May 11, 2016

Since its inception in 1985, the National Tax Practice Institute® (NTPI™) has helped hundreds of tax professionals achieve the highest level of representation expertise. Enrolled agents, CPAs, and tax attorneys have dedicated countless hours to mastering material designed to set them high above their professional peers.

A three-level program (plus a Graduate track), participants start at Level 1. The first step toward the NTPI Fellow® designation, Level 1 is taught by top-notch, nationally-recognized instructors and gives a comprehensive introduction to the world of representation.

Designed to accommodate all schedules and learning styles, Level 1 can be taken in-person or online through a series of recorded webinars. “Level 1 was like general education classes in college,” says Christopher de Lorimier, EA. “Level 1 gives you enough of an introduction [to representation] to begin feeling comfortable about the topics and makes you want to learn the details in future classes.”

De Lorimier completed Level 1 online in about three weeks. He found the online webinars to be convenient and easy to fit into his schedule. He was able to allocate time between clients and other work to focus on Level 1. “Since I could go at my own pace, I could easily start/stop as needed,” he says.

Clarice Landreth, EA, and Juan Montes, EA, also chose to take Level 1 online. For them, the online option allowed them to complete Levels 1 and 2 in the same year. “Doing Level 1 online was the only way to accomplish my goal,” Montes notes. “I was excited to complete Level 1 so I could get in-person instruction for Level 2 at the NAEA National Conference in Las Vegas.” Viewing the webinars on her own schedule, Landreth was able to complete Level 1 over the course of five business days. Though pleased with the ability to watch webinars on her own time, she understands the appeal of taking Level 1 in-person as it gives the student an opportunity to network and discuss course material with colleagues face-to-face.

The online option wasn’t available when Laurie Ziegler, EA, took Level 1, so she wasn’t sure what to expect when she signed up for NTPI in 2005. “I was looking for CE and was hoping to attend an NAEA conference to learn more about the organization,” Zeigler remembers. Completing each level of NTPI awards the participant twenty-four hours of CE credits including two hours of Ethics. By taking Level 1 in-person, you not only earn CE credits, but you are presented with the opportunity to attend NAEA’s Annual Meeting and Board of Directors meeting held in August or the November Board of Directors meeting in Orlando. “It exposed me to a side of the organization I never knew existed … Eventually, I ran for and was elected to the Affiliate Council and then the NAEA Board of Directors,” Zeigler continues. “I can truly say that attending NTPI and taking Level 1 changed my life!”

For Jeff Schneider, EA, taking Level 1 in person meant student/instructor interaction. “I learn better via direct instructor contact,” he says. “Also, I was able to meet many people in the same position I was in. The people with whom I took Level 1 are still my friends these many years later.”

Don’t handle much representation work? Schneider suggests that it’s always best to be prepared. “A few weeks after I came home from Level 1, two clients called me to say that they received ninety-day letters (statutory notice of deficiency),” he says. “I’d never seen one outside of what I’d learned several weeks prior.” 

“It was that one instance that convinced me I needed to take as many representation classes as possible to better serve my clients and be the best EA I could be!”

What does “representation” mean, anyway? A standard definition may be the action of speaking or acting on behalf of someone, but to NAEA members and NTPI Level 1 participants, it means something more.

“Representation means ‘advocacy.’ I've handled many cases where the IRS, or other tax authorities, tell the taxpayer they don't need to hire anyone because they'll be helped through the process.  BIG MISTAKE!  Every one of those clients had their rights violated as they were assessed tax they did not owe because the client didn't understand what the auditor was asking for and/or what was presented didn't meet substantiation requirements.  I was able to step in, present things in a professional and competent manner, and solve the client's problem. I advocated on their behalf using my accounting knowledge, legal background, Level 1 education, and tax knowledge … I've obtained better results for every single one of my clients than they had obtained on their own. Representation is understanding the client's problem, the facts and circumstances, applicable law, IRM provisions, substantiation requirements, interplay between state and federal law, and zealously advocating on the client's behalf. – Juan Montes, EA

It means putting yourself in your client’s shoes and [fighting] as hard as you can for their rights within the limits of the law and IRS guidelines. You must negotiate to the best of your ability on your client’s behalf.” – Clarice Landreth, EA

“It means taking care of my clients in all facets of this profession. That also means preparing returns in the best possible manner as I am representing them just by preparing their return.  My clients know that I have their back.” – Jeff Schneider, EA

The National Tax Practice Institute has the potential to improve practices and change lives—not just your own, but the clients you serve. By signing up for Level 1, you’re taking the first step toward NTPI Fellowship and joining an exclusive club of professional peers. Whether online or in-person, the knowledge gained by taking Level 1 is priceless and won’t disappoint.

So, what are you waiting for? Have you signed up for Level 1?

If you have any questions about the NTPI program, Level 1 Online or in-person, or the National Conference, contact Alex Rosen at arosen@naea.org.

Written by Julia Shenkar, NAEA's communications manager

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