There are approximately twice as much returns prepared by offices that were not Block, Jackson Hewitt, and Liberty offices or franchises, not including CPAs and Enrolled agents.. In Oregon, where they have had the licensing going for many years, the number of "mom and pop" preparers exceed the number of the big three preparers."That is even in contrast to the fact that most of the new preparers passing are from the big three. So, obviously, they do their time at the Block's, Hewitt's, and Liberty's office, and then go out on their own to make substantially more money. Out of the 373,691 tax preparers in the US that need to pass the test by 12/31/13 (or give up their PTIN), only 53,519 have, so far, bothered to pass it. Block, just by itself, usually employs about 100,000 tax preparers. Let's say, to be gracious, that there are twice as many that will pass it from May to December of this year, than have already done so for the past 14 months. We are still at only 40% of the tax preparation community at 1/1/2014, than we were at the beginning of this year. Why would any company be spending their money to buy others this year? A qualified preparer will have standing room only 01/01/2014 without even advertising. Many of the preparers who are passing it, know this. Wouldn't this be the best time to start your own business, rather than getting 10 to 12 an hour? At just 50 returns, you would be far exceeding your potential income that you would receive by working for someone else. I see a decrease in unqualified preparers, but I don't see that Mom and Pop is a thing of the past. If the big three think this, they need to study what happened in Oregon. Yeah, they grandfathered in Oregon, but that was so long ago that it couldn't affect the numbers significantly. Most of the grandfathered are dead or retired by now. Strong buy once they figure out if they are going to have enough preparers for normal operations. Way too early to tell, but things are not looking up, at this point.
Mom and Pop tax services like you are referring to are far becoming extinct. The numbers you are citing are merely a drop in the bucket. There are tens of thousands of such companies across the country. The IRS exam is not that difficult. If it were, Block wouldn't be able to find enough preparers either.