The future of the RTRP designation may be in doubt, but many preparers still seem to see urgent need to take CE and when possible advance in the profession.
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“I have always taken CE and plan to continue doing so,” wrote Kenneth Reid of MasterType Accounting and Business Services in Chicago, commenting on a LinkedIn preparer discussion board. “It’s the only way I know of to try to keep abreast of the multiple changes in the Tax code from one year to the next. I average about 90 hours of CE per year (just for tax CE), and I often feel this is not enough to keep up with the number of changes that have been happening over the last three or four years or so.”
“Anyone who is a tax preparer would be crazy not to take CE every year,” he added.
“If the RTRP designation is voluntary, it might help differentiate my practice from the others in my community,” said Frank Hagan, CEO of Acumen Consulting. “Depending on the status, I will either get the RTRP or wait and get an EA designation.”
“Serious people will subscribe to journals and online tax research libraries, buy books, attend seminars and take CE,” he added. “Un-serious people will take the minimum required with absolutely no effect on how well they prepare tax returns.”
“I'm an EA, so still have an education requirement, but I'd be getting CE regardless. No one in any field should ever think he knows everything he'll ever need to know,” added Dave Liesse of Skingco Services in Kent, Wash.
“I will always take the credits. I had more than 60 last year. I think that any RTRP should. Can you imagine your doctor not studying?” added Laura Hartmann, tax preparer with the Guilford, Conn.-based The Hartmann Group.
Dawn Pickrahn, owner of Michigan-based Pick One Tax Service and a preparer for more than 13 years, said, “From the day I started into this business, it only took me a nanosecond to realize that I needed schooling to be able to serve my clients with an accurate, quality return. I take as many classes as I can each year before tax season starts. I'm also going to school working on my BA in accounting. I’m making myself more marketable as well as trustworthy.”
“Just a few minutes ago I opened an article from the IRS showing a video of how IRS Free File can help make taxes less taxing,” Pickrahn added. “If it’s that easy, why am I required to take this test to prove that I know what I'm doing?”
The Role of the RTRP
“We're receiving calls from customers who want to schedule and take the exam,” wrote Matt McBride, president of Altamonte Springs, Fla.-based Fast Forward Academy, in an e-mail. “They're disappointed that the exams have been cancelled or that they cannot schedule them. Some are upgrading to EA, some are still buying anyway, and others are waiting until the exams are available again.”
“Most of our students feel strongly that the RTRP will be around for a long time, and when we talk to students we are finding that they believe the RTRP is a good thing for the industry. Folks are telling us that they see this as a potential barrier to entry in their business that is much needed. Right now, anyone at any time can open a tax business that isn’t really qualified and can take quality business away from the mom-and-pop shops. Other students have shared that they have never had the opportunity to earn a credential as a tax preparer and are proud to hang that certificate from the U.S. Treasury Department on their wall and have the letters after their name. Others see this as a marketing opportunity to separate themselves in the marketplace and to be listed in a national tax preparer registry for exposure,” McBride added.
“You cannot cut someone’s hair, become a mall cop, or sell hot dogs on the street without getting a license or some sort of education. As the industry currently exists, you have tons of great tax preparers and mom-and-pop shops that not only have to worry about the big box chains, but also have their business threatened by new entrants who don't have the qualifications or aren’t staying current with the latest tax law changes. We believe this is good for the preparers who are doing the right things for their clients, staying educated and current, and will ultimately help keep the bad apples out of the business. The RTRP should strengthen the industry for all preparers earning a living, and it’s better for the taxpayer in the long-run to have our nation’s best preparers representing them,” McBride added.
Jon A. Hayes, co-founder of East Lansing, Mich.-based Tax Preparer Connections, also wrote that face-to-face CE often works best. “When you choose good presenters supported by good reference materials, it synergizes the audience. Hallway and mealtime discussions elevate in value, and people walk away with purpose.”
Not all preparers were totally positive on CE. “When I started, we were pen and paper, no computers,” one preparer wrote. “I would drive the 200 miles to annual IRS trainings, buy current publications each year, and generally kept up with changes. I wasn’t doing it because it was required. I did it to make sure I kept up with changes and knew what I was doing -- much more effective than the current trend of taking CEs that may or may not have any relevance [other than] just to have the required credits. I know the required CEs I took this year taught me nothing and didn’t increase my competency one iota.”