An EA is an individual who has demonstrated technical competence in the field of taxation and 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 in a typical year. EAs' expertise in the continually changing field of tax law enables them to effectively represent taxpayers audited by the IRS.
Only EAs 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 matters of taxation. EAs are also 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:
In addition to the stringent testing and application process, EAs are required to complete 72 hours of CPE, reported every three years, to maintain their status. Because of the difficulty in becoming an EA and keeping up the required credentials, there are fewer than 33,000 EAs in the United States.
EAs are required to abide by the Standards of Ethical Conduct as published in U.S. 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 EAs. 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.