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Income Tax Preparation Training Programs and Requirements

Tax preparers gather financial information and prepare, file and organize income tax documents for clients. Tax preparers prepare federal and state income taxes and must comply with federal tax regulations. Most tax preparers are required to have an associate degree in accounting and at least one year of tax preparation experience.

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Income Tax Preparation Programs

A high school diploma or GED certificate is required to become an income tax preparer. Tax preparers typically train by enrolling in an associate degree program in accounting. They may find entry-level positions that provide on-the-job training programs, though most tax preparers are expected to be fully proficient in tax preparation prior to employment.

Tax preparers should be good with accounting, financial and mathematical operations. They should be able to provide customer service to clients and should be well organized in order to maintain accurate income tax documents. They should have experience with different tax preparation software programs and bookkeeping methods.

Formal Education

Most tax preparers are required to have an associate degree in accounting. Because they do not perform the advanced financial duties of accountants, they are not typically required to have as much educational training.

Associate of Science Programs

In an accounting associate degree program, students learn how to organize and maintain accurate and legal accounting and bookkeeping records. Some programs may provide courses on tax preparation, but the focus is typically on accounting in general. Students learn how to adhere to federal, state and local financial regulations. Common courses include:

  • Financial accounting principles
  • Cost accounting
  • Managerial accounting
  • Financial analysis
  • Financial decision making
  • Cost and budget estimation
  • Corporate finance
  • Financial management and planning

Job Experience

Tax preparation employers generally prefer to hire tax preparers with 1-3 years of experience. Some employers hire tax preparers with little or no professional experience. In these cases, employers typically provide on-the-job training programs that allow tax preparers to gain hands-on experience with tax preparation and financial regulations.

Licenses and Certifications

Tax preparers are not required to be licensed or certified. Some employers may require newly hired tax preparers to pass a competency exam prior to employment. In some cases, employers may also require state certification. For example, tax preparers in California may be asked to obtain certification from the California Tax Education Council (CTEC). Certification requirements vary by state and employer.

Workshops and Seminars

Tax preparation workshops and seminars are available from a number of sources, including technical and community colleges, tax preparation businesses and even the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Workshops may focus on preparation of state income taxes, federal income taxes, business taxes or specific documents, such as the Form 1040.

The National Association of Tax Professionals (NATP) conducts training workshops and courses for tax preparers. Workshops are typically available online and in-person and cover all aspects of tax preparation and federal tax regulations. The National Association of Tax Consultants (NATC) also offers seminars for tax professionals. The organization has a government-outreach program that allows NATC to work with the IRS to provide professional tax training and education.

Professional Development

Tax prepares will find that the NATP and the NATC offer the greatest professional development resources. Both organizations provide research and legal information on tax preparation, as well as publications, such as TAXPRO Journal, that discuss important issues in tax preparation. Members of each organization also have access to additional networking and continuing education opportunities for tax professionals.

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