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Become a Tax Preparer: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how you can become a tax preparer. Explore the education requirements, training information, and experience required for starting a career in tax preparation. View article »

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  • 0:00 Tax Preparers
  • 0:47 Career Skills & Info
  • 1:10 Step 1: Formal Education
  • 1:58 Step 2: License
  • 2:48 Step 3: Employment

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Video Transcript

Tax Preparers

Tax preparers calculate and fill out individual, corporate, partnership, and other income tax returns using computer software. They may interview clients, explain procedures, and perform bookkeeping, research, and other duties related to their position. Tax preparers may find some of their work stressful as the deadline for returns approaches, typically around April 15, and spend much of their time sitting. They must be familiar with various tax preparation software programs.

Most tax preparers have a high school diploma or GED and receive on-the-job training. However, some positions require a bachelor's degree in accounting, business, or a finance-related field.

Career Skills & Info

Degree Level Completion of a tax preparation training course required; bachelor's degree preferred
Degree Field Accounting, finance, or business
Licensure Some states require licensure; the federal government requires tax preparers to become registered
Key Skills Strong written and oral communication skills, computer literate
Salary (2015) $44,730 (average annual salary for a tax preparer)*

Sources: Internal Revenue Service, *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Let's take a closer look at some of the steps involved in becoming a tax preparer.

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Step 1: Formal Education

Tax preparers must complete some type of formal education to qualify for licensing and employment. Many tax-preparation companies and 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, business, or finance can expand employment opportunities and provide future tax preparers with knowledge of tax laws and regulations. As we said earlier, some employers prefer applicants with a degree.

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: License

Many states require tax preparers to obtain a license before they provide services to the public. Although the criteria can vary by state, the most common requirements for certification or license include meeting minimum education hours and passing a written exam. Applicants can meet the education requirements by taking basic tax courses provided by employers. However, in some cases, a degree in accounting can count toward the education requirements. All tax preparers must be registered with the federal government. Requirements include obtaining a preparer tax identification number (PTIN) and passing a competency and compliance check, after which candidates receive a registered tax return preparer certificate (RTRP). The certificate must be renewed annually.

Step 3: Employment

A trained and licensed tax preparer can seek employment at a tax preparation company. Some employers require candidates to have two years of experience in the field along with a bachelor's degree before they can advance to positions with higher salaries and more responsibilities.

Let's briefly summarize what we just discussed. You'll need a high school diploma or GED and some on-the-job training to qualify for a job as a tax preparer. As of May 2015, tax preparers earned a median salary of $44,730.

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