The following is an article by John Reid Blackwell from the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Sept. 21, 2010. View the original here.
Starting next year, professional tax-return preparers will have to meet new requirements to prepare federal income-tax returns.
The requirements, announced by the Internal Revenue Service this year, include registering with the IRS, passing a competency test, and completing 15 hours of continuing education in topics such as tax laws and ethics.
That means an estimated 900,000 to 1.2 million people nationwide who sell tax-return preparation services will need to register and pass an exam.
“The majority of them will need a review course to prepare for the IRS exam,” said Chuck McCabe, president and chief executive officer of Henrico County-based Peoples Income Tax Inc. and The Income Tax School. “All of them are going to need continuing education.”
While it is unclear exactly how many tax preparers in Virginia will need to enroll in training, the Virginia Community College System is preparing for a wave of students by offering continuing-education classes geared toward the new IRS requirements.
The community college system has signed an agreement with The Income Tax School to provide e-learning courses in tax preparation through most of its campuses around the state, said Mindy Fast, coordinator of customized training and continuing education for the community college system.
Tax preparers may sign up for a variety of courses of different length and cost. Among those being offered is a comprehensive, 20-lesson course designed to prepare them for the new IRS competency test, McCabe said.
McCabe said The Income Tax School is offering the courses under a revenue-sharing agreement with the community college system.
“A lot of tax preparers, particularly those that have started in the past 20 years when tax return software was introduced, use software to prepare the returns,” McCabe said. “The software does so much for them, they do not know the tax law. They need to know the law to make sure they prepare the returns correctly.”
The Income Tax School is a private career school that was spun off this year from Peoples Income Tax. The school, which has been offering tax-preparation courses commercially since 1993, also is providing textbooks and materials to the community college system for on-campus courses.