Accounting at College of San Mateo - Tax Preparer FAQs
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Tax Preparer FAQs

How were the tax preparer certificates developed?
The Accounting faculty at College of San Mateo built a partnership with local employers. We asked, "What jobs would be a good match for our students?" They told us: "Tax Preparers." We worked with tax managers to select the classes students need. We rewrote the content of each course to teach the skills students will use on the job.

Who can be a tax preparer?
To be a paid tax preparer you must be a Certified Public Accountant, an Enrolled Agent, or a California Tax Education Council (CTEC) practitioner.  An Enrolled Agent can prepare taxes anywhere in the United States.  A CPA may only prepare taxes in the state where licensed. A CTEC practitioner may only prepare taxes in California.

What are the skills required to be a tax preparer?
The skills needed are strong command of Federal and California income tax theory, law and practice; knowledge of accounting fundamentals; excellent Excel skills; and ten-key speed and accuracy.

Can I earn continuing education credit at College of San Mateo?
Yes. All tax courses at CSM may qualify for continuing education credit. For California Tax Education Council (CTEC), all courses qualify as continuing education except ACTG 171, Individual Income Taxes.

Can I have a career as a tax preparer without a bachelor's degree?
Yes. Most entry-level tax preparer jobs require only the skills taught in the tax preparer certificates. Based upon your job performance, you can advance in your career.

I already have a bachelor's degree, but not in accounting or business. Will it help me?
Yes. Your degree, combined with the skills you will learn in our program, will open doors to the highest level of advancement. Also, employers usually consider a degree earned outside the United States as equivalent to a degree earned in the country.

I plan to complete my certificate over several semesters. How should I plan my courses?
Our Individual Income Taxes class is only offered during the Fall semester, so take ACTG 171 during the next Fall semester. Enroll in Accounting Procedures, Ten-Key Skills, and Job Search Skills early in your program. For the Tax Preparer II certificate, you may take either QuickBooks class, ACTG 144 or ACTG 145. ACTG 144 is not a prerequisite for ACTG 145. Enroll in QuickBooks after you have completed Accounting Procedures or concurrently. See your academic advisor to develop a multi-semester plan. There are four certificates.

Which certificate should I pick?
The tax preparer certificates are part of a sequence. Make the Accounting Certificate, the highest level certificate, your goal. Complete as many certificates in the sequence as possible. Start with the Tax Preparer I certificate. Complete four more courses and earn the Tax Preparer II certificate. Then complete two more courses to earn the Accounting certificate. If you need to get a job as soon as possible, the Tax Preparer I certificate will give you the skills to start your job search and succeed on the job. Come back and complete the remaining certificates as soon as you can. The Enrolled Agent Exam Preparation certificate includes the courses you need to prepare for the SEE (Special Enrollment Exam).

Is each certificate one big class?
No. Each certificate is a combination of different classes. For each class in your certificate check the class schedule and select the day and time best for you.

How long can I take to finish my certificate?
The certificates can be completed in one or two semester if you attend school full-time. Some students take one or two classes each semester for several semesters. Your certificate can be completed at your pace. There is no time limit.

Can I complete a certificate by taking evening or Saturday classes?
Yes. All of the classes are offered evenings or Saturdays.

When should I apply for my Certificate?
Apply for your certificate by the sixth week of the semester in which you will complete your certificate. Your academic advisor or the Drop-In Counseling Center can help [Building 1 Room 130, (650) 574-6400].

Ten-Key Skills (ACTG 103) is a self-paced class. How does it work?
There are no class meetings -- you set your pace and your hours. You may complete your work at home, your office, or in a computer lab on campus. Students with strong ten-key skills may receive credit-by-exam. Visit Professor Bruce Maule's web site for complete information.

What will I learn in Job Search Skills (CRER 127)?
Job Search Skills will help you make the transition from the classroom to the workplace. You will prepare a resume, sharpen your interviewing skills, and learn how to search for your new job. You will select a combination of workshops and individual counseling to meet your needs. Go to the Career Center [Building 1, Room 213] during the first week of classes to arrange your hours.

After I complete my certificate, how do I get a job?
Job listings and job placement help are available in the Student Employment Office [Building 1, Room 213, (650) 574-6151].

How can I improve my writing and speaking skills?
On your job you will be working with customers, vendors, co-workers and managers. To succeed on your job you must have strong written and verbal communication skills. College of San Mateo offers many courses to help you improve your skills. As a minimum we recommend ESL students complete the English as a Second Language (ESL) sequence up through ESL 848, ESL 891, and SPCH 855. We encourage all students to complete ENGL 100, SPCH 100 and READ 400. Meet with your academic advisor to plan your program.

How do I register for classes?
Visit Also, in the printed class schedule you will find a section called "How to Register." You may pick up a printed class schedule in  Building 1. If you are a new student you must first apply for admission and then register for classes. You may select your classes and register at any time. You are not required to meet with an advisor or attend an information meeting before you register. Classes start in January, March, June, August and October.

How do I find out about financial aid?
Call the CSM Financial Aid office at (650) 574-6147 or visit Building 1, Room 221.

Who do I call if I have a question?
Call (650) 378-7229 to make an appointment to talk with Professor Rick Ambrose, the advisor for Accounting and Tax programs. You may also call the Drop-In Counseling Center [Building 1 Room 130, (650) 574-6400] at any time.