How to Become a Certified Tax Preparer in California

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If you prepare a tax return in California, you must either have special certification or perform the work for free. Individuals charging a fee for tax preparation must register with the California Tax Education Council (CTEC) unless they are attorneys with the state bar association, licensed with the state as certified public accountants or registered with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as enrolled agents. CTEC also requires federal registration with the IRS as a Registered Tax Return Preparer. Therefore, California tax preparers must possess a federal Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN).

Complete 60 hours of qualifying tax education. Approved education course providers are listed on the CTEC website or available upon request from CTEC. Courses are offered involving traditional classrooms, home study or online classes.

Obtain a $5,000 tax preparer bond. Tax preparer bonds are available from most local insurance agencies.

Register with CTEC. Online registration is available on the CTEC website. Alternatively, a tax preparer may mail a form obtained from CTEC after writing or calling. The form is also available for download and printing from the CTEC website.


Any CPA or attorney licensed in a state other than California must also register with CTEC to prepare tax returns in California. Employees of exempt attorneys, CPAs or enrolled agents are not required to register if they do not sign tax returns.

New preparer registration takes place throughout the year. Individuals who register as new preparers are issued Certificates of Completion valid through the following October 31. You should wait to register until November 1 if you will not prepare tax returns prior to next October 31.

California Registered Tax Preparers must complete 20 hours of continuing tax education each year.



About the Author

Brian Huber has been a writer since 1981, primarily composing literature for businesses that convey information to customers, shareholders and lenders. Huber has written about various financial, accounting and tax matters and his published articles have appeared on various websites. He has a Bachelor of Arts in economics from the University of Texas at Austin.