Whether you are considering a career in tax preparation or seeking development opportunities for your existing role, being a successful tax professional requires significant training. Training for tax preparers can include meeting educational requirements, seeking relevant and updated regulatory information, and maintaining a network of other professionals who will sharpen the skills you bring to the table as a tax preparer.
At Drake Software, we understand that training can seem like a subjective and daunting topic. In this blog post, we will delve into the abundant avenues of training for tax preparers, including preparatory training, ongoing training alternatives, and additional resources that will augment your understanding of training for tax professionals.
The Case for Training
Unlike other careers where training is an optional supplement to one’s profession, training is essential in the tax preparation industry for a number of reasons.
1. Compliance with tax laws.
There are frequent changes made to tax regulations and laws of which tax preparers must remain aware. Tax preparers may find it advantageous to actively seek training to ensure they are working in alignment with the government's most recent requirements. By participating in ongoing training, tax professionals can ensure they are compliant with any legislative updates and mitigate the risk of errors.
2. Providing a high quality of service.
As clients rely on tax preparers to accurately and successfully file their returns, it is prudent for tax professionals to navigate the intricacies of this field with confidence. One way to attain that level of reliability and expertise is by pursuing training. As tax preparers gain more knowledge and improve their competencies in their work, clients, in turn, experience a higher level of trust and satisfaction.
3. Avoiding errors and penalties.
While some errors are often unavoidable, many fallacies can be prevented by practicing up-to-date training. Tax preparers are very likely to encounter new territory given the nature of their roles, and proactively learning and training is an invaluable asset when those complex situations arise. Additionally, the mastery that training provides can help tax preparers avoid penalties, fees, legal implications, and instances of client distrust.
4. Ethical and professional standards.
Given the nature of tax preparation with access to sensitive client data, it’s crucial for tax preparers to maintain integrity and upstanding character. Some training opportunities include tips for increasing confidentiality, practicing ethical considerations, and other related professional conduct. These components help support tax preparers in their roles, and clients are also served best when tax preparers practice a high standard of ethics.
5. Enforcing relevance and competition.
Training, especially when distinctive and specialized, can help tax preparers distinguish themselves from competing firms or preparers. Tax preparers can effectively demonstrate their commitment to professional development and serve a wider range of clients by utilizing training opportunities and diversifying their knowledge base.
There are countless explanations that prove the importance of seeking training as a tax professional, but these are a few that impact the success of client relationships, organizational efficacy, and reputation in the industry. In each of these areas, training is a resourceful commodity that serves to be a profitable and worthwhile endeavor for tax professionals.
While we have established the importance of training, an explicit secondary question may be what areas are beneficial to be trained in as a tax professional.
Primarily, comprehensive training for tax preparers in the areas of tax laws, IRS regulations, credits and deductions, and electronic filing methods are of the utmost importance. These subject matters will be most applicable for tax preparers and contribute directly to their success in their day-to-day work, specifically with ensuring compliance with tax regulations.
Additionally, training programs may successfully target softer skills, such as communication, attention to detail, critical problem solving, and ethics. These core competencies are, too, integral to the function of tax preparation and will have a multitude of benefits, from client relations to excellent standards in their role.
With these elements in mind, the next step is to locate the source of the training opportunities you may need, depending on your state in relation to tax preparation. There are a variety of options available for training programs that will equip tax professionals with skills and knowledge to work effectively in their field.
Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Training
An excellent starting point for tax professionals to research training opportunities is the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). From webinars and online courses to scholarly publications, the IRS offers a wide-ranging wealth of knowledge on tax-related topics. Chiefly, the information posited by the IRS is designed to supplement tax professionals’ understanding of taw regulations, updated laws, and requirements to file returns. One major benefit of receiving training from the IRS is that it will undoubtedly familiarize the preparer with the IRS interface and perspective, thus strengthening their ability to navigate the IRS’ system when preparing returns on behalf of clients.
One well-known training program offered by the IRS across the nation is the Annual Filing Season Program (ASFP). The ASFP is a voluntary program for tax preparers who are not considered enrolled agents, attorneys, or certified public accountants (CPAs). Eligible tax preparers can participate and receive a Record of Completion from the IRS, which can be strategized to enhance your reputation as a tax professional.
IRS Quick Links for Training for Tax Preparers:
- Tax Practitioner Institute Classes (Offered at the state level)
- IRS-Sponsored Continuing Education Programs
- Paid Preparer Due Diligence Training
Another option for tax preparers to receive additional training is accredited education institutions that offer courses or programs specifically for tax preparation. Many universities or vocational schools offer programs that can amplify a tax professional’s understanding of tax laws, filing forms, deductions, credits, and more.
The format of this type of training offers a more structured approach to learning and can serve especially helpful for new tax preparers who may require the expertise of an instructor. Whether taking several classes on the side or pursuing a more formal certification, this method of training is ideal for new tax preparers or those seeking a more organized structure.
Outside of a traditional classroom setting, another method of educational training is Continuing Professional Education (CPE). The IRS does require a certain amount of CPE credits to remain certified, which you can read more about on our blog here, but outside of fulfilling requirements, these courses can be excellent sources of training for tax preparers. You can even take CPE classes directly through DrakeCPE, which provides accessible and high-quality training for any tax professionals who are seeking extended training.
Continuing education and ongoing training are essential for tax preparers to stay up to date with the ever-evolving tax landscape and to maintain their professional competence. Fortunately, there are numerous avenues for tax preparers to receive ongoing training that can enhance their skills and keep them well-informed about the latest developments in tax laws and regulations.
Many tax preparers gain their initial training and traction within the industry through mentorship or apprenticeship opportunities. Locating other tax professionals who share their wisdom and professional guidance is an organic method to receiving on-the-job training. Whether an organized program intended to teach budding tax preparers, or simply an entry-level position as a preparer, these mentorship opportunities often create rich environments for constituents to observe and assist experienced professionals in their tax preparation processes. This, in turn, helps supplement practical training that can be applied in additional tax contexts for one’s skill development.
Furthermore, in this type of setting, interning professionals are introduced to standard and basic tasks they would likely encounter in their own future endeavors. This can include data entry, organizing documents, conducting research, interacting with clients, and preparing returns. No matter the extent of the work, exposure to the field can be a valuable level of training that serves to shape an individual’s experience and adeptness in tax preparation.
Overall, internships and apprenticeships are optimistic routes for tax preparers to receive training, especially if they are new to the industry. The hands-on experience provided by these opportunities contributes toward the skillfulness and confidence that is critical in tax preparation. Mentees can learn a range of abilities, from communicating with clients and practicing attention to detail to familiarizing themselves with tax laws and navigating tax software. Each of these components help build a holistic training model that undoubtedly becomes useful in that preparer’s future career.
Another natural source of training for a tax preparer may approach is knowledge sharing from professional tax organizations. Reputable groups for tax preparers can offer structured training programs, forums for questions, webinars, workshops, and self-study opportunities that can contribute to one’s training repertoire. These courses can cover a range of topics, from regulatory updates to best practices across the industry. In addition to benefiting from the extensive networks of other tax preparers, these organizations can enhance a preparer’s training and understanding of their role.
Amongst the abundance of benefits that a tax preparer stands to gain from association with a professional tax organization, perhaps the most significant is the opportunity to learn and receive relevant training. The platform for experienced tax professionals to share ideas and exchange their realistic insights is an inevitably successful source of perspective for any tax preparer.
Reputable Organizations for Tax Professionals:
- National Society of Accountants (NSA)
- National Society of Tax Professionals (NSTP)
- American Institute of Certified Professional Accountants (AICPA)
- National Association of Enrolled Agents (NAEA)
Software Providers & Drake
One final avenue to locate training for tax preparers is through your preparation software provider. Most providers offer training to ensure that users are proficient in their software. At Drake, we offer various tools so you gain mastery of your field and excel as a tax preparer. From providing software webinars to offering in-person and virtual classroom training here, we want you to be equipped for success in your role as a tax preparer.
By maximizing these resources, tax preparers can magnify their success and take full advantage of the training opportunities available to them. You can learn more about how our software prepares you technically as well as in practical application by visiting our website here.
Training Vs. Certifications
Tax preparers must manage the distinctive yet complementary aspects of training and certifications in their jobs. While both serve as effective markers of professional development, we want to clarify that the scope of this post explores training for tax preparers, not certifications.
Training, in this context, refers to the acquisition of knowledge and skills through education and practice that helps tax preparers approach their roles with more equipment and enablement; alternatively, certifications help demonstrate the level of expertise a tax preparer attains by completing courses or programs via certified parties. As this post delves into the training opportunities available for tax preparers, you can view our corresponding post about certifications for tax preparers here.
Training is a necessary facet of working as a tax preparer; challenging tasks frequently require ongoing learning, and updated regulations necessitate continual immersion in knowledge. Fortunately, there are many methods for tax preparers to acquire this training and ultimately become more successful tax professionals. We recommend membership in professional organizations, educational pursuits, apprenticeship training, and professional software providers like Drake Software to resource your need for training. By leveraging these avenues for training, tax preparers can enhance their competence, more accurately provide preparation services, and expertly navigate their roles.