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When it's tax season and you're trying to figure out the ins and outs of complicated tax laws, you may turn to a consultant for help. Tax consultants, also known as tax advisers, use their expertise to help clients successfully navigate what can be a very confusing and complex system of rules and deduction options. Although they are busiest during the months immediately before taxes are due in April, they also work year-round to help clients avoid incurring tax liabilities.
There are no specific education requirements for tax consultants. However, a consultant often gets a bachelor's degree in accounting or finance. In other cases, a person may become a consultant after years of working in another tax-related profession. Clients with more complex tax needs may even prefer a consultant with an advanced degree, such as a master's in taxation or a juris doctor degree with a focus on tax law.
Certification and Licenses
Tax consultants are not required to have any specific type of certification, but some to take part in certification programs in order to better serve their clients. Some tax consultants are also licensed CPAs. Some may become certified as an Accredited Tax Consultant, or ATA. This certification requires five years in a tax-related profession and passing a 100 question multiple choice exam. The certificate is issued by the Accreditation Council for Accountancy and Taxation.
A tax consultant's main duty is to help clients, whether they are individuals or businesses, to minimize the amount of taxes they will owe each year. He prepares tax returns and researches the latest tax laws, explaining complicated issues to his clients. He makes sure his clients comply with all tax obligations and receive any deductions they may be eligible for. A tax consultant might work for himself or for an accounting firm, law firm or financial consulting firm.
If a tax consultant wants to represent his clients before the Internal Revenue Service, he must also become an enrolled agent. To do so, he must obtain a preparer tax identification number, pass the Special Enrollment Examination, or SEE, and pass a tax compliance check. The SEE consists of three parts, each 3.5 hours long. It covers individual taxes, business taxes and representation procedures.
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