who still need a Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) to file a Form 1040 and other tax schedules. The Certifying Acceptance Agent facilitates the application process by reviewing the necessary documents, authenticating the identity when able and forwarding the completed forms to IRS. 

Below are answers we received to questions around how to become a certifying acceptance agent:

So if you do less than five ITIN applications a year, will you lose your status?

Yes. All Acceptance Agents are required to submit at least five W-7 applications a year to remain in the program.

Is there is a cost to become Certifying Acceptance Agent?

The only cost to becoming a Certifying Acceptance Agent is the cost of the forensic training. This cost ranges from $200 to $350 depending on the vendor. For more information visit: https://www.irs.gov/individuals/international-taxpayers/forensic-training

Does a Certifying Acceptance Agent renew every year?

A Certifying Acceptance Agent renews every five years.

Do Certifying Acceptance Agents have a special number like the PTIN?

Yes, Certifying Acceptance Agents have a unique agent number.

Is there a list of Certifying Acceptance Agents in your area?

Yes. The IRS has a public list of Acceptance Agents. You can view the list here: https://www.irs.gov/individuals/international-taxpayers/acceptance-agent-program

Do you have a presentation on what tax credits apply to ITIN holders and immigrant families.

Yes, we have a presentation on that topic here: https://www.prendo365.com/learn/public/catalog/view/42

How does a tax preparer assist an ITIN holder who has dependents?

It depends if the dependents have ITINs or social security numbers. They may not be eligible for certain credits. I recommend viewing our course “Tax Credits for Immigrant Families” here:

What are the risks of becoming a Certifying Acceptance Agent?

The IRS will conduct compliance reviews including both physical and correspondence reviews. Certifying Acceptance Agents are required to cooperate with IRS compliance checks as well as requests for information from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration or the Government Accountability Office. Failure to do so can result in termination from the program.

What does the forensic training program entail? Where do I get the training?

Certifying Acceptance Agents are required to complete formal Forensic Document Training to obtain the necessary skills to determine the authenticity of identification documents. The training must provide skills to effectively recognize fraudulent documents, such as, passports, driver’s licenses, birth certificates, visas, national identification cards, military and US State identification cards.

For more information on the forensic training program, please visit: https://www.irs.gov/individuals/international-taxpayers/forensic-training

After certification by a Certifying Acceptance Agent, does the taxpayer still need to mail their original documents to the IRS?

No. Once the CAA reviews and certifies their original documents, the taxpayer can keep their documents. The CAA mails the W7 application, copies of the original documents, along with Form W7-COA to the IRS ITIN office in Austin, TX.

How can a taxpayer get an ITIN in a foreign country? Are there any CAAs in a foreign country?

ITIN applicants can submit their W-7 through a Certifying Acceptance Agent either in the United States or abroad. For a list of CAAs abroad, click here: https://www.irs.gov/individuals/international-taxpayers/acceptance-agent-program

I’m an acceptance agent. How do I become a Certifying Acceptance Agent?

To change your status from AA to CAA, complete an amended Form 13551 Application to Participate in the IRS Acceptance Agent Program. Check the CAA box on the application. You must also submit a completion certificate of your forensic document training. If you have any questions you can email the ITIN Policy Section at itinprogramoffice@irs.gov.

If an immigrant is legal, why would they not qualify for a social security number.

If an individual is a lawful permanent resident, they should be able to apply and receive a social security number. If for some reason they don’t, they need to apply for an ITIN to file their tax return.

Am I able to charge clients to complete Form W-7? What about to certify their documents?

Yes, you can charge clients to help them with their ITIN application process. In our tax office, we charge $100 to fill out Form W-7. If the client wants us to complete Form W-7 and certify their documents, we charge $200.

How can I be assured I won’t get in trouble certifying someone if they have entered the US illegally? Do I have any liability?

The IRS has made it very clear that they are looking for professionals to become Certifying Acceptance Agents to help ITIN applicants file accurate tax returns and pay taxes. Applying for an ITIN and filing a tax return is not a crime.

What if you have a social security number but need to amend prior year tax returns for years you did not have a social security number. Do you use your ITIN or SNN on the tax return?

Use your SSN on all tax returns you are amending. Make sure the taxpayer does not receive the Earned Income Tax Credit or Additional Child Tax Credit for those years they did not have a social security number. Why are they amending? To receive credits they did not qualify for previously? Per the PATH Act, this is not allowed.

CAA vs AA: is one easier than the other?

Certifying Acceptance Agents (CAA) need to complete forensic document training. Acceptance Agents (AA) do not. CAAs review and certifying original documents. AAs simply review the original documents and must mail the documents with the ITIN application.

Question 15a on Form 13551 asks how many Form W-7 applications the business plans to submit in a 12-month calendar period. Is there a right or wrong answer here?

Simply estimate how many W-7 applications you plan to submit. The key here is that Acceptance Agents are required to submit at least five W-7 applications a year to remain in the program.

Do you recommend any forensic documented training sites? Where can I find a list of vendors?

Yes, the IRS has a list of forensic document training vendors. Please click here for more information: https://www.irs.gov/individuals/international-taxpayers/forensic-training

Is the fingerprint card required if I have already submitted one for other certifications?

Yes. Everyone listed as a responsible party or authorized representative of the business must submit a fingerprint card. If the authorized representative is an attorney, CPA or enrolled agent, evidence of U.S. professional status may be submitted in lieu of the fingerprint card.

How and where do you take the IRS Acceptance Agent training?

The Acceptance Agent training can be found online at: https://www.irs.gov/individuals/new-itin-acceptance-agent-program-changes

How do I know if there is a need for a CAA in my area? How do I know if my area has a lot of ITIN holders?

This is a very good question. We have submitted this question to the IRS for guidance.

Once you become a CAA, will you be listed in on a national database?

Yes. The IRS has a public list of Acceptance Agents. You can view the list here: https://www.irs.gov/individuals/international-taxpayers/acceptance-agent-program

Is the forensic document training required for Acceptance Agents?

No. The forensic document training is not required for Acceptance Agents because they are not certifying original documents. The forensic document training is required for Certifying Acceptance Agents.

How do you address the fear of deportation with ITIN clients?

This is a very good question. Unfortunately, due to the current political environment, many ITIN taxpayers are afraid to file taxes. The IRS makes it very clear that they do not share taxpayer information with any immigration government agency. Encourage your clients to file accurate tax returns and report all their income.

What is a reasonable fee to charge for assisting a taxpayer with their ITIN application?

We’ve seen tax professionals charge anywhere between $50 to $200 for this service. Some tax pros don’t charge anything hoping the taxpayer will return as a client every year. It’s up to you.

What is the form that needs to be filled out to become a Certifying Acceptance Agent?

To become a Certifying Acceptance Agent, you must complete Form 13551 Application to Participate in the IRS Acceptance Agent Program.

How long does it take the IRS to process your CAA application?

It may take up to four months from the time you submit your application to receive your approved Acceptance Agent Agreement from the IRS.

Are there special requirements for CAAs living in Texas?

No. The CAA program is a federal program.

Is it worth the time and energy to become a Certifying Acceptance Agent?

Many tax pros see it as a great way to help immigrant clients. Clients become very loyal when you help them with their ITIN application process. This loyalty leads to referrals and helps your business grow.

Am I able to become a CAA if I don’t speak Spanish?

There is no requirement to speak Spanish to become a Certifying Acceptance Agent. However, if your clients speak Spanish it is beneficial to speak their language for purposes of communication. Consider hiring a bilingual bicultural employee.

Is the Latino Tax Fest in English or Spanish?

Latino Tax Fest has two main rooms. One room is in English and one room is in Spanish. You can learn the latest tax updates, earn continuing education hours, and network with hundreds of tax and accounting professionals.

For young dependents, IRS requires school and medical records. Can CAAs authenticate these documents?

No. CAAs can only authenticate the passport and birth certificates for dependents. CAAs will continue to certify identification documents for the primary and secondary applicants. Form W-7 (COA), Certificate of Accuracy for IRS Individual Identification Taxpayer Number, must be attached to each Form W-7 application submitted as verification they have reviewed the original documentation or certified copies from the agency that issued them. CAAs will have to attach and send copies of all documentation reviewed with the Form W-7 COA to the IRS.

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