Become a Certified Tax Resolution Specialist: Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a certified tax resolution specialist. Research the education requirements, training information, and experience you will need to start a career in tax resolution. View article »

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  • 0:00 Certified Tax…
  • 1:25 Earn The Required…
  • 2:43 Attain Relevant Credentials
  • 3:26 Gain Professional Work…
  • 3:42 Obtain The CTRS Credential

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Video Transcript

Certified Tax Resolution Specialist

Degree Level Bachelor's degree; lawyers must complete law school
Degree Field Accounting or law
Licensure/Certification Both CPAs and lawyers must attain licensure in their chosen profession before taking the CTRS exam; an EA must pass the Special Enrollment Examination (SEE)
Experience 2 years experience working in chosen field
Key Skills Varies by position; strong communication, complex problem-solving, time management, active learning, writing, negotiation, and persuasion skills; familiarity with software programs used for accounting, compliance, enterprise resource planning, tax preparation, and document management
Salary $67,190 per year (2015 median salary for accountants and auditors)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Internal Revenue Service/the American Society of Tax Problem Solvers

A certified tax resolution specialist (CTRS) is a tax expert who helps clients deal with tax issues and represents them before the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). CTRS is a special designation awarded by the American Society of Tax Problem Solvers (ASTPS). Those who wish to achieve this designation must follow one of three career paths in order to be eligible, these include becoming a certified public accountant (CPA), tax attorney, or enrolled agent (EA) for the IRS.

Certified tax resolution specialists work full-time during business hours. They operate almost exclusively within an office setting, spending many hours in front of a computer and phone. Employment with the IRS, a government agency, is associated with a measure of job security, good wages, and benefits.

A CTRS needs communication, complex problem-solving, time management, active learning, writing, negotiation, and persuasion skills. Additionally, he or she must be familiar with software programs used for accounting, compliance, enterprise resource planning, tax preparation, and document management. Let's look at the steps required to become a certified tax resolution specialist.

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Step 1: Earn the Required Academic Degrees

There are three different methods of qualifying to become a CTRS, and the academic requirements for qualifying for each method differ. Only CPAs, attorneys, and IRS enrolled agents can earn the CTRS designation.

Potential CPAs can enter the accounting career by completing a bachelor's degree in accounting, which typically includes courses in mathematics, marketing, finance, accounting, and economics. Some states also require a graduate degree or completion of some graduate-level classes for certification. EAs can come from any profession and do not necessarily need to earn a bachelor's degree. Tax attorneys need to complete a bachelor's degree program, which can be in any field as long it includes the prerequisite courses needed for law school and to graduate from law school.

Aspiring accountants, attorneys, and EAs might benefit from acquiring field experience before sitting for the exams necessary to become licensed. In the case of law and accounting students, internships might be available with businesses, universities, or government agencies. Individuals who complete such internship opportunities might have an easier time finding professional employment after graduation.

Step 2: Attain Relevant Credentials

Each of the three relevant professions has a credential that must be earned in order for a person entering that line of work to be considered fully qualified. An accountant who wishes to become a CPA must pass the Uniform CPA Examination after meeting state requirements, which often include completing 150 semester hours of college-level coursework (typically this includes some graduate-level credits). Attorneys must pass a state bar exam after completing law school. To be an enrolled agent, one must pass the Special Enrollment Examination or possess a certain amount of IRS work experience.

Step 3: Gain Professional Work Experience

ASTPS requires one or two years of work experience to be eligible to sit for the CTRS qualifying exam. Experience must be either directly or indirectly related to tax problem resolution.

Step 4: Obtain the CTRS Credential

ASTPS uses a system that allocates points for credentials, experience, and professional study in determining eligibility to sit for the certification exam; candidates must earn a total of 36 points before they can qualify. A minimum of 16 points must come either from either taking or teaching courses approved by ASTPS.

The Uniform CTRS Exam is a written, 2-part test that must be passed to become a Certified Tax Resolution Specialist. Part one includes 150 questions related to IRS tax problem resolution, while part two involves a comprehensive case study. Membership fees must be paid annually to maintain the Certified Tax Resolution Specialist credential. In addition, members must complete continuing education requirements.

In summary, the certified tax resolution specialist credential is only available to certified public accountants, tax attorneys, and enrolled agents who meet education and experience requirements set by the American Society of Tax Problem Solvers. These professionals must pass the Uniform CTRS Exam to be awarded the credential.

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