The Internal Revenue Service has announced the second phase of tax preparer regulation; this phase being testing. Next week, scheduling of Tax Preparer Competency Examinations will be announced and the fee for the exam will be $116 per sitting; previously, it had been announced that Prometric (which also oversees electronic CPA exam administration) would administer the exams. Fact Sheet 2011-12 (see link above) overviews the testing procedure. The IRS estimates that about 350,000 tax preparers will need to take the 2.5 hour, 120 multiple choice question exam emphasizing Form 1040 (all registered tax preparers except EAs, CPAs and attorneys) and that they must complete the exam successfully by December 31, 2013. Yet to be determined (to the best of my knowledge) are the following issues: CPE requirements, background check requirements (fingerprinting is out for now) and frequency of exam (pass once for all time or take every "x" (e.g. five) years). In a related development, the IRS announced no change in the requirements for Enrolled Agents.
The requirements above suggest that the Registered Tax Preparer designation will be effectively Enrolled Agent Light; nevertheless, for many taxpayers, this will be plenty of tax heft at generally a significant discount from an attorney, a CPA; probably even an EA. The question as whether federal registration of tax preparers is needful; however, continues to be valid.