Tax professionals are moving in droves toward the convenience of online tax cpe courses as a way of fulfilling continuing education requirements
Earlier in the year, when Doug Smith, an enrolled agent from Boston, signed up to participate a self-paced continuing education tax course offered by a third-party education provider, he was surprised to discover he was in good company. “The student bulletin board was teaming with posts from other enrolled agents and CPAs who were in the same boat. Like me, they needed to fill some CPE credit hours in a hurry.” According to industry insiders, Doug’s experience is part of a larger emerging trend among tax professionals like certified public accountants and enrolled agents. Online courses offer these groups the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of the classroom-like learning experience from the convenience of home or the office. Self-paced modules are among the most popular of this new format because of their inherent flexibility.
What is self-paced study?
Self-paced tax CPE courses are correspondence programs that combine the best elements of a live class with the convenience of allowing EAs and CPAs to work on their own time and at their own pace. The majority of these programs take a two-prong approach to course instruction: students are provided with various course materials (including textbooks and/or online materials) that cover all relevant topics and then are able to watch video-recording of corresponding lectures. All materials and lectures are available online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. More and more of these programs are also offer live web cast sessions with skilled instructors from the field of taxation.
Because there is no specific classroom time, the self-study CPE participant must, in most cases, complete and pass periodic open-book multiple choice quizzes, and one final exam with a score of 70 % or higher. These requirements ensure that the requisite time was dedicated to the course, and that the tax professional has comprehended the material in a way that fulfills CPE requirements.
An added featured of the majority of these self-paced CPE courses is that no advance preparation is needed prior to the start of the course.
What are the advantages of Self-study CPE?
There are a number of benefits associated with this method of meeting tax CPE requirements:
- Saving time & money — courses are usually significantly less expensive than traditional seminars. Because courses are delivered to the door, so to speak, enrolled agents avoid the expenses associated with travel, hotel, and meals.
- Topics galore — Enrolled agents are usually able to select from 70 plus tax topics that meet EA CPE requirements, thus avoiding the need to wait for a traveling seminar to come to town.
- Studying at own convenience — Unlike classes that eat into a busy schedule, self-study courses are completed at times convenient for the tax professional – whether this amounts to one hour per day, one chapter per day, over lunch, at night, on weekends, at work, at home, at Starbucks.
- Studying at own pace – Enrolled agents are able to complete self-study enrolled agent CPE courses at a pace that allows them to really learn the subject. Because in-person seminars are taught at the instructors pace, topics can sometimes be passed over too quickly, leaving students frustrated and clueless. Self-study courses avoid these obstacles. Students are allowed to reread a section, or review an example if it doesn’t completely register the first time around.
How self-paced modules typically work?
The process of engaging self-paced CPE courses is relatively straightforward and simple. Here are the key steps:
(1) Open and print course materials, tests, test answers and all IRS forms
(2) Watch recorded lectures from educational provider
(3) Complete class work, including homework and quizzes
(4) Use the Q & A forum to post questions about the course work and receive answers from course instructors
(5) Print a certificate of completion upon completion of the course(s)