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Accredited Tax Preparer®, ATP Certification: Details on Examination and Certification for Accredited Tax Preparers

Written by AnonymousNovember 3, 2011
Accredited Tax Preparer

If you’re looking to improve your career in accounting, obtaining an accounting certificate is an excellent first step.  Accounting certificates can expand your accounting knowledge and increase your proficiency in a specific area of the accounting field.

Introduction to Accredited Tax Preparer Certification

Tax professionals prepare tax returns for individuals or businesses. They apply a combination of analytical knowledge, tax expertise, computer literacy, and mathematical skills. When preparing tax returns, they apply their knowledge of current national, state, and local tax codes to make sure their clients don’t end up paying more taxes than they should.

Accredited Tax Preparer (ATP) is a professional credential issued by the Accreditation Council for Accountancy and Taxation (ACAT). The credential is designed for experienced tax professionals who are well versed in existing tax codes and laws. Earning the credential demonstrates that your professional tax knowledge is in line with ACAT’s standards and has the potential to:

  • Expand employment opportunities
  • Increase your earning potentialACAT
  • Demonstrate your competency in tax preparation to employers and clients alike
  • Increase your marketability in the job market
  • Further develop and build your professional tax preparation skills

Key Steps to Accredited Tax Preparer Certification

In order to be eligible for the ATP credential, you must:

  • Pass the ATP examination
  • Have three years of work experience in taxation preparation, two of which can be satisfied through college credit

Details of the Accredited Tax Preparer Exam

The ATP exam is a multiple-choice test consisting of 100 questions, 92 of which cover the fundamentals of tax preparation and eight of which cover professional ethics. The exam is offered twice a year at testing centers around the country (see the ACAT website for details).

Topics covered in the exam include:

  • Individual tax returns
  • Filing considerations and determination of tax
  • Income inclusions and exclusions
  • Workers’ compensation, insurance, and retirement coverage
  • Itemized deductions and deductions for adjusted gross income
  • Payroll functions
  • Sole proprietorships, rental income, self-employment, and independent contractors
  • Divorce issues
  • Standards of ethical and professional conduct
  • Regulatory and behavioral ethics

As of 2011, the exam costs $200 and requires an additional $50 registration fee.

Preparing for the Accredited Tax Preparer Exam

ACAT recommends that you prepare for the test using one of three study options. These options are:

  • Enrolling in the ATP Preparatory Course, a self-paced review course offered by ACAT.
  • Purchasing Essentials of Federal Income Taxation for Individuals and Businesses by Linda M. Johnson, Ph.R., CPA, which provides a comprehensive review of basic tax concepts.
  • Using the exam blueprints found in ACAT’s Certification Candidate Handbook, available for download online, to devise an independent study plan using publications and courses of your choosing.

Maintaining the Accredited Tax Preparer Designation

In order to maintain your ATP designation, you must:

  • Pay an annual renewal fee of $80 (as of 2011)
  • Comply with ACAT’s Code of Ethics and Rules of Professional Conduct
  • Comply with ACAT’s continuing professional education (CPE) requirement

All ATPs are required to earn 72 hours of continuing professional education in each three-year reporting cycle. Sixty-eight of these hours must focus on taxation or related subjects and four hours must focus on ethics.

Activities that qualify for the CPE requirement are defined as those that contribute directly to your professional competence. Acceptable activities include:

  • Participation in continuing education programs offered by professional accounting, tax, and financial organizations
  • Completion of college courses
  • Providing services as a speaker, instructor, or discussion leader
  • Publishing articles and/or books

You’re not required to report specific CPE activities — submitting a written statement of your compliance with the requirement is enough. Still, it’s a good idea to keep all documents that prove you have completed a CPE activity, since ACAT conducts random audits to verify requirements have been met.

Governing Board Information

ATP certification is issued by:
The Accreditation Council for Accountancy and Taxation
1010 N. Fairfax St.
Alexandria, VA 22314
888.289.7763, ext. 1343