Tax Office Training
Training your tax preparers can be a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. We’ve compiled a list of important tax preparer training categories. Ranging from software and tax law training to online security, with our list of best practices for tax office training, we hope this will help to ensure that you and your tax preparers are ready for the coming tax season.
Thoroughly knowing your software program is one of the most important aspects of efficient tax preparation. The better you know your program, the easier it will be to complete tax returns of any level of complexity. While tax software usability is very important, it’s also important not to rely on interview modes. Getting to know the tax forms is one of the best ways to check yourself and your tax returns. Most tax programs will have an interview mode in addition to the forms. Ask your software vendor for a one-on-on training session for you and your employees. If they do not offer a personalized tax preparer training session, check for online tutorials in the software or on the internet.
Practice Returns & Independent Study
Once you are comfortable navigating the tax software program that you’ve chosen. It’s time to apply that know-how by doing some fictitious practice returns. Practice returns will allow you to get acquainted with the forms in a meaningful way and see how each schedule and form interact. They also help to build your confidence in your preparation abilities. Practice returns should range from simple returns to the highest level of complexity that is provided or that you expect to encounter. For example, if you don’t plan to prepare corporate returns, you can skip that set of practice modules.
Anyone who holds an IRS record of completion for the Annual Filing Season Program is required to fulfill credit requirements in order to maintain the designation and speak with the IRS regarding clients’ returns. AFSP preparers must take a yearly competency exam, worth 6 credit hours, in addition to 12 hours of continuing education courses on varying topics such as ethics (2), general tax law and tax law updates (10). Enrolled Agents must also complete regular continuing education courses. EAs need a minimum of 16 credit hours each year but no less than 72 in three years. CPAs and CFAs also have continuing education requirements but they are of a different nature.
Some states are developing their own requirements for preparers to ensure that the tax preparers of state returns have a certain level of competency. The more training and experience that the tax preparer has makes it less likely that they will make mistakes on tax returns. California began their CTEC program in 1996 as a way to protect taxpayers from fraudulent preparers and incompetent tax preparers. It has been a large success and since then other states have begun to do the same, including New York, Illinois and Maine. Connecticut has recently announced the inception of their tax preparer program which is slated to begin in 2019 and it will mean registration with CT for all preparers. By 2020 those same preparers will be required to have passed the IRS AFSP.
Document Management System
Every tax office needs a document retention method. Whether you store your documents physically in a locked filing cabinet or digitally in an encrypted and locked filing system, this is one area where you will want to be sure that your tax preparers are trained up and know the process. It would be advisable to incorporate this document training portion in conjunction with the practice return and independent study modules for better retention.
Office Security Education
With the prevalence of online virus’ and hacking scams, having your employees learn how to spot suspicious emails will be vital to their tax preparer training. Certain types of hacking scams even present themselves as potential clients. This type of scheme is called “Spear Phishing.” Essentially, the goal of the hacker is to get you (or your employee) to click on a link that will implant spyware onto your system, among other dangerous programs. Be sure to have any potential phishing email forwarded to firstname.lastname@example.org and they will investigate it.
Another vital activity for any tax preparation office is to train your preparers how to monitor their PTIN activity and EFIN activity. You can log into your each respective online account and check the numbers that the IRS shows were filed by that account. If there is a discrepancy in the count that the IRS versus what you have in your records, that might indicate some potential breach or unauthorized use of those numbers.
For more tips in online tax office security be sure to check out our other article on Basic Online Security Tips, and as always, should you have questions or wish to speak to a representative, do not hesitate to give us a call at 1(866) 357-2052.
Posted: August 1, 2017