career climb

The Tax Preparer Industry

There are several potential benefits to pursuing a career as a tax preparer, not the least of which is the ability to successfully prepare and file your own taxes. You’ll also have options for flexible scheduling, work-at-home opportunities, seasonal or yearly work, and livable wages.

The added bonus of choosing this profession is that knowledgeable and skilled tax preparers are in high demand. Whether you work with a firm or strike out on your own, you should never fall short of having as much work as you want.

Naturally, you’re bound to be busier at certain times of year (tax season), but with businesses requiring bookkeeping, quarterly estimated tax filings, and other services throughout the year, tax preparers that want to work year-round can certainly do so. Even better, it’s not a perishable skill, and you can take it with you should you move to another location.

The question, then, is how to get started. How can you become a tax preparer and what type of career trajectory awaits you? Here are a few things you should know if you want to get into the tax preparer industry.

Requirements

Although there are no specific post-secondary educational requirements for tax preparers, you should certainly get your high school diploma or GED, and your math abilities should be at least adequate. From there you can look into programs designed to teach you what you need to know to become a certified tax preparer.

This education will allow you to meet certain standards that make getting a job or starting your own business a lot easier. Some firms do not require you to have a certificate or license upon hire, although they will almost certainly train you and most require you to work toward certification. In order to prepare federal taxes, the IRS requires that you hold a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN).

Choosing the Right Program

The main thing to remember when it comes to your education is that it is essential to find a tax school that is licensed and accredited. The good news for many prospective students is that National Tax Training School which is licensed and nationally accredited provides the opportunity to earn online certification in as little as 8-10 weeks.

Finding an Employer

As a certified tax preparer, you will have the opportunity to work for any number of businesses that specialize in filing taxes for individuals or business entities, or that offer the service as one of a number of different customer services. You could end up working for a tax prep company, an accounting firm or independent CPA, or even a law firm.

Some of these jobs are likely to be seasonal or provide only part-time work, while others may offer you the opportunity to work year-round, depending on the clientele and your level of ability (as well as your desire to work). The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that jobs for tax preparers and accountants are on the rise, and this is likely due to the complex and fluid nature of tax law. In other words, you should have little trouble finding employment opportunities as a certified tax preparer.

Working for Yourself

Many people are interested in the prospect of entering the tax prep industry as a means of attaining a flexible employment schedule and/or working from home. Becoming a tax preparer offers many opportunities that aren’t available in other fields, especially in finance.

As a certified tax preparation specialist, you can certainly choose to work for yourself, work from home, and build up your own clientele. You can decide how much or how little you want to work. This is an ideal situation for stay-home parents looking to bring in a secondary income, students seeking a side job while they’re in school, workers who want to supplement another income, or anyone who wants to be their own boss, really.

Becoming a tax preparer allows you the freedom to make decisions about where you work and how much you work. Of course, if you’re going to work from home you must exhibit a certain level of determination, as well as an ability to effectively manage your time, if you want to earn a living.

Tax Prep as a Supplemental Income

Not everyone interested in a career in tax preparation is looking for full-time work, and there are definitely ways to create a part-time schedule. If, for example, you’re interested in seasonal work, the months of January through April might demand a lot of work hours, but provide the supplemental income that sustains you throughout the rest of the year.

You could also find ways to work part-time by taking on just a few clients that provide you with ongoing work. Either way, you can easily earn the supplemental income you prefer.

Further Career Aspirations

Some people are so happy with the pay and flexibility offered by a professional career as a tax preparer that it becomes their long-term career. However, tax preparation can also be an excellent stepping stone to other careers in finance.

Not only does an understanding of taxation and the tax ramifications of financial and business decisions make you invaluable to any company that might hire you for other purposes, but the knowledge and skills you develop as a tax preparer can also segue nicely into a variety of professions, whether you go on to become a CPA, financial planner, estate planner, or other professional. Even an MBA grad with a background in tax preparation is more valuable than the average job candidate.

Becoming a tax preparer does nothing less than open doors, now and in the future. You may plan to become a tax preparer as a way to supplement another job or earn a secondary income for your household while raising a family, but if you decide to do more later on, you’ll already have a strong foundation in place on which to base other career aspirations.