Trends In Tax Continuing Education

Continuing education (CE) is necessary for tax and finance professionals that provide services to the public. It is important that a practitioner have the necessary tools to complete their CE requirements, which is why new trends in the industry support enhanced knowledge in pertinent subject matters.

Online Education

Many practitioners lead busy lives both personally and professionally. As a result, individuals need the ability to enroll in distance-learning programs. Many jurisdictions are approving online continuing education courses for added convenience. Program sponsors are typically required to have their tax courses pre-approved in order for attendees to earn online continuing education credits. The providers must also supply an accurate course description, content overview and the amount of credits that are obtainable.

Online CE can be used in conjunction with a virtual classroom or for self-study purposes.

It is important to note that may states and organizations ordinarily require an examination in order to verify the practitioner's assessment of the content. This ensures that the practitioner has actually completed the course.

Unique CE Opportunities

Practitioners are able to obtain free continuing education credit for teaching courses and/or publishing relevant works. The amount of research, preparation and time that goes into these types of projects is rewarded through CE credit. The research that is needed for published articles or books will touch on pertinent subjects that deal with financial planning and federal taxation, among others. In certain situations, a teacher can earn double CE credits during the initial presentation.

The majority of jurisdictions limit the earned credits to a specific percentage of the total CE hours needed.

Reporting Procedures

Many professional associations and state governments, as well as the federal government, are supporting online registration and reporting of CE credit hours. This not only reduces the amount of time and money that is spent on processing requests, but it also makes it easier for practitioner's to submit their information and records.

Many organizations are allowing sponsors to submit Certificates of Completion through electronic means, which also make the record keeping and renewal process straightforward. In addition, many CE sponsors can register their online CPE courses for review online - providing practitioners with supplementary course selections, locations, content and dates.

Federal CE Changes

One of the most significant trends in CE is the federal government's initiative to provide the public with qualified tax preparers. Any individual that accepts a fee for tax preparation services will now need to register with the IRS in order to be included in an approved database of preparers. The public will be able to verify an individual's current standing quickly and will be able to see that they have met the guidelines issued by the IRS.

Because of the federal changes, a preparer will now need to obtain a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) in order to process tax returns beginning on January 1, 2011. In addition, a 15-hour CE requirement will now go into effect that must be satisfied on an annual basis. In order to complete the registration process, preparers will have to pay a .25 renewal fee.