(From the National Association of Enrolled Agents)
An Enrolled Agent (EA) is an individual who has demonstrated technical competence in the field of taxation. Enrolled Agents, or EAs, can represent taxpayers before all administrative levels of the Internal Revenue Service.
"Enrolled" 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 EAs, attorneys and CPAs may represent taxpayers before the IRS. 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 Treasury Department.
EAs advise, represent and prepare tax returns for individuals, partnerships, corporations, estates, trusts and any entities with tax-reporting requirements. EAs prepare millions of tax returns each year. EAs' expertise in the continually changing field of tax law enables them to effectively represent taxpayers audited by the IRS.
Only Enrolled Agents are required to demonstrate to the Internal Revenue Service their competence in matters of taxation before they may represent a taxpayer before the IRS. Unlike attorneys and CPAs, who may or may not choose to specialize in taxes, all EAs specialize in taxation. EAs are the only taxpayer representatives who receive their right to practice from the United States government. (CPAs and attorneys are licensed by the states.)
The EA designation is earned in one of two ways: (1) an individual must pass a difficult two-day examination administered by the IRS which covers taxation of individuals, corporations, partnerships, estates and trusts, procedure and ethics. Next, successful candidates are subjected to a rigorous background check conducted by the Internal Revenue Service; or (2) an individual may become an EA based on employment at the Internal Revenue Service for a minimum if five years in a job where he/she regularly applied and interpreted the provisions of the Internal Revenue Code and regulations.
In addition to the stringent testing and application process, EAs are required to complete 72 hours of continuing professional education, reported every three years, to maintain their status. Because of the difficulty in becoming an Enrolled Agent and keeping up with the required credentials, there are fewer than 35,000 active EAs in the United States.
EAs are required to abide by the provisions of US Treasury Department Circular 230. EAs found to be in violation of the provisions contained in Circular 230 may be suspended or disbarred.
NAEA is the organization of and for Enrolled Agents. The principal concern of the Association and its members is honest, intelligent and ethical representation of the financial position of taxpayers before governmental agencies. Members of NAEA are required to complete a minimum of 30 hours of continuing professional education each year in the interpretation, application and administration of federal and state tax laws in order to maintain membership in the organization. This requirement surpasses the IRS' required minimum of 16 hours per year.