It is an inevitable exercise when tax preparers first enter the field for them to ask, “What Associations should tax preparers join?” The questions reveal the uncertainties of an area of work that is ever changing. A failure to keep up with the changes may lead to disaster. So, membership in an organization that maintains a vigil over the yearly changes in the tax code is an essential part of being a tax preparation professional. As it turns out, the selection of which organizations to join is often determined by your position in the field of finance.
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Finance Industry Positions
Currently, there are two separate designations for those who professionally deal with tax preparation. The Certified Public Accountant (CPA) maintains the top position of all professions that take on the task of tax preparation. Though the CPA handles taxes for individuals, organizations, and businesses, that is only one of a myriad of duties in which a CPA engages. The other professional position is a tax preparer. These individuals focus on federal and state tax codes and help individuals and organizations to meet tax requirements while saving as much as possible. To maintain competence in the world of finance, both of these positions are subject to the Continuing Professional Education (CPE) requirement that demands yearly certification on tax code updates.
Organizations for a CPA
The CPA generally gravitates toward others in the field who have attained the 150 hours of education, passed the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination, and served at least one year of internship with an established CPA. The principal organization CPAs join is the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). The AICPA maintains monthly publications that inform on financial strategies and tax advantages. The organization also provides annual certification update study material for its members as well as certificate programs in various areas of the finance profession.
Organizations for the Tax Preparer
Two major organizations are joined by those who deal with tax preparation but are not CPAs. The National Association of Tax Preparers (NATP) works as a connection point between tax professionals of all levels. The organization offers support information on tax codes via an online question and answer environment. The strategy is to maintain a high level of expertise and ethical conduct throughout the industry. A membership in NATP also gets the busy professional access to training programs for the yearly CPE examination ensuring a regular supply of tax professionals for business, non-profits, and individual taxpayers. The second organization to which the tax preparation professional may join is the National Society of Tax Professionals (NSTP). The NSTP offers educational study courses on tax codes and the certification process, annual update courses for recertification on federal and state tax code changes, and a tax research service to find the answer to the tough questions that periodically spring up t=from the deep tax code structure.
CPAs can join any or all of these organizations. Many CPAs volunteer expertise to other tax preparation professionals as a courtesy and to assure high ethical standards. The tax preparer without the 150-hours of education (which translates to a year of study beyond a Bachelor’s degree in Finance), has the opportunity to join the NATP, or NSTP, or both. The question of, “What Association should tax preparers join?” answers itself in the qualifications required to join and the benefits gained by joining.