How to Become a Tax Preparer: Your 2024 Guide

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Tax preparers, sometimes called tax accountants or tax preparation assistants, use their knowledge of tax laws and regulations to prepare, file, and manage the taxes of individuals and organizations. Learn more about what you need to get started.

[Featured image] Man at a desk working on taxes on a computer

A tax preparer handles the taxes for individuals, organizations, companies, or governments. Unlike an accountant who oversees all financial matters, you’ll specialize solely in taxes in this role and follow the tax laws set forth at the federal or provincial levels. 

While income tax preparers also prepare and file taxes for clients, a tax preparer's expertise extends beyond this so they can provide ongoing and long-term tax assistance to the people and entities they serve. 

As a tax professional, your regular tasks and responsibilities might include:

  • Preparing tax forms and returns

  • Offering tax planning advice

  • Helping clients save money when it comes time to file taxes

  • Creating annual tax-related plans for clients to follow throughout the year

  • Protecting clients from paying more than necessary

  • Interviewing clients to ensure all needed information is given and processes are completed

  • Advising clients about the impact of tax laws and liabilities

  • Negotiating with regulatory entities when necessary on behalf of the client

  • Arranging tax audits with authorities when needed

Tax preparer salary

According to Glassdoor, the average base salary in Canada for tax preparers is $42,343 [2]. For accountants, it is $63,229 [1]. Tax preparers generally are not required to have an accounting certification, which is likely one of the reasons for a slightly lower annual salary. However, many tax preparers gain their Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) certification, which may lead to higher annual pay. Your salary will vary depending on your education and experience level, the industry you work in, and the province you live in.

Types of tax preparers

There are several types of tax preparers in Canada, each with its own requirements and responsibilities. Three common types of tax preparers include:

  • Chartered Professional Accountant: Sometimes called a certified public accountant, this type of tax preparer has a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) designation and is qualified to represent clients to the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA).

  • Tax lawyer: Tax lawyers can function as tax preparers and also represent you in legal activity. A tax lawyer may be necessary if your taxes are proceeding to tax court. Tax lawyers can also help represent you in audits or other CRA-related cases.

  • Independent tax consultant: This type of tax preparer does not have a CPA and cannot represent clients with the CRA in audits or other proceedings. However, independent tax consultants can help you assemble your tax return and advise you on tax processes.

How to become a tax preparer

There are no formal degree requirements to be a tax preparer, but many tax preparers will have expanded opportunities with a formal accounting designation. Tax preparers who are also certified accountants usually have a university degree in accounting or finance and have completed a professional training program that the provincial Institute of Chartered Accountants accredits. 

Most accountants also have 24 to 30 months of job training, are members of the provincial Institute of Chartered Accountants, and have completed the Uniform Evaluation (UFE). Professionals must qualify for and pass the CPA exam to obtain Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) status. For tax preparers also certified as auditors, recognition by the Institute of Internal Auditors and licenses as trustees in bankruptcy may also be necessary, depending on the job responsibilities. 

For tax preparers who wish to avoid obtaining formal designation and qualification as an accountant, completing a vocational program or income tax training with an approved program is recommended to build relevant knowledge and ensure you have the necessary skills to perform the job successfully.

Tax preparer skills

Tax accounts deal with complex, confidential data that is regulated by law. If you have a keen understanding of mathematics, pay attention to detail, and enjoy serving others in a way that helps them flourish financially, you may be well-suited for a tax preparer role. Take a look at the specific skills you'll need:

Technical skills

  • Knowledge of the latest federal and provincial tax laws and regulations

  • Proficiency in Microsoft Excel and tax preparation software

  • Understanding of basic arithmetic and statistics to calculate complex tax information

Workplace skills

  • Attention to detail to accurately prepare error-free documents and tax returns

  • Verbal and written communication skills to effectively interact with clients

  • Organizational skills to keep financial records easily accessible for reference

  • Time-management skills to meet important deadlines

  • Critical thinking and analytical skills to evaluate data, uncover fraud, and minimize tax liability

Tax preparer career path

As you complete your studies and gain experience as a tax preparer, you will likely find that your interests and abilities gravitate toward a certain industry or clientele. Continue to refine your skills in your chosen specialties, hone your customer service skills, and stay on top of tax law and requirements. 

Your career path may also lead you to a different accounting career, such as a management accountant, public accountant, budget director, or internal auditor. Some tax preparers also progress to become top executives and financial managers of corporations, including financial vice presidents, treasurers, controllers, and chief financial officers.

Get started with Coursera

Explore whether a career in accounting may be right for you with a beginner-friendly course from a top university, like Introduction to Financial Accounting from the University of Pennsylvania on Coursera. To further advance your skills with a master's degree, consider online options on Coursera, such as the Online Master’s of Accounting from the University of Illinois.

Article sources


Glassdoor. "Tax Preparer Salaries in Canada,,12.htm?clickSource=careerNav." Accessed September 7, 2023.

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