How do I Become a Tax Preparer?

K T Solis
K T Solis
Some tax preparers are CPAs.
Some tax preparers are CPAs.

Despite the variety of tax preparation software and how-to books that saturate the market, most people are intimidated by the thought of preparing their own taxes, and would rather hire someone else to do it for them. If a person desires to become a tax preparer, there are ways to do so.

If a person desires to enter the tax preparation field, she does not have to go to college to earn a degree. Of course, people who enjoy learning about tax laws may decide to pursue a career as a CPA, or Certified Public Accountant, but this long-term commitment isn't necessary. Another alternative is to enroll in a course at a tax preparation company like H&R Block or Jackson Hewitt. The courses are often free and take only a few months to complete. If someone wants to become a tax preparer, a large company such as these would be a good way to receive instruction on how to prepare tax returns.

Knowledge of tax rules and basic math skills are helpful to become a tax preparer.
Knowledge of tax rules and basic math skills are helpful to become a tax preparer.

H&R Block offers classes in both English and Spanish, and 90% of their employees complete the in-house tax preparation course. Classes usually run about 11 weeks. Jackson Hewitt classes meet two times a week for six weeks, in classes that are either instructor-led or self-paced. Instructor-led courses are conducted online. These are just two examples of major tax companies that offer classes to prospective employees; however, completion of such courses does not guarantee employment.

Seasonal tax preparation jobs are often filled by students, stay-at-home parents, and retired people. Some tax preparers work at other jobs throughout the rest of the year. Often, tax preparation jobs are a means to earning extra money. Each fall, tax preparers need to take a refresher course to get up to date on tax changes since tax laws change on a regular basis.

Tax preparers are paid to fill out tax return forms for clients. The goal is to include all possible deductions in order to reduce the client's tax debt. When someone is a tax preparer, he must conduct a comprehensive interview with a client to obtain important financial and personal information.

Someone who wishes to become a tax preparer should be meticulous and have the ability to comprehend detailed rules. She must be good with numbers and able to use software programs. Since tax preparers work with the public, they must have good people skills as well. Although they do not need to be knowledgeable about accounting, they must be adept at basic mathematics.

In most states, in order to become a tax preparer, a person does not have to be licensed. Those interested in preparing taxes for others only need to learn how to do so. Someone with an entrepreneurial spirit may even decide to start her own tax preparation business, whether online or in an actual store-front office.

There is an ongoing need for knowledgeable people to prepare tax returns, since tax laws continue to become more complex. Someone who would like to become a tax preparer should complete a tax course in order to take advantage of the opportunities that abound for people who are good with numbers, can process complicated information, and have excellent customer service skills.

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Discussion Comments


I'm acquainted with many people who first gained tax experience at storefront operations like H&R Block. However, working at a storefront tax entity is part-time seasonal work for all but a few top employees.

The best aspect of the storefront environment is gaining experience preparing tax returns for real persons. Unfortunately, poor training at some storefront tax operations is a cause for improperly prepared returns.

Higher paying year-round tax work is usually found at local tax practices headed by CPAs. However, they generally hire only experienced tax preparers but might train individuals with proven tax expertise from passing the Enrolled Agent exam. There are quality courses online that are investments that assure passing the exam on the first attempt.

Quite a few tax preparers advance from the basic tax return situations at a storefront enterprise and become enrolled agents with their own tax businesses.

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    • Some tax preparers are CPAs.
      By: mim
      Some tax preparers are CPAs.
    • Knowledge of tax rules and basic math skills are helpful to become a tax preparer.
      By: cphoto
      Knowledge of tax rules and basic math skills are helpful to become a tax preparer.