Friend: Dude, can you hook me up with the last Madden football video game?
America's Tax Expert: No
Friend: What do you mean “no?” I thought you worked the video game maker EA, Electronic Arts?
America's Tax Expert: You don’t listen to me; I said I’m an EA, Enrolled Agent!
Friend: Whoa I’m sorry; I thought all you penny-counters were CPAs!
Man, sometimes its tough being an Enrolled Agent. We’re America’s best kept secret in the world of taxation. I’m writing to unlock the mystery behind Enrolled Agents. The Enrolled Agent profession dates back to 1884 when after questionable claims had been presented for Civil War losses, Congress acted to regulate persons who represented citizens in their dealings with the US Treasury Department. An Enrolled Agent is a federally-authorized tax practitioner who has technical expertise in the field of taxation and who is empowered by the US Department of the Treasury to represent taxpayers before all administrative levels of the Internal Revenue Service aka “Uncle Sam” for audits, collections, and appeals. “Enrolled” means to be licensed to practice by the federal government, and “Agent” means authorized to appear in the place of the taxpayer at the IRS. Only Enrolled Agents, attorneys, and CPAs may represent taxpayers before the IRS.
You may be thinking “why should I trust an EA?” Well, let’s talk about what it takes to become an EA. It’s easy, all you have to do is know the secret password and you’re in. Okay, the previous sentence was to check if you’re still awake. An EA license can only be earned in one of two ways, by passing a comprehensive examination which covers all aspects of the tax code, or having worked at the IRS for five years in a position which regularly interpreted and applied the tax code and its regulations. Personally speaking, I took the exam which consists of three separate parts. Each part contained about 100 multiple choice questions. In addition, passing is not enough to qualify for the license. All candidates are subjected to a rigorous background check conducted by the IRS.
I hope that I shed a little light on the wonderful and exciting world of Enrolled Agents. There are only about 46,000 practicing Enrolled Agents. The IRS requires Enrolled Agents to complete 72 hours of continuing professional education, reported every three years to maintain the license. When searching for a tax professional, just don’t limit your choices by who is a CPA. Not all CPAs specialize in tax rules and regulations. Enrolled Agents can advise, represent, and prepare tax returns for individuals, partnerships, corporations, estates, trusts and any entity with tax-reporting requirements. I know EA is not a sexier title than the well-known and recognized CPA title. However, we deserve the right to be respected and sort after for our expertise in taxation.