Many levels of tax practitioner training are available, from beginner classes for those who wish to become tax practitioners to advanced or continuing education instruction designed for working tax professionals. Online study opportunities range from free IRS webinars to graduate-level study in accounting or taxation at colleges and universities. Prior to enrolling in an online graduate degree program, students must hold a bachelor's degree.
Internal Revenue Service
The Internal Revenue Service offers an interactive tax assistant, periodic free webinars and a video portal for tax practitioners, all from their website (www.irs.gov). These resources address current tax topics and changes in tax regulation. For not-for-profit organizations, the IRS offers virtual workshops and a resource library on maintaining not-for-profit status (http://www.irs.gov/Charities-%26-Non-Profits/Online-Courses-at-StayExempt.irs.gov).
Organizations like the National Association of Tax Professionals provide several types of online education, including self-study courses, webinars, workshops and exam reviews (www.natptax.com).
Basic and intermediate courses are available on topics such as:
- Gifts and trusts
- Estate tax issues
- Retirement plans
- Business partnerships
- Corporation formation
The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) offers opportunities to earn continuing professional education (CPE) units through its online On-Demand program featuring current tax topics (www.aicpa.org).
Commercial Tax Preparation Organizations
Some tax preparation companies like Jackson Hewitt provide free basic, intermediate and advanced online tax preparation courses. In some cases, these courses are eligible for college credit. Students who have completed Jackson Hewitt's basic course or have at least two years of tax preparation experience may take advanced courses on subjects like self-employment, itemized deductions and traditional and Roth IRAs. Advanced courses may be eligible for CPE credit.
Colleges and Universities
Colleges and universities generally offer taxation courses within their accounting degree programs, although some schools offer online individual continuing education courses as well. Approximately 100 public and private academic institutions offer degree or certificate programs -- some of which are available online -- specifically in taxation, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (www.nces.gov).
While there are several online undergraduate programs in accounting, many distance learning options specifically in taxation lead to a graduate degree like a Master of Science in Taxation. Admissions requirements for these programs vary, but can include a bachelor's degree, GMAT scores, resume and references.
Learning & Coursework
Students enrolled in an online accounting or taxation program typically can complete all degree requirements virtually. Schools use course management software to create online classrooms where distance learners can access lectures, assignments and reading materials generally any time of day. Discussion boards, chat rooms, e-mail and/or web conferencing may be used for class interaction.
Online students may study the following areas in a formal college program:
- Estate and gift taxation
- Tax research
- Business law
- Taxation of individuals
- Taxation of businesses
- Tax planning
- International taxation
There are many online courses and short modules available for individuals and small organizations needing information about preparing their own taxes. For students who are looking to pursue a career in the field, online undergraduate or graduate-level accounting programs typically include courses that address a wider range of taxation-related topics.