Tax Preparer Certification Requirements

Oct 20, 2021

Tax preparers need a high school diploma or its equivalent and on-the-job training. While it is not necessary, they also have the option of earning additional certification, leading to a Record of Completion through the IRS.

Essential Information

Tax preparers generally need a high school diploma and receive on-the-job training; however, several 2- and 4-year postsecondary schools offer tax preparation courses for aspiring tax preparers. These professionals can seek voluntary certification through the IRS, though they are not allowed to use the word 'certified' as part of their title. Instead, those who meet IRS requirements receive a Record of Completion, and they'll be included in a directory on the IRS website beginning in January 2015.

Required Education High school diploma or equivalent
Other Requirements On-the-job training; voluntary certification available
Projected Job Outlook (2019-2029)* -1% for tax preparers
Median Salary (2020)* $44,300 for tax preparers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Certification Requirements

Qualifications for voluntary tax preparer certification through the IRS are minimal. First, applicants must have a valid preparer tax identification number (PTIN), which is used at the bottom of any tax form that the preparer handles to ensure accountability. Additionally, they must complete 18 hours of continuing education annually, including 10 hours focused on federal tax law and a 6-hour refresher course geared toward the current tax season, though certain tax preparers are exempt from the latter course. The final two hours of continuing education must cover ethics topics.

Career Overview

Tax preparers meet with clients to determine which adjustments, credits and deductions can be applied to their taxable income. This typically involves reviewing clients' financial records, consulting current tax code and preparing state and/or federal tax forms. Some tax preparers work only seasonally, while others make this a full-time profession.

Salary and Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the median annual salary for tax preparers was $44,300 in May 2020 ( The number of employment opportunities for these professionals was expected to decline by 1% from 2019-2029, according to the BLS.

Tax preparers are professionals who help their clients prepare their taxes. They must have a high school diploma or equivalent certification, and it is possible to obtain certification through the IRS. It should be possible to obtain employment in this field, as jobs are predicted to decline by 1%, through the 2019-2029 decade.

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