When an individual or business needs a tax professional, the credential most typically sought out is the certified public accountant (CPA). However, there is another, albeit less well-known designation, that also represents tax practitioner professionals authorized by the US Department of the Treasury: Enrolled Agent (EA).
According to the IRS website, “Enrolled agent status is the highest credential the IRS awards.” Enrolled Agents are federally-authorized tax practitioners who can prepare tax returns and represent taxpayers before the IRS for all tax issues including audits, collections, and appeals. Unlike the state-by-state licensing of certified public accountants (CPAs), all fifty states recognize the EA credentials. In addition, per the IRS, “Enrolled agents, like attorneys and certified public accountants (CPAs), have unlimited practice rights. This means they are unrestricted as to which taxpayers they can represent, what types of tax matters they can handle, and which IRS offices they can represent clients before.”
Strict EA requirements to obtain and maintain the credential are designed to hold all Enrolled Agents to a high professional standard. Those seeking the EA credential can take one of two routes: 1) employment at the IRS for five consecutive years in a professional tax position, or 2) Successful completion of all three parts of the Special Enrollment Examinations, which include Individual Tax, Business Tax, and Ethics. Applicants must also pass a background check, which includes a review of the applicant’s personal and business tax compliance. To maintain active status, Enrolled Agents must also complete seventy-two hours of continuing professional education (CPE) every three years, including two hours of ethics each year.
In conclusion, an Enrolled Agent is a tax specialist licensed by the IRS. EAs advise and represent individuals, businesses, trusts, or any other entities required to file tax returns.