Chapter 1: Ethics
This chapter will explain how to determine who qualifies as a tax return preparer, what representation rights a preparer has, how that individual is bound by the Circular 230 guidelines, and what it means for a tax preparer to behave ethically and responsibly.
Chapter 2: Best Practices to Counteract Cybercrime
Protecting yourself and your clients is one of the biggest challenges that tax return preparers face today. Criminals have learned that tax return preparers have a lot of information about their customers, including their Social Security numbers, information about their families, and employment history. Criminals want to steal this information and weaponize it to steal money from banks, the IRS, or conduct other crimes.
Chapter 3: Compiling Taxpayers Information
This chapter explains the importance of interviewing the taxpayer. Each segment of the chapter will cover a section of Form 1040 with sample interview questions that are needed for the section discussed. The tax professional needs to understand the importance of knowledgeable questions to determine if the taxpayer is eligible to claim certain credits. Interview questions asked should be documented as well as the answers the taxpayer provided. Knowing basic tax law is essential.
Preparing tax returns is an art; knowing which questions to ask will help determine the best tax situation for the individual. Just imputing information into software does not prepare an accurate tax return. The saying is true: “garbage in, garbage out”. Entering incorrect information so that the taxpayer receives a higher refund is not the best situation for you or the client. This chapter provides you with a brief overview of current year forms and sample questions to determine the best tax position for the taxpayer. Asking the taxpayer, the right questions from the beginning provides the tax preparer accurate answers needed to complete the tax return.
Chapter 4: Filing Status, Dependents and Deductions
This chapter will present an overview of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act standard deduction and what circumstances permit taxpayers to claim a higher standard deduction. You will also learn what an exemption is, what exemptions each of the filing statuses can claim, and how to identify a qualifying dependent.
Chapter 5: Income
The IRS has the authority to tax all income from whatever source it is derived. This includes compensation for services, gains from dispositions of property, interest and dividends, rent and royalties, pensions and annuities, gambling winnings, and even illegal activities. All such income a person receives is collectively referred to as “worldwide income.” However, not all money or property is taxable or subject to tax. This chapter will cover the different types of taxable and nontaxable income and show you where and how to report such wages on a professionally prepared tax return. A tax professional must recognize the different kinds of taxable income, tax-exempt income, and other income included in Schedule 1, line 21, and must know how to figure out the taxable percentage on Social Security benefits.
Chapter 6: Tax Credits and Payments
A nonrefundable tax credit reduces the amount of tax liability that may have to be paid. Unlike a deduction, which reduces the amount of income that is subject to taxation, a credit directly reduces the tax itself. There are two types of credits: nonrefundable, which cannot reduce tax liability below zero, and refundable, which can reduce tax liability below zero, resulting in the need for a refund.
Chapter 7: Other Taxes and Taxpayer Penalties
This chapter provides an overview of miscellaneous taxes from the Form 1040 and reported on Schedule 2 that a taxpayer might be assessed. This includes excess Social Security tax, additional taxes on IRAs, the Alternative Minimum Tax, and household employment taxes.
Chapter 8: What Every Employee Needs to Know
Studies have shown that the first 3 seconds between two individuals is crucial. Eye contact, facial expression, and stature all determine how the individual will respond to the other person. It is very important in the tax preparation business that all employees and employers understand the importance of interacting with others. Although most of this chapter will use the terms receptionist or office staff, this section is important for all employees and employers in training excellent employees.
Employers, this section will help you relieve some of your stress during tax season. Take the time to train the front office staff in how you want them to answer your phone, how to deliver messages to you, and how to handle difficult customers.
The content in this section is based on our experiences. The examples given are suggestions, and as an employer you may be able to add areas that are unique to you. If you share them with us, we can share them with others.
Field of Study: Federal Tax Law 6 Hours, Behavioral Ethics 2 Hours
Course Level: Basic
Prerequisite: General tax preparation knowledge is required.
Delivery Method: Self-Study