[IMGCAP(1)]It’s still not too late to make New Year’s resolutions, particularly for those who end up not keeping them. But anyone engaged in the tax preparation industry would do well to consider these suggestions.

They come courtesy of Chuck McCabe, president of Peoples Income Tax and The Income Tax School.

Resolve to learn more (and thus earn more).  McCabe suggests you build on your tax knowledge in 2016 and learn to perform more complicated tax returns. If not already a Circular 230 credentialed holder, he suggested that preparers go an extra step and study to become a Chartered Tax Professional, and/or study to become an Enrolled Agent. Preparers should also consider studying to become admitted to the Tax Court, he added, noting that the Tax Court is the only court in which non-attorneys can represent clients.

Approximately 70 percent of cases in Tax Court are handled pro se (on behalf of themselves—without formal legal representation). Since most taxpayers are unprepared to represent themselves, CPAs and EAs who have been admitted are able to help taxpayers and make the system more efficient.

“Learning advanced tax law and tax preparation is a great way to grow your clientele base,” McCabe said. “With this advanced tax knowledge you will be able to prepare more complicated returns, and represent your client more extensively, which will allow you to earn more money. Plus, people will seek you out as their tax professional because you can handle all types of tax situations.”

Resolve to embrace customer service. Tax preparation is not all about numbers, it’s about serving people, McCabe observed. “The better you are at customer service, the more your clients will rave about you. Getting better at customer service should be a focus every tax season. There’s always more you can do: make your tax office more inviting, go over telephone answering procedures, get better at conflict resolution.

Resolve to implement policies and procedures. The way your business should be run should not merely exist in your head. Do you have set policies and procedures? How about an operations manual? Your operations manual is the foundation for operating your tax business on a day-to-day basis. Operations manuals serve as a way to communicate company culture and philosophy, a training handbook, a reference tool, and a risk management tool.

Even if your business consists of just you, take the time to write down all of your procedures as you go so that you have the beginnings of an operations manual when it’s time to hire a staff.

Resolve to take the Annual Federal Tax Refresher course. If you are not already an attorney, CPA or Enrolled Agent, set yourself apart from unqualified competitors and secure your representation rights by going through the IRS Annual Filing Season Program, or AFSP, McCabe advised. The IRS Annual Filing Season Program is an annual voluntary IRS program for return preparers. It consists of an Annual Federal Tax Refresher, or AFTR, course with a comprehensive test, plus 15 hours of CE annually. All tax return preparers who successfully complete the AFSP will be listed on the IRS Federal Tax Return Preparers Directory. This list is being marketed to taxpayers through a public education campaign, which encourages taxpayers to select return preparers carefully and seek those with professional credentials or other select qualifications. The list or directory is there to help taxpayers determine who is qualified to prepare their taxes.

Try any or all of these resolutions in 2016 and McCabe promises a more prosperous, rewarding tax season in the years ahead.