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CPE Credits That Pay You

Updated on April 12, 2011
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Keith Schroeder writes The Wealthy Accountant blog with 30 years experience in the tax field. He is the tax adviser of Mr. Money Mustache an

Every tax professional needs CPE credits to keep his license. For a pro to remain a pro he has to keep abreast of all the changes in the tax code as they apply to his clients. The problem is that each CPE credit costs money and takes time away from his work. Rather than consider continuing education credits an expensive hassle, plan CPE credits to your advantage. The IRS has a narrow definition of a CPE hour. It must involve Federal tax issues. However, state issues can be discussed in a Federal tax course. A course on practice building doesn’t count, but a course that focuses on ideas to save your clients money does count. These are tax strategies that you can take back to the office and sell to your clients.

CPE Credits That Pay You the Most

You need to determine which courses will provide the most important information for your clients. The cost of the course is important only to the extent it relates to issues you can bill for later.

Consider a CPA or enrolled agent that serves a large number of small unincorporated businesses. Filling the required CPE credits with classes on small businesses can yield big results. By saving the small business owner money by incorporating or organizing as an LLC, the accountant can generate significant billings on the additional tax returns that happen to cost a lot more to prepare. If the client saves several thousand dollars, you should not feel guilty earning an extra $500 or so per client.

Opportunities exist in all areas of taxes. The tax code is getting more complicated by the day and taxes seem to be headed one way: up. Clients can not rely on over the counter and online tax software to do the job. The computer can’t help the client determine which year to take a deduction for the greatest gain. Retirement and education planning require a well trained professional, too.

How to Choose the Best Courses

It can be difficult to choose the best CPE courses. You need to look for one particular trait of a course: the example, or practice point. You know what I mean when I say, “The refresher course.” Refresher courses are great, but will not pay you back in additional billings. Your client may be happy you know the tax code, but you haven’t saved her any money.

The best clients, businesses and wealthy individuals, want more than a competent tax professional. They want more than accurate tax preparation. They want, no, demand you provide a value-added service. They want enough money put away for retirement and college and the tax savings to boot. Is a Roth or traditional IRA better? What about 529 plans or Education IRAs? Then the huge issues arise: the sale or transfer of the business and estate issues. You, the tax professional, will be leaned on hard to provide powerful, tax saving, solutions. This is where advanced CPE credit courses help you earn the big fees. This is the kind of planning that will put your kids through college and let you retire comfortably.

Review each potential CPE program for practice points and practical application. It is not enough to learn the rules. You need to learn how to apply the rules for the maximum benefit of your client. Your clients expect it of you; you must expect it from your CPE courses.

Building a practice is easy when you serve clients at a higher level. The higher costs of a truly effective CPE course earns you more in billings and saves the cost of advertising for new clients, as your current clients can’t stop talking nice about you to everyone they see.

More Articles for the Tax Professional

Online CPE Courses for CPAs: Use online CPE courses that are low-cost to build your bottom line.

Cheap CPE for EAs: Low-cost CPEs that help enrolled agents take it to the competition.

9 Best Tax Software Programs: Review who has the best and worst tax software on the market today.

5 Questions to Ask Your Tax Preparer: Five questions every taxpayer must ask her tax preparer; five questions every tax pro must be ready to answer.


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