Enrolled Agents: who are they?

published October, 2007

This last month, I was asked who Enrolled Agents are, and since I’m one of them, I thought I should respond in general, since it might not be clear to everyone.

An Enrolled Agent (EA) is an individual who has demonstrated technical competence in the field of taxation both by exam (I passed in 1999) and through continuing education. I’m presenting a class on November 3rd (see below) for Enrolled Agents and other tax preparers—I get credit for putting the seminar on, and they get credit for participating.

Enrolled Agents are individuals licensed by the federal government. They can represent taxpayers before all administrative levels of the Internal Revenue Service, but we can’t represent you in tax court (that requires an additional certification, and things hardly ever get that far). 

You’ve heard the adage “a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client”? This typically applies to tax audits as well. An Enrolled Agent isn’t personally involved and can often provide better representation than you can yourself under the stress of an audit.

Enrolled Agents specialize in taxation. Throughout the year they advise, represent, and prepare returns for individuals, partnerships, corporations, estates, trusts, and any entities with tax-reporting requirements. I personally refer out estates and trusts since I specialize in small business tax, and I have yet to prepare a city’s tax return, even though some of them are incorporated.

What’s the difference between Enrolled Agents and CPA’s? Only Enrolled Agents are required to demonstrate competence in matters of taxation before they may represent a taxpayer. They are the only representatives for taxpayers who receive that right from the U. S. government. Plus, we smell nice. CPA’s please see the disclaimer at the bottom of this newsletter. An analogy I like is: if you need surgery you want a surgeon—you wouldn’t want an internist. Enrolled Agents are specialists in tax, although some of us do other things as well.

My work includes advising businesses on things like entity selection, selling your business, and QuickBooks setup, plus the educational seminars and products we offer in addition to the normal tax preparation for small businesses and their owners.