No to Additional Preparer Testing, Yes to CPE Requirements

I’ve written before that I don’t think CPAs or attorneys should be required to take the RTRP exam to prepare tax returns. I stand by that belief, even though I am in the minority among people who aren’t a CPA or an attorney (I’m an enrolled agent).

But I do think CPAs and attorneys should be required to show continuing education in the tax field. Currently, the IRS doesn’t require this of CPAs and attorneys.

Enrolled agents are required to have 72 hours of CPE  — 100% in taxation — in a 3-year period. The minimum amount we can get in any one year is 16 hours. (So theoretically an EA could take 16 hours in each of the first two years and then take 40 hours in year 3 and meet the IRS requirements.)

Members of the National Association of Enrolled Agents, such as me, are required to get a minimum of 30 hours a year. Many of us get much more than that. I strive to come in at at least 50 hours a year. I know some EAs who get 90 hours a year.

RTRPs are required to get 15 hours a year in taxation. I think it’s reasonable for the IRS to require 15 hours a year out of CPAs and attorneys, too.

I know that CPE can sometimes be seen as a joke, because at most seminars you can just sit there playing on your computer or phone all day and still get credit. Still, it does show at least some commitment to keeping current and expanding your knowledge of taxes.

To me, a CPE requirement makes more sense than a testing requirement.

To my surprise, The Wandering Tax Pro, Robert Flach, seems to be coming around to my viewpoint on this topic. Robert and I have disagreed on the topic of preparer regulation. But in his most-recent post on the topic, Robert sounds an awful lot like me! (I wrote my post prior to Robert’s post being published. It’s a happy coincidence that our posts on this subject are appearing just one day apart.)

As always, I’ll have more thoughts in future blog posts.