Training tips for beginner tax preparers

Training tips for beginner tax preparers

Congratulations! You launched your tax preparation business. Tax prep offers high return for minimal start-up costs, and of course, tax preparation will always be in demand. Most importantly, you enjoy helping people and have the confidence to guide them through the taxpaying maze.  

There’s just one hitch, and it’s called “tax season.” From January through mid-April, your phone will never stop buzzing. Free time becomes a distant memory. There are meetings to schedule and documents to file, and all of it with unerring attention to detail.  

It’s time to hire help, but what’s the best way to go about it? Consider these tips for finding and training beginner tax preparers who will keep your business growing. 

Look for proper education and training 

The right people are hard to find in any profession, and your business needs team members with specific skills. Fortunately, tells us there are 10 job seekers for every tax preparer job opening, so you have the luxury of quality candidates to choose from to add to your team.  

What should you look for when it comes to beginner tax preparers? Consider these qualities: 

  • Tax-filing skills: Chances are, someone in this field has mastered the 1040, the IRS’ basic form for individual taxpayers. But are they equally skilled in tax compliance for sole proprietors, estates, trusts and small businesses? 
  • Education and training: The tax preparation field is always changing. A world of webinars, in-person and online courses, and audiobooks equip tax preparers to keep pace. 
  • Tax program knowledge: Training is simpler when you find someone who already knows your tax program inside and out. With that knowledge base, your new tax preparer is ready from Day One to deliver maximum benefit to your clients.  
  • Integrity: This one is hard to gauge in a job interview, but it’s an essential, because tax preparers are held to a higher standard of ethics. Your tax preparers should have the character and integrity to serve clients to the utmost of their abilities. They should be able to spot conflicts of interest in their clients and themselves, maintain confidentiality and be trusted to handle cash and checks. 
  • Diligence: You can’t be looking over your new hire’s shoulders all day, especially during tax time. You want someone who will perform to the highest standards with minimal supervision.   
  • Initiative: Think about how you’ll keep this person occupied year-round. Diversifying your business to include representation, bookkeeping, accounting and other services keeps your office in demand. It’s even better when your employee takes the initiative to implement fresh ideas and drum up new business. 

Secure proper licensing 

Growing a tax preparation business can be relatively simple, but the office must continue to comply with state and federal licensing requirements. Requirements vary by state and are constantly changing. Failure to abide can attract costly fines or even suspension, so it’s vital that everyone in the office be compliant. 

Avoid pitfalls by making sure that your new hire has registered for a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN), which allows them to prepare tax returns. An Electronic Filing Identification Number (EFIN) is essential for e-filing. Make sure that your employee is up-to-date with all required continuing professional education (CPE) credits. 

You can also expand your office’s capabilities by encouraging your new staffer to obtain industry credentials or recognition, such as: 

  • Enrolled Agent: Enrolled Agents (EA) are IRS-licensed tax preparers with unlimited representation rights. They can appear with and represent clients over tax matters in all 50 states. Earning the EA requires passing a three-part exam, and maintaining it requires 72 hours of continuing education every three years.  
  • Annual Filing Season Program Participants: This voluntary program encourages tax preparers to pursue continuing education. Those who obtain 18 hours of credits, including a six-hour federal tax law refresher course, receive an Annual Filing Season Program – Record of Completion. Although the designation doesn’t grant representation rights, holders are entered into the IRS’ public database of tax return preparers, for higher visibility among potential clients.  

Find and use the right tax prep software 

You know that it’s important to find an employee who knows your tax prep software, but are you using the right software in the first place? Are you getting the most bang for your buck? Finding the right software is one of the biggest tax preparer resources for beginners. 

The right software streamlines the tax return process and produces more accurate results when it can easily import client data, auto-populate and link tax forms, and catch any errors before e-filing and sharing the return with clients. 

Hiring a new person offers an opportunity to review your software, determine if an upgrade or change would benefit your business, and write a training plan that empowers the team to use the program for maximum effect.  

Look for these qualities in a professional tax software that makes tax prep more efficient: 

  • Ease of use: Look for a clear and simple interface, and a web-based application that isn’t tied to a single desktop but can be accessed over a secure network connection. 
  • PC/Mac compatibility: Don’t force yourself and your employees to choose. Compatibility in operating systems provides flexibility and makes efficient use of time when you and your employees are working remotely. 
  • E-filing capacity: Go for the highest capacity you can afford. You don’t want to limit the amount of e-filing you and your team can do.  

Growing your business

The entrepreneurial mindset that prompted you to start a business doesn’t rest as you grow. This is the time to reflect on the fundamentals and make sure that your workplace is dynamic and bursting with opportunities for the people you hire. Here are some tips to help grow your business:  

  • Get your EIN: The Employer Identification Number, or EIN, is also known as the Federal Tax Identification Number. With the EIN, you can set up a payroll system with your first hire. 
  • Refresh your business goals: Hiring a new person to relieve the workload is great, but don’t miss the opportunity to aim higher. Where can these newly acquired talents and skills take your business? 
  • Line up business tools: Computers, software, phones, even business cards — help your people feel welcomed by equipping them with the tools they need to do the job.  
  • Create personnel policies: Even with a small staff, it’s important to articulate office policies, especially for remote work. Make it abundantly clear that tax season’s long days and minimal time off are nonnegotiable (except for emergencies, of course). When tax season is over, offer time off or a bonus as a reward for a job well done.  
  • Bring the fun: Taco Tuesday. Chair massages. A Jimmy Buffet impersonator. What can you bring to the workplace that eases tension and provides a much-needed mental break, especially during tax season? 
  • Support continuing education: Today’s top talent choose employers who promote their professional growth. Be a mentor to your new hire and guide them toward learning opportunities that build their suite of skills.  

Now that you’re gaining confidence in your own skills, you might even think about opening a school to train tax preparers. It’s a field that’s always in demand, and potential tax preparers are eager to learn. Surgent Income Tax School offers a comprehensive package of tax training materials that impart the fundamentals while empowering you to teach your way, online or in person. 

Ready to take the next step? 

Hiring a new person is a big step in the life of a tax preparation business. When it’s time, find someone who can help propel the dream that made you start a business in the first place. A commitment to learning tells your employees that you trust them to grow professionally and have their back when it comes to keeping pace with a rapidly changing field.  

Surgent Income Tax School is approved by the IRS’ Return Preparers Office as a provider of qualifying continuing professional education for AFSP Certificate of Completion and enrolled agents – the credentials that open doors to opportunity. Plus, Surgent’s carefully designed CPE courses teach participants to navigate the complexities of niche fields, state-level tax laws, ethics, tax concerns of businesses and individuals, and much more.  

Surgent Income Tax School can also teach you how to start and grow your own business, for exponential impact. Get to know Surgent Income Tax School, and learning becomes a powerful tool for achieving your dreams and helping others grow.