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How to Become a Certified Tax Professional

by Clayton Browne

The United States has one of the most complex tax systems in the world. States and cities levy a sales tax on most goods and services, and the federal and state -- and, in some instances, city -- income tax systems each have their own set of rates, deductions and exemptions. Furthermore, these tax rates and regulations are frequently modified by Congress or state legislatures, making continuing education a must for accountants and tax preparers. The complexity of the tax system means that people of almost all income levels can benefit from the services of a knowledgeable, certified tax professional. The Chartered Tax Professional credential offered by the CPA Training Center is the most widely recognized certification for accountants and tax preparers who work with individuals and small businesses.

A four-year degree will give you an advantage

Earn a bachelor's degree in accounting, finance or business. While a degree is not a requirement to become a Chartered Tax Professional (CTP), an accounting program includes classes in tax law and tax preparation and will give you a good start on what you need to know to pass the five CTP exams. Having a degree will also make you more attractive to employers and potential clients. [1,2]

Work for at least two years as a tax accountant or tax preparer to learn the ins and outs of the tax-preparation industry and meet the CTP program experience requirement. Use your spare time to study for the CTP exams. [2]

Take the five CTP exams -- Comprehensive Individual Income Tax Preparation; Advanced Level I Individual Income Tax Preparation; Advanced Level II Individual Income Tax Preparation; Small Business Level I Income Tax Preparation; and Small Business Level II Income Tax Preparation -- during your first two years of working as a tax preparer. Study materials and the exams are available online 24/7. Although this can be finished in as little as eight months, most students take from 18 to 24 months to complete the CTP program. [2]

Apply for your CTP credential after you have finished your second tax season and passed all five exams with a score of 80 percent or higher. CTP certificants must complete 16 hours of continuing professional education every year to keep their active CTP status. [2]

Tip

  • Both California and Oregon have state-specific CTP programs. CPA Training Center also administers these programs -- you just sign up for the California CTP Certificate Program or the Oregon CTP Certificate Program instead of the national CTP certificate program. [3,4]

About the Author

Clayton Browne has been writing professionally since 1994. He has written and edited everything from science fiction to semiconductor patents to dissertations in linguistics, having worked for Holt, Rinehart & Winston, Steck-Vaughn and The Psychological Corp. Browne has a Master of Science in linguistic anthropology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

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