I am glad you visited this page. So many people have no idea what an Enrolled Agent is. When people think of tax professionals, they think of “a CPA,” even if the professional is not a Certified Public Accountant.
So How do You Get to be an Enrolled Agent?
Aspiring Enrolled Agents (EA) must take the three-part Special Enrollment Examination. We are tested on personal taxation; business, trust & estate taxation; ethics & representation. The IRS then carries out a background check and, if satisfactory, issues the individual with a coveted Treasury Card.
Is That It?
Fortunately, no. The IRS requires continuing education of, broadly, twenty-four hours per year, including two hours of ethics. It is expected that information security courses will be mandated in the next few years. I support this. Failure to obtain the required continuing education usually results in loss of the EA designation.
As professional associations move towards reducing continuing education requirements the value to clients of being a member of such associations has diminished. My commitment to you is to complete at least forty hours of structured education each year. I will list here courses taken each year by December 31st. In addition, I read about tax, think about it and have even done a tax return in my sleep (I’ll tell you the story if you insist).
Fortunately? Do You Mean Unfortunately?
Fortunately, for sure. I strongly believe that anyone who takes a fee for preparing a tax return should be required to prove they are competent and to do sufficient continuing education to keep up with tax law changes. You can find out about the different types of tax preparer here. Check my credentials here and here. I am registered with the IRS at my home address so use ZIP 27610 to search.
So What Does an EA Do?
Tax. It is why the designation exists. Some EAs are also qualified as personal financial planners. Others, like me, offer accounting and payroll services to small businesses. All EAs can represent taxpayers before all levels of the IRS, just like CPAs and attorneys.
In short, an EA works partly with numbers, like an accountant, and partly with the tax law, like a tax lawyer. The only thing that an EA (or CPA) cannot do that a lawyer can is to represent taxpayers in the US Tax Court or US District Court and above.
If I have a Business, Don’t I Need a CPA?
Not necessarily. If you need someone to keep your accounting records in an orderly fashion, you can employ a properly-trained bookkeeper. I have been doing accounting longer than I have been doing tax, starting with a small business I ran with a friend in the 1980’s. CPAs, though, do have some skills that EAs generally don’t, especially when it comes to complex inventory accounting.
What Sort of Person Becomes an EA?
For many, it is a second career. Those EAs bring skills from other walks of life, which can be quite valuable. For some, including me, it is a long-term passion. I have been in taxation most of my working life – a total of thirty years on both sides of the Atlantic, providing services to small businesses and individuals for all of that time.
How do I Find Out if an Enrolled Agent is Right for Me?
Contact me. I will answer any questions you have. If I cannot service your needs, I am happy to refer you to someone who can. It is ethical, as well as common sense, not to do something for which one does not have the skills.