What Employers Look For With Tax Preparer Certifications

tax preparer certifications

There are only about 60,000 tax preparers working throughout the U.S. at this time. This should make it pretty easy for you to find a job as a tax preparer if you’re interested in doing it.

But you aren’t going to be able to turn yourself into a tax preparer overnight just because you think it would be a good career move for you. You’re going to need to earn the right tax preparer certifications to land work as a professional tax preparer.

Before you attempt to secure a single tax preparation certification, you should learn about what employers are going to be looking for when they ask to see your tax preparer certifications. It’ll ensure that you’re able to impress employers when you pull your tax preparer certifications out and show them off.

Continue reading to find out what most employers will be checking for when it comes to tax preparer certifications.

What Kind of Tax Preparer Certifications Do You Have?

There are a handful of different types of tax preparer certifications that a person can earn. So when you’re speaking with an employer who is interested in hiring you to be a tax preparer, they’re usually going to kick things off by asking which types of tax preparer certifications you have.

Technically, anyone who is going to be filing taxes on behalf of someone else can get their hands on what is called a preparer tax identification number, or a PTIN. But if you’re serious about becoming a tax preparer, you’ll want to go the extra mile and get a tax preparer certification so that you can work as:

  • An enrolled agent, or EA
  • A certified public accountant, or CPA
  • A tax attorney

There is obviously a big difference between being, say, an EA and a CPA. It’s why most employers will look at which kind of tax preparer certificates that you have. They’ll want to know what you’ll be qualified to do for them.

Where Did You Obtain Your Tax Preparer Certifications?

In addition to asking you which type of tax preparer certifications that you have obtained, an employer is also going to inquire as to where you obtained your certifications. This would be sort of like them asking you which college you graduated from if you told them that you have a bachelor’s degree.

Some employers won’t pay any mind to where you got your tax preparer certifications from. As long as you’re certified, that will be good enough for them.

But others might want to see that you attended a top school to score your tax preparer certifications. They’ll be happy to hear that you took a tax preparation course at a reputable school that taught you the right things.

Did You Get Your Tax Preparer Certifications In-Person or Online?

In this day and age, most employers aren’t going to care too much about whether you got your tax preparer certifications in-person or online. They aren’t as concerned about this as they used to be when some employers looked down on those who had a tax preparer online certification.

But you might still come across some employers who will want to know if you got your tax preparer certification in-person or if you took a tax preparer online course. They might do it just to make sure that you feel comfortable working with people in-person if you were someone who took online courses for tax preparer certifications.

The good news is that the majority of employers aren’t going to knock you for getting tax preparer certifications either in-person or online. But it could be something that comes up, so you should be prepared for it.

How Long Did It Take You to Earn Your Tax Preparer Certifications?

To get a tax preparer certification, you’ll typically have to spend at least 60 hours taking a tax preparer course. In the past, this often meant that people would be enrolled in tax preparer courses for up to six months at a time.

But because tax preparer online courses have become more and more popular over time, it’s now possible for people to get tax preparer certifications in a lot less time. In fact, there are some tax preparers who earn tax preparer certifications in just 10 weeks or so. It all depends on how quickly they choose to move through their online courses.

An employer might want to know how long you spent earning your tax preparer certifications. If you were someone who was hungry enough to breeze through your online course, it could show them that you’re fully committed to being the best tax preparer that they can be.

When Did You Secure Your Tax Preparer Certifications?

Have you had your tax preparer certifications for a decade now? Or did you just earn them last month? There is a huge difference between these two scenarios.

If an employer is on the hunt for a very experienced tax preparer, they might be skeptical about hiring you if you’ve only had tax preparer certifications for a few weeks. At the same time, they might be searching for someone who is young and full of energy to work for their busy tax preparation business.

Whatever the case, you shouldn’t be surprised if an employer checks in with you about your experience level. And they’ll sometimes do this by simply asking how long you’ve had your tax preparer certifications. You should be open and honest with them about your experience since it’s going to be apparent how long you’ve been in the business once you begin working for an employer.

How Have Your Tax Preparer Certifications Benefitted You?

Just about all of the questions that an employer is going to ask you about your tax preparer certifications will be objective. You won’t have to think too hard about how to answer them.

But you should be ready for an employer to work a subjective question (or two!) into the mix. It’ll serve as a curveball and will be designed to throw you off your game just a little bit to see what you’re made out of.

For example, an employer might ask you to tell them how your tax preparer certifications have benefitted you while you’re working on other people’s taxes. You’ll need to give some thought to this kind of question before coming up with an answer.

You should think about the tax preparer courses that you took in order to get your tax preparer certifications and relay how they helped you to become better at doing taxes. You should be able to come up with something that will show that you’re not just a robot going through the motions while talking to an employer.

Are You Interested in Obtaining Other Tax Preparer Certifications?

If you only have the lowest tax preparer certificate at this time, an employer might ask you if you have any desire to earn other tax preparer certifications. This will give them some sense as to what the future might hold for you.

If you don’t want to get any other tax preparer certifications, you don’t have to make up a lie. You should be upfront with an employer and tell them that you’re happy doing what you’re doing now. They shouldn’t dock you any points for this.

But if you already have your heart set on earning other tax preparer certifications, it could turn you into a very valuable asset for an employer. They might be excited to hear that you’re going to take your career to the next level, and it might entice them to hire you on the spot.

In some instances, an employer might even offer to help you get your hands on additional tax preparer certifications as you move forward. This would bode well for both you and them and allow each of you to benefit from your decision to further your tax preparer education.

Which Tax Software Have You Used Since Getting Your Tax Preparer Certifications?

Believe it or not, it wasn’t all that long ago that tax preparers used to have to help people file their taxes by hand. They had to fill out physical forms and collect physical invoices, receipts, etc. from their clients.

But nowadays, they don’t have to go about doing people’s taxes in this way anymore. There are lots of different types of tax software that you can use to file someone’s taxes for them. They make life a lot easier for everyone involved.

While you’re talking to an employer about your tax preparer certifications, there is a good chance that they’re going to have you break down which types of tax software you’ve used in the past. They might also see if you feel comfortable working with whichever tax software they use at the moment.

This is another area in which you should make sure that you’re being honest with an employer. You don’t want to tell them that you know how to use certain tax software and have them find out that you were clearly fibbing later on.

You would be way better off telling the truth from the start before pointing out that you’re a fast learner and would go above and beyond to make sure that you know how to use their tax software prior to getting started with them. This would go a long way towards showing your commitment to being a good tax preparer.

Is Your Preparer Tax Identification Number Current?

No matter how many tax preparer certifications you might have or how much experience that you’ve earned as a tax preparer, you aren’t going to do an employer much good without a preparer tax identification number. You’ll need to use your PTIN each and every time that you help someone else file their taxes.

Fortunately, it’ll be simple enough for you to obtain a PTIN once you become a tax preparer. But—and this is a big “but” so pay attention!—you will have to get into the habit of renewing your PTIN on an annual basis.

You can renew your PTIN right on the IRS website in about 15 minutes. It’ll only cost you $35.95 to make sure that your PTIN is renewed and active for the new tax season.

But you would be surprised to hear how many tax preparers forget to renew their PTIN until the last minute and then struggle to help other people do their taxes because of it. You should make every effort to ensure that you don’t put yourself in this position.

By renewing your PTIN well in advance of tax season, you can confidently tell an employer that you have both tax preparer certifications and a renewed PTIN that is all ready to go.

You Can Use Your Tax Preparer Certifications to Launch a Successful Career

Spending all day doing other people’s taxes isn’t for everyone. There are plenty of people out there who would rather dig ditches for a living as opposed to filling out tax forms.

But if you like working with numbers and want to help reduce the stress that other people feel when they do their taxes, you would make a great tax preparer. And all you need to do to break into the tax preparation business is obtain tax preparer certifications.

If you don’t have an IRS tax preparer certification or any other kind of tax preparer certificate, you should look into getting one now. You should also start looking up which employers you would want to work for once you have your certifications lined up.

Do you want to get some more great advice that could catapult your career to the next level? Find it by reading through some of the other blogs that we’ve put up.

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About the Author: mike