Thursday, October 21, 2010


Webinars are rapidly becoming one of the most popular types of CPE. However, some people may be confused about the difference between a webinar, a webcast, and a web conference. The confusion stems from the fact that the terms are often used interchangeably, but, while they are similar, each has its own unique attributes.

Defining the Terms

The term webinar is short for Web-based seminar. A webinar can be a presentation, lecture, workshop or seminar that is transmitted over the Internet. According to Wikipedia, “it is typically a one-way communication from the speaker to the participants with limited audience interaction. A webinar can be collaborative, however, and include polling questions, and questions and answer sessions to allow full participation between the audience and the presenter.” The presenter usually speaks over a standard telephone line while describing information being presented onscreen. The audience can respond over their own telephones or by using the Internet.

A webcast, according to Wikipedia, “is a media file distributed over the Internet using streaming media technology to distribute a single content source to many simultaneous listeners or viewers. A webcast may be distributed live or on-demand. Essentially, webcasting is ‘broadcasting’ over the Internet. The term webcasting usually refers to non-interactive linear streams of events.”

A web conference is used to conduct live meetings, training, or presentations via the Internet. In a web conference, each participant sits at their own computer and is connected to other participants via the Internet. With a web conference the presenter controls what participants see on their computer monitors by sharing their desktop. The presenter can also pass control of the screen to another attendee during the presentation without giving up control of the presentation.

Comparing the Differences

Webinars vs. Webcasts – One big differences between webinars and webcasts is that webinars are always live presentations; webcasts can be delivered live or on demand. Another difference is that, webinars are interactive; whereas web casts are non-interactive.

Webinars vs. Web Conferences – The difference between webinars and web conferences is that webinars allow only limited audience participation; whereas web conferences allow substantial audience participation.


Webinars are rapidly becoming the learning delivery method of choice because they are economical, easy to produce, and convenient for the participant. You can attend a webinar at home in your pajamas or at the office on your lunch hour. There is no travel, meal, or hotel expenses associated with a webinar. You don’t have to leave home to participate and best of all you don’t have to take an exam in order to receive CPE credit for the presentation. With a webinar you can easily build learning and CPE into your busy schedule; all you need is a high-speed Internet connection and a telephone.

If you are interested in learning more about webinars and the topics that are currently available, check out the Webinar Learning Network on Checkpoint Learning at:

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Earlier this year the IRS announced their new tax preparer initiative (see my blog “Sign Me Up Boys” of May 6) that will require all paid tax preparers to obtain a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). Unenrolled tax preparers will also be required to pass a competency exam and take mandatory continuing professional education courses.

On September 28, the IRS launched the PTIN registration system component of its tax payer initiative program and provided further clarification of the unenrolled tax payer program. Here are some of the more significant items you should know.

New PTIN Requirements

1. All compensated tax return preparers or those assisting in preparing the return must obtain a PTIN.
2. All federal tax return preparers–even those who already have a PTIN–will need to register in the new system by December 31, 2010.
3. At least initially, non-signing preparers will not have to be disclosed on each return.
4. An employee of a business who prepares the business tax return as part of their job responsibilities will not be required to sign the return as a paid preparer or register and obtain a PTIN.
5. All paid tax return preparers are required to obtain a PTIN. This includes those who only prepare payroll or other non-1040 tax returns.
6. You must be at least 18 years of age to obtain a PTIN.
7. Individuals who prepare tax returns as a VITA volunteer are not required to have a PTIN.

Competency Testing

1. Those who pass the competency test will be called “registered tax return preparers.”
2. The test will only be available in English, initially.
3. The test will be open book. Certain resources will be permitted and provided by the testing center.
4. The passing percentage for the test still hasn’t been determined. You may take the test an unlimited number of times, but the fee will apply each time you take the course.
5. If you don’t pass the test by December 31, 2013, your PTIN will be deactivated and you can no longer prepare tax returns for compensation.
6. Testing is expected to begin by midyear 2011.
7. To take the test, you must physically go to the testing site.

Other Credentials

1. Accredited Council of Accountancy for Taxation (ACAT) credential holders must obtain a PTIN and pass the competency exam unless they are a CPA, attorney or enrolled agent.
2. Registered or Licensed Public Accountants (LPAs) that have the same rights and privileges as a certified public accountant will not be required to pass the competency exam or satisfy the CPE requirements. However, if they do not have the same rights and privileges as a certified public accountant, they will be required to pass the competency exam and satisfy the CPE requirements. (Check with your state regulator.)

For information on training to prepare you to pass the unenrolled tax preparers exam, go to the following website:

Is creating this fourth class of individuals who are approved to prepare federal tax returns good for taxpayers or the accounting profession? What do you think?