The upheaval caused by the covid pandemic had a lot of fallout. For some people, the fallout was economic, with the loss of a job or reduced income. It’s financial reasons like that one that lead so many people to take up a side hustle.
Of course, not everyone is wired for freelance programming or enjoys the prospect of a demanding e-commerce business. If you’re looking for a side hustle that you only do a couple of months a year, working as a tax preparation professional might just fit the bill. If that sounds like a good fit to you, keep reading to learn what steps you must take to become a tax preparer.
There is good news on the education front. You don’t need a bachelor’s degree in accounting to work as a tax preparer. In fact, many tax preparers only possess a high school diploma.
You will, however, want some training before you prepare tax returns for others. You may find tax prep classes at a local technical or community college. Odds are good that you’ll probably do a preparer certification course online.
These often run for about 80 hours and walk you through the common forms, schedules, and some of the key regulations you need to know about. You can see some example course details here.
PTIN and EFIN
Next up is acquiring a PTIN from the IRS. The PTIN is your tax preparer identification number, which you need if you get paid for preparing taxes for others.
The IRS asks some basic identifying questions and charges you an application fee. You must renew the PTIN each year and pay the renewal fee.
The EFIN is your electronic filing identification number. You need this if you want to e-file on behalf of others, which most customers will expect from professional tax preparation.
The EFIN is a more demanding application and includes a background check, which includes your credit score and history.
Most states don’t impose any requirements on non-credentialed tax preparers. A handful, including California, Oregon, New York, and Maryland impose other requirements. Some of the requirements include:
- Registering with the state
- Passing a state exam
- Continuing Education requirements
- Getting a surety bond
- Take and pass up to 80 hours of tax courses
You’ll want to check on your state requirements to ensure you have everything in place before the next tax season rolls around.
Becoming a Tax Preparation Professional
Becoming a tax preparation professional isn’t an overnight process. You need some tax preparation education, which can you typically get online. Your state may also put up some hoops you must jump through.
All in all, though, it’s a reachable goal that doesn’t require years of prep work and countless exams. You can also boost your credibility with extra training through the IRS and continuing education, which is a good idea since tax laws change on a regular basis.
Looking for more ideas for ways you can expand your skills or education? Check out the posts in our Education Section.