I have been preparing taxes professionally since 1994. I started by working for H&R Block and advancing through their tax certification classes as well as my own dedication to studying, and attained the highest title branded for their tax preparers: Master Tax Advisor.
Along the way, I worked in the offseason office for a number of years, gaining valuable experience with what I call the 'nitty and gritty': responding to IRS/state inquiries, amending and preparing current/past year returns, answering clients' questions, dealing with specific tax problems and finding proper ways to deal with them. Then for a number of years, I also taught the H&R Block basic tax course to potential new employees and upper level courses to current employees, and during the tax season was an office manager, which built up my experience resolving client concerns as well as the administrative responsibilities of running an office, (or having ideas how I would run a tax office!)
I passed the IRS Special Enrollment Examination in 2001 to become an Enrolled Agent. Back then, the exam was given in four parts each about 3 hours on two consecutive days, closed book, offered once a year. If you didn't pass or reach a retaining score in two attempts, you had to start all over again, so better to pass in the first attempt which I did. By demonstrating a mastery of tax knowledge and ethical requirements, I am licensed to represent taxpayers who are audited, or need help dealing with the IRS/state with all sorts of appeals, collections, and tax issues.
While part of the enrollment exam dealt with corporations and partnerships, I decided not to proactively take on those types of returns in my tax practice, simply because I concentrate on pretty much everything else concerning individuals. I would say my specialities are taxpayers filing multiple state returns, taxpayers living overseas, and nonresident visaholders. Taxpayers who itemize (eg, homeowners), self-employed business owners, and taxpayers with rental income are such a mainstay of my business, I'm not sure I'd call them 'specialities,' since any experienced tax pro should be very capable of preparing those. I've dealt with almost every situation that occurs, but there's always more to learn if encountering unique circumstances. That's why continuing education is just that, continuing.
One further note, often clients think they have to hire a CPA or they ask me if I am. No, I am not from an accounting background. I'm not sure why you would need to know about credits and debits, partners' basis, charts of accounts, etc., to know the rules for dependent care benefits, limitation on mortgage interest, foreign income exclusion, IRA contributions and deductibility, and so on. There are only three categories of professionals (enrolled agents, CPAs and lawyers), who are authorized to fully represent you before the IRS, and as for tax preparation you would need to check if a CPA handles individual tax returns, similar to whether a lawyer is a civil rights lawyer, divorce lawyer, or a tax lawyer. It depends on the individual. Being an enrolled agent means I concentrate in tax preparation and understand the tax laws.
I have some long-distance clients both within the US and abroad, so naturally I don't expect them to visit my office just to get their taxes done! I use a secure Dropbox portal to exchange documents and with the efiling process, tax preparation is smoothly accomplished. My preference is to meet clients, especially the first time, in person but that may not always be convenient, so I've created a tax organizer to help in situations when we need to work remotely; this will give me the details to make sure your return is properly prepared.
Finally, my philosophy is to explain the tax return to you in terms you can understand, not throwing out references to code sections or assuming you can't understand and just telling you the final result. As long as you feel confident that the return is prepared accurately and gives you the lowest proper tax liability, that's my goal.