What does the Term Enrolled Agent mean?
“Enrolled” simply means EAs are licensed by the federal government. “Agent” means EAs are authorized to appear in place of the taxpayer at the Internal Revenue Service. Only Enrolled Agents, attorneys and CPAs may do so.
Enrollment dates back to 1844, when Congress acted to regulate persons who represented citizens in their dealings with the Treasury Department, after questionable claims had been presented for Civil War losses.
What exactly do Enrolled Agents do?
Unlike attorneys or CPAs, Enrolled Agents specialize in taxation. Throughout the year, they advise, represent and prepare tax returns for individuals, partnerships, corporations, estates, trusts and any entities with tax-reporting requirements. In California, for example, the more than 3,500 Members of the California Society of Enrolled Agents prepare about 2,000,000 tax returns each year. Enrolled Agents’ expertise in the constantly changing field of tax law enables them to be effective representatives when taxpayers are audited by the IRS.
How do Enrolled Agents differ from other tax experts?
EAs are the only practitioners who have demonstrated competence specifically in matters of taxation. Also, they are the only representatives for taxpayers who receive that right from the U.S. Government. (CPAs and attorneys are licensed by the states.)
An individual may become an Enrolled Agent in one of two ways: The primary way is to pass a difficult, three part examination given year round by the IRS. The tests covers taxation of individuals, corporations, partnerships, estates and trusts, as well as procedure and ethics. Less than one-half of individuals taking the examination have passed, allowing them to apply for enrollment and subject themselves to a background investigation.
The other way is to have been an employee of the Internal Revenue Service for five years, regularly applying and interpreting the provisions of the Internal Revenue Code and regulations.
Are there other requirements?
In addition to the stringent testing and application process, Enrolled Agents are required to earn 72 hours of continuing professional education, reported every three years, to maintain their status. Because of the difficulty in becoming enrolled and maintaining that enrollment, there are fewer than 35,000 Enrolled Agents in the United States.