How to Become a Tax Preparer in California

by Catherine Chase ; Updated July 27, 2017
Active California certified public accountants can prepare taxes without registering.

The California Franchise Tax Board and the California Tax Education Council regulate tax preparers and issue annual certificates to allow them to legally prepare tax returns. Not everyone must undergo this process. If you work for a CTEC-registered preparer, but have no interaction with clients, you do not need to register. Inactive certified public accountants who prepare taxes for a fee do need to register. To begin the process, take an approved tax education course and submit an application to CTEC. Renew your certificate yearly.

Step 1

Select a tax preparer education course offered by a provider approved by the California Tax Education Council. The CTEC has a comprehensive listing of California tax courses on their website. Go to their website and click on “Approved Education Providers.” Click on “Qualifying” under “Type of Education,” select the type of course you want and click on “Find Providers.”

Step 2

Enroll in and pass the 60-hour course. Out of the total course hours, 45 must focus on federal taxes and 15 must focus on California state taxes. Different providers will have varying instructions for signing up for the course; contact the provider you select for more information. Providers will also have varying fees.

Step 3

Contact your surety agent or insurer and purchase a tax preparer bond in the amount of $5,000.

Step 4

Download and print a new preparer application from the CTEC website.

Step 5

Fill out the application, providing your full name, contact information and Social Security number. Read the Tax Preparer Code of Conduct and Responsibilities on the second page of the application and initial section II on the first page.

Step 6

Sign and date the form to certify that you have completed an approved tax preparer course within the last 18 months. Enclose a copy of your course completion certificate and a copy of your tax preparer bond.

Step 7

Enclose a check or money order made out to the California Tax Education Council. At the time of publication, the fee is $25. Mail the application package to: CTEC, P.O. Box 2890, Sacramento, CA 95812-2890.

Step 8

Wait four to six weeks for CTEC to process your application and mail you a CTEC certificate of completion.

Tips

  • Take approved continuing education courses each year to maintain your tax preparer registration. You must have five hours of California tax curriculum and 15 hours of federal tax study for a total of 20 hours each year. Maintain your surety bond and submit a renewal application each year. If you are unsure of whether you must register with CTEC to prepare taxes, contact the Franchise Tax Board at 1-800-338-0505.

About the Author

Catherine Chase is a professional writer specializing in history and health topics. Chase also covers finance, home improvement and gardening topics. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in American studies from Skidmore College.

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