You’ve heard of CPA’s, and maybe even Tax Attorneys, but what is an Enrolled Agent (EA)? Unlike CPAs or Tax Attorneys, who are licensed by individual states, EAs are licensed by the U.S. Department of the Treasury and may represent taxpayers who are residents of any state. Unlike CPAs, who are tested on a variety of accounting matters, the three EA exams encompass individual and business tax law, tax planning and preparation, and tax representation. They must also complete a minimum of 72 hours of continuing education every three years. Because of the expertise necessary to pass the exams, and the requirements necessary to maintain the license, there are currently less than 55,000 practicing EAs nationwide.

CPAs, Tax Attorneys, and EAs are licensed professionals who have unlimited rights to represent taxpayers before the IRS on all matters including audits, payment or collection issues, and appeals. Preparers without any of these credentials have limited rights and may only represent those whose returns they prepared, and only before customer service agents, revenue agents, the Taxpayer Advocate Service, and similar IRS employees. They cannot represent clients regarding appeals or collection issues, even if they prepared the taxpayer’s returns.

Fun Fact: In 1884 Congress acted to regulate persons representing citizens before the U.S. Treasury Department, creating the first EAs. CPAs did not become a profession until authorized by the State of New York in 1896.