Become a Tax Preparer: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a tax preparer. Research the education requirements, training information and experience required for starting a career in tax preparation.

Do I Want to Be a Tax Preparer?

Tax preparers work during the tax season preparing individual, corporate, partnership and other income tax returns using tax software. They may interview clients, explain procedures and perform bookkeeping, research and other duties related to their position. Working as a tax preparer may be stressful as the deadline for submissions hovers. Tax preparers spend much of their time sitting, and they must be familiar with various tax software programs.

Job Requirements

Most tax preparers have a high school diploma or GED and receive on-the-job training. However, some positions require experienced tax preparers with a bachelor's degree in accounting or a finance-related field. The following table contains the most common requirements for becoming a tax preparer.

Common Requirements
Degree Level Completion of a tax preparation training course required, bachelor's degree preferred*
Degree Field Accounting, finance or business*
Experience 0-2 years of experience*
Key Skills Strong written and oral communication skills, professionalism*
Computer Skills Tax-preparation software and basic computer knowledge*
Licensure License requirements vary by state, and all states don't require tax preparers to become licensed, the federal government requires tax preparers to become registered**

Source: * job ads (Nov. 2012), **Internal Revenue Service

Step 1: Complete a Formal Education

Tax preparers must complete some type of formal education to qualify for licensing and employment. Many tax-preparation companies, as well as schools, offer tax-preparation training programs designed to teach students how to conduct interviews with clients, prepare taxes and advise clients on future tax-paying strategies. A bachelor's degree in accounting or business can expand employment opportunities and provide future tax preparers with knowledge of tax laws and regulations. A degree is optional, but some employers prefer it.

Success Tip

  • Take additional courses in communication. Since the tax-preparation field requires direct contact with clients, employers value candidates with excellent speaking and writing skills.

Step 2: Get Licensed

Many states require tax preparers to become licensed to provide services to the public. The most common requirements for this certification or license include meeting minimum education hours and passing a written exam, but requirements vary by state. The education requirements can be met through basic tax courses provided by employers, but in some cases a degree in accounting can count toward the education requirements. All tax preparers must also become registered through the federal government, and requirements include obtaining a preparer tax identification number (PTIN), passing a competency test and passing a compliance check to receive a registered tax return preparer certificate (RTRP), which must be renewed annually.

Step 3: Gain Work Experience

A trained and licensed tax preparer can seek employment at a tax preparation company performing client interviews, preparing taxes using computer software and on paper, performing bookkeeping duties and conducting research related to the job. Some employers require candidates to have 2 years of experience in the field as well as a bachelor's degree.

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