Most tax preparers are required to have an associate degree in accounting. As they do not perform the advanced financial duties of accountants, they are not typically required to have as much training. Enrollment in an associate degree program requires a high school diploma or GED, alongside proficiency with tax preparation software and bookkeeping methods.
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
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.
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 the NATC to work with the IRS to provide professional tax training and education.
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.
Students interested in tax preparation can earn an Associate of Science degree in accounting. This credential, alongside possible examination or state certification, can lead to successful careers in the field.