Finishing Your Online Tax Course Is (Usually) Not Enough

By Andy Frye

Too many tax professionals complete online tax courses, but don’t take the additional steps necessary to actually accomplish what their goal was in taking the online tax course in the first place.

Allow me to explain–so that this doesn’t happen to you.

Because it’s seriously not fun.

Completing Your Online Tax Course Is (Usually) Only the First Step

Sometimes you’ll have multiple goals for taking an online tax course, such as:

  • Update your knowledge
  • Learn about a new topic
  • Obtain continuing education hours

This last goal–obtain continuing education hours–is the one that trips up the most people.

A lot of tax preparers assume that just because you “did your hours,” you did your duty as a tax professional.

But completing your online tax courses is (usually) not the end of the story in terms of your tax preparer requirements.

The Players and the Process

As an IRS and CTEC-approved education provider, our job is to 1) provide you with a quality course, and then 2) report your hours to the appropriate agency when you complete your online tax course.

From the IRS and CTEC’s perspective, however, getting hours is not (usually) enough.  These agencies require you as the tax professional to do stuff on your end, such as register or renew your registration, renew your PTIN, update your address, etc.

What exactly you’re required to do varies according to the agency and their rules, as well as the credential you carry.  Here, for example, is a chart from the IRS showing CE requirements for EAs.  Here’s the page that shows requirements for AFSP tax preparers.

The specifics will vary, but you can bet your bottom dollar, no matter the agency and no matter your credential, that you’re required to do something with the actual agency that’s regulating you.

Unused Hours, Expired Registrations, and Tax Preparer Fines

All too often, tax preparers end up with online tax course CE hours “sitting unused” in their accounts at IRS or CTEC, not knowing that you have to go to IRS or CTEC website and complete your registration or do some other administrative task, and now the registration deadline passes and you get a fine, your registration expires, etc., etc.

Now you’re calling your online tax course company thinking that they didn’t do their part, you’re irate, how could they do this to you???  But the reality is, your hours were reported–you just didn’t take the other steps you needed to take.

Now everyone feels bad and that’s not what anyone likes to feel.

So, yeah, that’s the bad news–now let’s talk about solutions!

Better Communication from Online Tax Course Providers

Always think to yourself, when you’re completing an online tax course:

“Now that I’m done with my course, what do I need to do next?  Because I know completing the course is only one step in the process.”

As an online tax course provider, we are placing a huge emphasis this year on communicating these “next steps” in a clearer way to our tax professional customers.

In past years, we have sent emails explaining next steps, but sometimes these emails (since they’re from an automated system) go into your spam box of your email, or people don’t read the email since they think it’s probably us trying to sell them something 🙂

(Us, trying to sell you something?  Now that would be shocking…)

This year, we will be adding “next step” instructions directly inside our courses in a much more prominent fashion, so that there can be no doubt of what you need to do next after you complete one of our online tax courses.

At the same time, you’ll do yourself a big favor if you realize and keep in mind at all times that there’s one and only one person who bears the ultimate responsibility for maintaining your professional status…and that person is you.

More About Our Online Tax Courses