Tax preparation is one of the most critical aspects of running a business. It is also an important task that individual taxpayers must do each year. It is a federal and state law to file taxes promptly to avoid penalties and fees. It is also the right thing to do. If you have a knack for presenting information about taxes and understanding complicated tax forms, you may have what is needed to work as a tax preparer.

Many people are confused by new tax regulations and other aspects of tax filing. The professional tax preparer can make the process of filing taxes a less painful process by handling all of the requirements themselves so that the business owner can focus on their business. If you can master the art of tax filing and enjoy crunching numbers, you may be the perfect candidate to start a career as a tax preparer. You'll be doing a job that few people want to do, and they often pay you handsomely for it!

Salaries of Tax Preparers

Tax preparers make an average of $44,000-$47,000 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but they can make much more, depending on who their clientele is and how much work they do during a year.

Intro and Overview

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There is a lot that is involved with tax preparation. The professional tax preparer must fill out forms either by hand or by using online software, check and reconcile figures with various paperwork such as W-2s, 1099s, and many other tax forms. They must have a keen eye for detail so that they will catch any discrepancies between the business ledger and actual income so that income is reported correctly.

They deal with invoices, bank statements, and even stocks and bonds because business owners and individuals are required to report all income, many times from multiple streams of income. For the average business owner, this process can seem overwhelming, especially if they are dealing with large sums of money. Also, the business owner is often too busy to spend time sorting through their accounting paperwork. That's why they are willing to pay a professional preparer to do it for them.

For this reason, a tax preparer also needs a strong background in accounting. This does not necessarily mean that you need a bachelor's or master's degree in accounting, but you are required to have a 60-hour qualifying education course from a Tax Preparer provider within the past 18 months in most states.

Typical Functions of This Career

If you are considering a career as a tax preparer, it's important to know what they do on a regular basis. As the title implies, their job is all about preparing the tax forms of individuals and businesses, as well as non-profit and other organizations. Anyone who is required to file a tax form might be potential customers for the tax preparer.

Possible Job Titles, Duties and Day in the Life

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As a certified tax preparer, you may be involved in a wide range of activities including filing taxes for businesses, tax filing for individuals or non-profit organizations, and proofreading and interpreting tax forms for individuals or business owners.

Some popular job titles of a tax preparer may include the following:

  • Tax Preparer
  • Tax Advisor
  • Tax Form Interpreter
  • Tax Filing Expert
  • Tax Consultant

Some of this will be influenced by the firm you are working for, the types of clients you take on, and whether you are working for yourself as an independent contractor or working on staff as the general tax advisor or tax preparation professional. You can define your role in many ways by illustrating what you want to specialize in such as filing taxes, advising or serving as a consultant, or other tasks.

Just be careful not to cross over into legal advice, as this is not something you are qualified for and you should always recommend that a person seek an attorneys advice for more severe tax problems with the IRS or state tax entities.

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Special Problems or Situations that Require a Tax Preparer

The tax filing status that someone chooses is important to the outcome of their business. They can also claim more deductibles with certain filing statuses. However, the average business owner may not have a firm understanding of what the different filing statuses mean. A tax preparer may be able to explain the differences between them so that they will make a more educated decision on the category to put their business in.

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Handling S-Corp Status

One example of when a tax preparer might help a business owner is to help them integrate into an S-Corp status. Of course, the filing of this must be done with the Secretary of State within the person's state of residence. But, once this is done, it is also important to understand what this status means when it comes to tax filing time. When you are an S-Corporation in most states, you can decide how much income you are claiming on your income tax forms. This means that you do not have to claim your entire income during the tax year. A tax preparer could recommend the percentage to count as income while the rest of the income will be counted as dividends of the company.

This sounds complicated, but a tax preparer has a good grasp of this process, and they can make the entire process simple. Additionally, a tax preparer is the one business owners turn to when they need to know which forms they need to file each year. Avoiding these costly mistakes is essential to the business owner, no matter what their tax filing status is.

Education and Degree Options

Unlike tax attorneys or CPAs (certified public accountants), a tax preparer is not required to hold a four-year degree or a license to practice Accounting to be a tax preparer. In fact, anyone can become a tax preparer without these credentials, provided you following these important steps:

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Obtain a high school diploma as a minimum with strong Math skills.

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Take at least 60 hours in tax preparation training through an ACAT

(Accreditation Council for Accountancy and Taxation) training course or from the National Association of Tax Professionals

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Purchase a $5,000 tax preparer bond from an insurance or surety agent.

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You can also attend a community college that specializes in tax preparation careers and receive a one-year certificate. But this is not required.

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Obtain a tax preparer identification number from the IRS.

This is a requirement to serve as a tax preparer. You must be registered with a TPIN through the IRS website. If you have completed the above requirements, start by applying on the IRS website to get your TPIN number, then pay the $50 fee to get started.

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Register as a tax preparer with your state.

Start with a search for "tax preparer registration within...." and add your state. This will give you the requirements that you need to proceed.

Additional Education Options

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Remember that if you know what the basic requirements are to become a tax preparer, your competition does too. It is an inherent truth in the business world that, most people only do the minimum work that is required. If you go the extra mile and take additional courses or improve your skills in some way, you will rise above the crowd and be more likely to be noticed in the crowd.

If you want to get a leg up on your competition, you may also want to consider doing the following:

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Take the tax preparer exam.

The official tax preparer exam is known as the Registered Tax Return Preparer test. This test was created by the IRS to improve the overall quality of tax preparation among tax preparers. It holds tax preparers to a higher standard than they have been held to in the past and increases the level of knowledge required for tax professionals.

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Become an enrolled agent.

If you become a registered enrolled agent, it may give you more of an advantage over your competition because you have gone the extra mile to prove yourself as a dedicated tax professional. The exam is called the Gleim Exam. You may also take the practice exam on their site.

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Intern for a tax preparation service.

By interning with an established tax preparation business, you will learn the real day-to-day tasks that a tax preparer is required to do on a daily basis. This can give you real-world experience and help you learn some of the 'best practices' in the real world with clients, rather than basing all of your knowledge on theory or academic perspectives.

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Start accepting clients.

Once you have completed all of the requirements for working as a tax preparer, you can start accepting clients as a freelance tax preparer or go to work for a tax preparation business or accountancy firm. Either way, you choose, you will be able to file taxes for either individuals or businesses and make a good living with this profession.

Certification, Credentials and Licensure

Unlike tax attorneys or CPAs, the tax preparer is not required to have a four-year degree, though it can help regarding getting clients or to establish your credibility as a tax expert. You can take the Tax Preparer Exam, as discussed above to prove yourself further or establish yourself as an enrolled agent by taking the enrolled agent exam. Other than that, your only requirements are to complete the 60 hours of training in tax and accounting courses that are approved by the National Association of Tax Professionals.

Once you have completed your initial requirements to become a tax preparer, you will want to find out what is required to keep your certification status active. This generally involves taking some additional hours each year to prove to the tax associations of your state and the federal government that you are keeping current on the tax laws and other information that is pertinent to your role as a tax preparer.

Know Your State Requirements

It's important to be aware of the tax preparer continuing education requirements as well as the initial requirements that your state has in place to work as a tax preparer. Look into your state requirements to make sure you are getting what you need to continue working as a tax preparer.

Choose a Career in Tax Preparation

Tax preparation is a business that will continue to exist, as long as the federal and state government stands. There is an increasing need for tax preparers and experts, especially since there have been recent changes in the tax laws that affect the filing process.

Filing taxes is not always a bad thing. In fact, as of 2018, many people are excited about the opportunities that have been laid out by the changes the President has made that will allows more tax breaks for business owners and more opportunities for deductions for everyone.

This could be your most exceptional opportunity to reel in new business once you get your credentials as a tax preparer. Start by searching for Accounting or Business courses that will start you on your road to success. Get a good background in accounting and tax law to begin your journey. Then learn as much as you can about the tax preparation business. You'll soon be on your way to an exciting and potentially lucrative career.

After all, who doesn't need help with their taxes? Even tax preparers do!