What is Tax Preparation?
Tax preparation refers to the process of preparing and finalizing your tax returns, specifically your income tax returns. That being said, the act of preparing one’s taxes typically denotes a relationship where a professional streamlines another individual’s tax return in exchange for compensation. Tax preparation, through this definition, may be accomplished by the taxpayer with or without the help of tax preparation software or online services. Furthermore, tax preparation may also be accomplished by a licensed or legal professional such as an attorney, a public accountant, or by an unlicensed tax preparation company.
Tax preparation is a service with an unyielding demand as a result of the United States’ complicated tax laws; nearly 53% of individual tax returns in 2010 were filed by a paid tax preparation service.
About half of the states in America impose laws and licensing requirements for any individual or entity who prepares tax returns for compensation. Although the majority of tax preparation services and individuals require a fee for their services, some of these entities incorporate a fee-based model for the filing of state tax returns only.
Individuals who have uncomplicated tax returns or who contain and Adjusted Gross Income of under $58,000 may seek tax preparation without incurring a fee by contacting the Free File Alliance agency. Furthermore, those individuals who earn over $58,000 per year can access a Free File Fillable Form, which is an electronic version of the IRS paper forms. Both of these tax preparation services are only accessible by visiting the Internal Revenue Service’s website located at www.irs.gov.
The Internal Revenue Service is working on a proposed change that would eventually require a formal registration of all paid federal tax preparation services and tax preparers. Although licensing requirements currently do not exist, the proposed rules would require that tax preparation services and those individuals who comprise the companies to pass a national tax law exam and undergo graduate-level requirements.
Individuals who are certified public accountants, legal professionals or enrolled agents are required to register with an appropriate agency, but are not required to take the proposed exam and are not subjected to continuing educational requirements. To maintain their licenses, an accountant or a legal professional are; however, subject to enrolling in continuing education requirements that imposed on a state-by-state basis.
The proposed rules of the IRS define a “tax preparation service or individual” as an entity or individual who, for compensation, prepares all of or a substantial amount of the individuals federal tax return or claim for a refund.
Tax preparation services that hire public accountants or legal professionals to facilitate an individual’s tax return are required to obtain a practitioner tax identification number. This regulation was instituted to the IRS and affirmed for any tax preparation service that is utilized after the date of December 31, 2010.
Beginning in May of 2011, all tax return preparation services and individuals will be required to pass competency tests to officially become registered tax return preparers. All tax return preparers must undergo continuing educations requirement of 15 hours per year; as of September of 2010, the Internal Revenue Service has yet to decide on a beginning date for such a requirement.