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Income Tax Preparation Training Programs and Requirements

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.

Essential Information

Tax preparers should be good with accounting, financial and mathematical operations. They should be able to provide excellent customer service and maintain accurate tax documents. Most tax preparers are required to have an associate degree in accounting but, because they do not perform the advanced financial duties of accountants, they are not typically required to have as much training.

  • Program Levels in Income Tax Preparation: Associate of Science Degree and On the Job Training.
  • Prerequisites: A high school diploma or GED certificate.
  • Online Availability: Workshops on specific tax topics.
  • Other Requirements: Proficiency with tax preparation software and bookkeeping methods. Competency exam and/or state certification may be required in some cases.

Associate of Science Programs

In an accounting associate degree program, students learn how to organize and maintain accurate 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 and managerial accounting principles
  • Cost accounting and budget estimation
  • Financial analysis and decision making
  • 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 always required to be licensed or certified, but 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. 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 preparers 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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