Staying on course: Preparers bone up on TCJA and more

For any tax professional, keeping up is key, and with the time and expense of continuing education picking the right CPE topics matters — and many practitioners are looking to dive deeper into the complexities of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

“The IRS is still issuing new guidance as they are also learning how to implement the new tax law. Congress is constantly changing laws,” said Lawrence Pon, a CPA and Enrolled Agent at Pon & Associates in Redwood City, California. “The courts have also given us new rulings to digest. I plan on taking more CPE on Section 199A, real estate tax planning and retirement planning.”

“We plan to expand our understanding of the TCJA now that there’s more guidance on the legislation and research materials available,” said Debra James, an EA at Genesis Accounting & Management Services, in Lorain, Ohio.

“The TCJA has made me look at everything with a fresh perspective, from mortgage interest and the new thresholds to clients’ best options for entity choice,” said Kerry Freeman, an EA at Freeman Income Tax Service in Anthem, Arizona. “Last year and this, I spent thousands of dollars and 80 to 100 hours of classroom time … I’m going back to basics again. I leave no opportunity that the new laws are getting past me and affecting my clients.”

U.S. President Donald Trump sits next to a tax-overhaul bill after singing it into law in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Dec. 22, 2017. This week House Republicans passed the most extensive rewrite of the U.S. tax code in more than 30 years, hours after the Senate passed the legislation, handing Trump his first major legislative victory providing a permanent tax cut for corporations and shorter-term relief for individuals. Photographer: Mike Theiler/Pool via Bloomberg
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, signed into law.

‘Have to know the law’

“It was distressing this last season how many tax preparers had no clue or were completely unprepared for the TCJA,” Pon said. “Not all the software worked – and you have to know the law to know if the software is correct or not.”

According to Canopy, a provider of tools and education for tax and prep practices, top CPE courses for CPAs recently covered Section 199A; audit defense and negotiating with the IRS; independent contractor versus employee; virtual currency; offer in compromise basics; tax resolution; ethics; and cybersecurity.

Other vendors report that the new lease standards are a hot topic. Risk assessment and international tax are among the most popular CPE topics at the American Institute of CPAs.

“I see estate and business succession planning as continuing to be important topics and I plan to take related CPE,” said Gregg Wind, a CPA at Kallman+Thompson+Logan, Los Angeles. “Demographics point to the largest transfer of wealth over the next 20 to 30 years in the history of the country.”

“Bitcoin, cryptocurrency and additional training on qualified business income,” said Terri Ryman at Southwest Tax & Accounting, in Elkhart, Kansas. “Although I wish cryptocurrency was a passing fad, even my son deals in it and invests in it. I’m thinking more of my clients than I know are trading with it, and I need to figure out how to capture that income to correctly prepare returns.”

“Of course, each year I take the updates, and will look for more in-depth courses on the 199A rules and on rental properties,” said Morris Armstrong, an EA and registered investment advisor at Armstrong Financial Strategies in Cheshire, Connecticut. “I study for my market and imagine that most practitioners do.”

“I think as you gain more knowledge on a topic, you begin to realize that there’s more to be learned,” Armstrong said.

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