Enrolled Agents (EAs) are federally-licensed tax practitioners who may represent taxpayers before the IRS when it comes to collections, audits and appeals. As authorized by the Department of Treasury’s Circular 230 regulations, EAs are authorized to advise, represent, and prepare tax returns for individuals, partnerships, corporations, estates, trusts, and any entities with tax-reporting requirements. Enrolled agents are the only federally-licensed tax practitioners who specialize in taxation and have unlimited rights to represent taxpayers before the IRS.
PRIVILEGE AND THE ENROLLED AGENT
The IRS Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998 provides federally-authorized practitioners with a limited client privilege. This privilege allows confidentiality between the taxpayer and the enrolled agent under certain conditions. The privilege applies to situations in which the taxpayer is being represented in cases involving audits and collection matters. It is not applicable to the preparation and filing of a tax return. This privilege does not apply to state tax matters, although a number of states have an accountant-client privilege.
In addition to the stringent testing and application process, the IRS requires enrolled agents to complete 72 hours of continuing education every three years in order to maintain their active enrolled agent license and practice rights. Because of the expertise necessary to become an enrolled agent and the requirements to maintain the license, there are only about 53,700 practicing enrolled agents.
THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN ENROLLED AGENTS AND OTHER TAX PROFESSIONALS
Only enrolled agents are required to demonstrate to the IRS their competence in all areas of taxation, representation and ethics before they are awarded unlimited representation rights to represent taxpayers before IRS. Unlike attorneys and CPAs, who are state-licensed and who may or may not choose to specialize in taxes, all enrolled agents specialize in taxation.
Enrolled agents are required to abide by the provisions of the Department of Treasury’s Circular 230, which provides the regulations governing the practice of enrolled agents before the IRS. NAEA members are also bound by a Code of Ethics and Rules of Professional Conduct of the Association.
- Contributed by Peggy Beasterfeld, Peggy’s Tax & Accounting Service