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An Enrolled Agent (EA) is a person who has demonstrated competence in the field of taxation and can represent taxpayers before all administrative levels of the Internal Revenue Service.
"Enrolled" means licensed by the federal government. "Agent" means authorized to appear in place of the taxpayer at the Internal Revenue Service. 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.
EA's advise clients and prepare tax returns for individuals, partnerships, corporations, estates, trusts and any entities with tax-reporting requirements. Their expertise in the continually changing tax law field enables them to effectively represent taxpayers audited by the IRS.
Unlike attorneys and CPA's, who may or may not choose to specialize in taxation, all EA's specialize in tax matters. EA's are also the only taxpayer representatives who receive their right to practice from the United States government; CPA's and Attorneys are licensed by the States.
Because Enrolled Agents come under the jurisdiction of the Federal Government, not the States, they can practice anywhere in the United States. Why would this be important? Because if an Enrolled Agent loses his or her license, there is nowhere to go. It's over. In the case of Attorneys or CPA's, they can always go to other States.
Only EA's are required to demonstrate to the Internal Revenue Service their competence in tax matters before they may represent a taxpayer before the IRS.
One way to earn the EA designation is for an applicant to pass a challenging two-day examination administered by the IRS, which covers all aspects of taxation. Successful candidates are then subjected to a background check conducted by the IRS.
After being initially licensed, EA's are required to complete at least 72 credit hours of specialized tax study, reported every three years, to maintain their status.