how to apply for caf number

Every Tax Pro Should Know How To Apply For CAF Number


Obtaining a CAF number is a straightforward yet crucial step on the professional journey of any tax resolution specialist or authorized representative. This critical identification number eases the process of communication with the IRS and serves as a testament to your authorized status, allowing you to represent your clients effectively in tax matters. Whether you are working with a client for the first time or are a seasoned professional aiming to enhance your practice, understanding the nuances of the CAF number is essential. 


Do you have questions about the CAF number? You’re not alone. The experts at IRS Solutions® are here with answers to some of the most frequently asked questions:


1. What Is IRS CAF Number?

The IRS CAF number is a unique nine-digit identifier assigned to professionals who are authorized to represent others in tax matters. This number is used by the IRS to manage and streamline information regarding these professionals, facilitating quicker and more efficient communications with the IRS. It serves as a reference to the file containing legal authorizations submitted by a tax resolution professional, helping IRS personnel to verify the professional’s authority to access specific taxpayer data without requiring a faxed signed authorization each time. 


2. What Does CAF Stand For?

CAF stands for Centralized Authorization File.


3.What is a CAF File?

The Centralized Authorization File is a database maintained by the IRS. It contains information about professionals who are authorized to represent taxpayers in matters pertaining to the IRS. This database includes details of the legal authorizations that have been filed by tax resolution professionals, allowing IRS personnel to quickly verify whether a professional has the necessary authority to access specific taxpayer data. When a tax professional obtains a CAF number, it identifies their file within this database.


4. Who Can Get a CAF Number?

Professionals who are appointed to represent others in tax matters are eligible to obtain a CAF number. This includes tax resolution specialists, Enrolled Agents (EAs), Certified Public Accountants (CPAs), bankruptcy lawyers, and other authorized representatives who need to communicate with the IRS on behalf of their clients. 


5. How To Apply for CAF Number from the IRS?

Obtaining a CAF number is a straightforward process. You will be assigned a CAF number when you first act as an authorized representative, documented through the submission of either IRS Form 2848 (Power of Attorney and Declaration of Representative) or Form 8821 (Tax Information Authorization). When filing one of these forms for the first time, simply note “none” in the section asking for your CAF number. This will prompt the system to automatically generate a CAF number for you, which will be used in all subsequent cases.

Follow these steps to apply for a CAF number:

  • Determine Your Eligibility: Ensure that you are eligible to represent a taxpayer. This is usually applicable to tax professionals such as Enrolled Agents, CPAs, and attorneys
  • Complete the Necessary Form:
    • Form 2848: If you are licensed and applying to represent a taxpayer under a power of attorney, you would complete IRS Form 2848, “Power of Attorney and Declaration of Representative”.
    • Form 8821: If you are applying to access tax information without a power of attorney, you would complete IRS Form 8821, “Tax Information Authorization”.
  • Submit the Form: Once the form is completed, submit it to the IRS as per the instructions provided on the form. This usually involves mailing or faxing the form to the appropriate IRS office.
  • Receive Your CAF Number: After the IRS processes your form, they will assign you a unique nine-digit CAF number. This number will be used in all future communications with the IRS to identify you as an authorized representative.
  • Maintain Your Records: Keep a record of your CAF number, as you will need to use it in future interactions with the IRS regarding client matters.

6. Does a CAF Number Expire?

A CAF number does not expire. It remains valid for ongoing use in communications and representations with the IRS. However, it’s important to note that the authorizations to represent a client such as Form 2848 or Form 8821, which are linked to the CAF number, may have expiration dates.


7. How Do I Find My IRS CAF Number?

Your CAF number should be listed on previously filed authorization forms such as Form 2848 or Form 8821. If you are part of a larger organization or firm, the administrative staff or a designated department within your organization might maintain records of CAF numbers for all representatives. You can check with them to find your CAF number. 

If you cannot locate your CAF number on previous documents, you can contact the IRS directly for assistance. You might be able to retrieve your CAF number by verifying your identity and providing necessary details to the IRS representative. Remember to store your CAF number in a secure and easily accessible place once you find it, as it is a critical piece of information for your practice in tax resolution or representation.


8. How Do I Renew my CAF Number?

Unlike the Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN), which must be renewed each year, the CAF number does not require renewal.


9.What is a CAF Number on Form 2848?

On IRS Form 2848, “Power of Attorney and Declaration of Representative,” the CAF number identifies the representative or tax professional who is authorized to act on behalf of a taxpayer in matters concerning the IRS. When a tax professional fills out Form 2848, they are required to include their CAF number in the designated section of the form.


10. What is a CAF Number on Form 8821?

On Form 8821, “Tax Information Authorization,” the CAF number serves a similar purpose as it does on Form 2848. It is a unique identifier for tax professionals or representatives who are authorized to access tax information on behalf of a taxpayer.


11. What Does CAF Mean on a W-2?

A CAF does not typically appear on a W-2 form. A W-2 form is a tax document that employers are required to send to their employees and the IRS at the end of each year. It reports the employee’s annual wages and the amount of taxes withheld from their paycheck. Representation is not required on a W-2.


12. Do I need a CAF number for POA?

Yes, if you are a tax professional or representative who intends to act on behalf of a taxpayer in matters concerning the IRS, you will need a CAF number to file a Power of Attorney (POA). The CAF number is used when submitting Form 2848, “Power of Attorney and Declaration of Representative,” to the IRS. This number helps the IRS to quickly identify and verify your credentials and authorizations, facilitating a more streamlined and efficient process for handling POA requests. 


13. How long does it take to get a CAF Number? 

A bit of patience might be required as you await your CAF number. It can take 30-60 days to process. Once you receive your CAF number and are granted access to the Transcript Delivery System (TDS) You can use the IRS Solutions® CAF Check Monitoring to verify the approval status of your future authorizations directly from the client dashboard, facilitating the seamless downloading of transcripts and other pertinent documents. 


14. Do I need a CAF number to use IRS Solutions Software?

Having a CAF number is an essential step to both practicing tax resolution and using our software. Here are some additional resources for you to help guide you on your journey:

To learn more about IRS Solutions®, a Tax Pro’s Best Friend. Schedule a demo today.


David Stone - author

David Stone​​

Helping Accountants Save Time at IRS Solutions​

David Stone, an enrolled agent and founder of IRS Solutions, leverages his comprehensive IRS experience to empower tax professionals in navigating complex tax disputes. A proud alumnus of California State University Northridge, David’s journey began as a Revenue Officer at the IRS, where he embraced diverse roles, including working the lien desk and becoming an Offer in Compromise specialist. His transition from the IRS to founding IRS Solutions Valencia was driven by a vision to simplify tax resolution. David’s ingenuity led to the creation of IRS Solutions Software, embodying his commitment to providing effective tools and sharing his extensive knowledge with professionals in the field. As the bestselling author of “Tax Breaks for the Rich and Famous” and “The Great Tax Escape,” David’s expertise continues to guide business owners and accountants alike.

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