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What are the Different Types of Income Tax Preparation Courses?

By Tiffany Manley
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Individuals take income tax preparation courses for various reasons, including preparing for seasonal tax jobs, becoming a tax preparer or leaning how to prepare their own taxes. These courses range from basic courses on preparing personal income tax returns to more advanced courses that deal with business, farm and investment income, individual retirement account contributions and self-employment income, and they are available for just about anyone to take. In addition to the traditional income tax preparation courses that are offered at continuing education facilities, community colleges and income tax preparation businesses, many people look online for courses that suit their needs.

Basic income tax preparation courses are a great way for an individual to become familiar with income tax preparation. Many tax preparers offer this type of course to individuals seeking seasonal employment, because it teaches them how to prepare many basic income tax returns using the preparer’s tax software. The skills learned in this type of course might include specific information related to the tax software used, exemptions, dependants, e-filing, tax rates, tax forms and other general information needed to complete many common tax returns.

Advanced income tax preparation courses offer more in-depth knowledge of income tax preparation. Students in these courses are taught about more difficult tax situations such as retirement account contributions and withdrawals, farm or business income, self-employment income and other specialty tax situations. Many places will accept experience in lieu of prior coursework for admittance into one of the more advanced levels of their income tax preparation courses.

In addition to tax preparation businesses offering tax preparation courses, many continuing education centers and community colleges offer courses. Some are geared toward the home user, enabling individuals to prepare their own income tax returns. Other courses are tailored to meet the needs of individuals looking to find employment in the tax preparation industry. Courses vary in length from just a few days to a semester or more.

Online courses are an alternative to traditional locations for income tax preparation courses. Many people find it difficult to take time out of their busy lives in order to take a course at a business or college. Online courses offer them the opportunity to get the instruction they desire while working the class and their studies into their schedules. It is important for an individual to ensure that the online tax course offers information that is relevant to his or her locality.

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Discussion Comments
By hamje32 — On Aug 06, 2011

@allenJo - I agree. I used to work for a tax software company. We sold tax and accounting software directly to the tax accountants; these weren’t just preparers, these were the tax accountants themselves who were buyers of the software.

The software did all the work. All of the laws and regulations were bundled into the software packages so you almost didn’t have to think for yourself.

That doesn’t mean the tax accountant didn’t have an edge – he certainly did. In fact, we would get calls from accountants who would point out bugs in the software’s calculations, based on their understanding of laws in their states.

We would pass these notes on to our developers and legal team, and they would revise the software accordingly. I do agree, however, that if I ever went to a professional preparer, I would only go to someone who was a certified tax accountant.

By allenJo — On Aug 05, 2011

@Mammmood - While I do think that accountants hold an edge in terms of understanding the law and stuff, I don’t think there’s a big difference in the results in the end.

The reason is simple. Both accountants and general tax preparers rely on tax software to get the taxes done. I remember one year going to a professional tax preparation service to have my taxes done.

I’m pretty sure the guy behind the desk was an accountant. However, when I offered him my paperwork, all he did was enter it into the software. I remember thinking to myself, I can do this myself.

In fact, up until that time, I had been doing it myself, using tax software, but one year I thought I’d go to a professional service because I didn’t want the hassle of the do it yourself approach. That was the last time I’ve ever done that.

By everetra — On Aug 04, 2011

@hamje32 - Personally, I wouldn’t mind being an income tax preparer for a seasonal job.

I understand everyone’s concerns, but I think that you would work side by side with the tax accountant. You wouldn’t be off on your own.

You could direct any questions to the accountant and have a supervisor check your work. I think it would be easy work for simple tax forms, and give you good pay and experience.

By Mammmood — On Aug 04, 2011

I guess I’m a little surprised that anyone can take income tax preparation courses and provide the service to the general public. I had thought that only tax accountants could provide this service to the public.

I think that there is more involved to accurate preparation of tax returns than simply taking a course. Of course, I am may be wrong; I suppose that even the established tax services would need the help of temporary workers to help them through the busy tax season.

Still, I would personally feel more comfortable if the person preparing my taxes was actually a tax accountant and not someone who had just completed a tax preparation course.

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