What Are the Must-Do Trainings Before Next Tax Season?
There is a lot of education and training programs available for tax professionals. To help you save time and better focus your efforts ahead of tax season, here is a “must-do” list of trainings and education programs to consider to ensure you’re ready for tax season 2017.
1. Tax Law Updates
Changes to tax laws, forms, and publications occur annually (e.g., Affordable Care Act). As tax professionals, the tax code, forms, and publications are your currency and it’s important that we stay up-to-date on the latest changes in order to serve your clients and save them money on their taxes.
Tax law update classes will include important tax year 2016 changes, including the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act, which delays refunds for taxpayers claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit or the Additional Child Tax Credit until Feb. 15, 2017. Additionally, the PATH Act expands the preparer due-diligence requirements associated with the Earned Income Tax Credit to also cover the Child Tax Credit and the American Opportunity Tax Credit.
The Tax Book offers a three-hour New Tax Law class that includes information about new tax laws affecting the preparation of income tax returns for individuals, partnerships, and corporations.
2. Professional Ethics
Tax practitioners should always stay current with professional ethics, rules of conduct, and Circular 230 (regulations governing practice before the IRS). Tax professionals should check with their state as to when they are required to take an ethics course and how many credits are needed per registration period. Many states also have state-specific requirements.
Professional Education Services (PES) offers a wide array of state and non-state-specific continuing education for professional conduct courses.
3. Safeguarding Data and Identify Theft Prevention
Tax fraud is an industrywide issue. This increases the potential for stolen identity information to be used to file tax returns. The Identity Theft course offered by the Income Tax School covers identity theft, how it happens, to whom it happens, and what we can do to help prevent it from happening.
The seminar addresses tax identity theft; in particular, the warning signs that a taxpayer may have become a victim, what to do if the taxpayer becomes a victim, and how to prevent becoming a victim. The seminar also covers creating a secure tax office, Preparer Tax Identification Number theft, and Electronic Identification Filing Number theft.
4. Practice Management Insights
Tax professionals can always benefit from tips around growing their practice, saving time and managing workflow within the office, all of which improve their bottom line. For example, as we progress further into the technology age, practitioners can learn how to acquire new clients by utilizing social media or how to become more efficient by transforming their practice into an electronic/paperless system.
The QuickBooks Connect conference, for example, can offer resources to help you to continue to learn and grow your practice, including connecting you with industry leaders, other professionals, and experts. Specifically, the How to make your tax practice a firm of the future with Bryce Forney session will focus helping tax and accounting professionals navigate current disruptive changes and trends to work more efficiently, better collaborate and connect with their clients, and achieve long-term success.
5. What’s New in Your Tax Software
Almost as vital as staying up-to-date with changes in the tax laws and tax forms is finding out about the latest changes in your tax software. Getting a leg up on these changes before tax season starts can pay dividends down the road. Vendors not only make software changes to stay consistent with tax law and form changes but also update the software to make your life easier, such as automating computations and improving the user interface.
In addition, the IRS recently established its voluntary Annual Filing Season Program (AFSP) to encourage unenrolled preparers to participate in continuing education courses.
The new AFSP is beneficial for a number of reasons, including staying up-to-date on tax laws and changes, reducing the risk to taxpayers from unknowledgeable preparers, and allowing preparers to stand out from competition.
Under this IRS program, preparers need to complete 18 hours of continuing education requirements by year-end to obtain a record of completion and to be included in a new database on IRS.gov. The continuing education requirements include a six-hour refresher course, 10 hours on federal tax law topics, and two hours on ethics.
The directory also includes practitioners with recognized credentials and higher levels of qualification and practice rights, including attorneys, CPAs, and enrolled agents. Return preparers who have passed recognized national or state tests are exempt from the six-hour refresher course and can participate in the program by taking 15 hours of continuing education.
You can learn more about the requirements and IRS-approved continuing education providers here.
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Mike D'Avolio is senior tax analyst with the Intuit Professional Tax Group, he has been a small business tax expert for more than 20 years and serves as the primary liaison with the IRS for tax law interpretation matters, manages all technical tax information, and...