How To Become a Tax Preparer

Meeting with financial consultant

Many individuals and businesses turn towards the expertise of a tax preparer for filling out their tax forms. A tax professional is familiar with all of the tax forms, and can help individuals or companies in the filing of their taxes. Though many tax preparers work year-round, others work exclusively during tax season, and may have a full-time job the rest of the year. Consider becoming a tax preparer if you are detail-oriented, enjoy working with people, and have an aptitude for math. Here's how to become a tax preparer:

  1. Take tax preparation classes. There are many options for educational programs that will prepare you to become a tax preparer. Check local colleges, online programs, and local tax offices for information on the options available to you. Understanding the federal and state tax code is an essential aspect of becoming a tax preparer. It is important to realize that most tax preparation training courses are not covered by financial aid, though in some cases they may be.
  2. Take classes at local tax preparation companies. Most seasonal tax preparers get the training directly from the tax preparation company for whom they wish to work during tax season. Usually, there are fees for this training, and it is not guaranteed that you will be hired for the coming tax season, even after successful completion of the course. Large tax preparation companies, like Jackson Hewitt and H&R Block, offer tax classes that usually require between 60 and 90 hours of instruction, and can be taken during the days, evenings or weekends.
  3. Pass the licensing test. In many states, tax preparers must be licensed before they may practice. In many cases, proof of training completion is required before you can apply for the license. Some states do not require a license for tax preparers.
  4. Sign up with a tax preparation company. Though you can open your own practice, most tax preparers begin within an already established practice. Beware of fly-by-night companies, and always ask about the company's liability insurance before agreeing to work with them. This insurance policy will protect you if you unintentionally make a mistake while doing someone's taxes.
  5. Take a refresher course each year. As you may know, tax laws do change from year to year. Sign up for a refresher course each fall to help you understand these new policies. Tax preparers can also take classes in specific areas of taxes to help them complete specific tax forms or work with specific types of situations.

Many people choose to become a tax preparer because it is a potentially lucrative career option that does not require a four year college education. A high school diploma or GED is required to become a tax preparer or take the necessary training in most states. Though the education and licensing process is fairly simple, tax preparation is not for everyone. Many find the work boring, or do not have the math skills to handle taxes.


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