Tax Preparer Classes and Degree Programs
Training as a paid tax preparer may allow you to earn extra money during tax season. If you prefer to volunteer your services, you may obtain training through home-based courses offered by the Internal Revenue Service or classroom instruction provided by organizations approved by the IRS. Keep reading to learn more about classes and degree programs relevant to tax preparation.
What You Need to Know
Multiple programs, ranging from voluntary training to master's degrees, can prepare you to be a tax preparer. Classifications include enrolled agent, certified public accountant and licensed attorney. Regardless of the degree, program or classification, all compensated IRS tax preparers must have a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN).
|Programs||Commercial tax preparation for tax preparers; independent or college-affiliated tax preparation programs; volunteer training through organizations owned or approved by the IRS.|
|Degrees||Certificate in tax accounting; Bachelor's and master's degrees in accounting with a specialization in taxation; Associate's degrees with this specialization are rare|
|Certification||Compensated IRS tax preparers must hold a Preparer Tax Identification Number|
What Is a Tax Preparer?
Tax preparers use information such as W-2 forms, bank statements and other financial information to complete federal income tax returns for their customers or clients. You can become an enrolled agent, which would require you to obtain a PTIN, complete a specialized exam and earn 72 credit hours of continuing education every three years, with a minimum of 16 hours each year. There are other classifications for tax preparers, such as certified public accountants and licensed attorneys
None of these classifications requires completing a test with the IRS, though continuing education and practicing rights vary.
What Kinds of Degree Programs Are There?
You may earn a certificate in tax accounting or a bachelor's or master's degree in or related to accounting with a specialization in taxation. Many degree programs require you to complete most, if not all, of your coursework on campus. However, some programs offer the option to complete your studies online, including IRS examination preparation courses.
Here are examples of schools that offer related accounting degree programs with specialization in taxation:
- Southern Illinois University Edwardsville: Master of Science in Accountancy
- Mercy College: Bachelor of Science in General Accounting
- San Diego State University: Master of Science in Accountancy
- Colorado State University: Master of Science in Accountancy
- Walsh College: Bachelor of Science in General Accounting
Which Courses Will I Take?
An important aspect of your coursework will typically involve learning how to implement Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) in recording financial transactions. At the undergraduate level, you can complete coursework in individual and corporate tax returns, cost analysis, financial management and auditing. Graduate level programs can place a greater emphasis on taxation, including courses in:
- Corporate taxation
- Tax planning
- International taxes
- Estate taxation
Courses for specialization in taxation might also include electives like tax research, taxation of flow-though entities and personal tax planning.
What Other Class Options Do I Have?
Non-academic options are also available for obtaining training to become a tax preparer. Commercial tax preparation services offer training for tax preparers who either work for the company or independently. You may also choose a tax preparation program that operates independently or is affiliated with a college or university.
Volunteer training is available through organizations owned or approved by the IRS and on the IRS website. Though classroom-based instruction is only available at certain times of the year, you may begin online or CD-based classes at any time. You must pass a test administered by the IRS to earn Basic, Advanced, International, Military or Puerto Rico certification.