When you get one of those pesky IRS notices in the mail, your first response may be to panic. One quick call to your tax preparer, though, and you’ll likely get the peace of mind you need. A large part of that peace of mind comes from knowing you’re in good hands with your tax preparer, particularly if you see either CPA or EA after that professional’s name.
But while you may be familiar with Certified Professional Accountant, EA may be new to you. An IRS Enrolled Agent is licensed by the federal government to represent taxpayers in front of the IRS. A CPA, on the other hand, is licensed at the state level. Both types of professionals can stand in front of the IRS on a taxpayer’s behalf, but the requirements and type of licensing set them apart.
Requirements for EAs vs. CPAs
To become licensed as a CPA, an accountant gets a college education, then passes the four-part Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination, administered by the state. Although there are plenty of CPAs who practice tax law, landing that credential doesn’t necessarily mean they will. CPAs often focus on business auditing and bookkeeping.
An IRS Enrolled Agent passes a three-part test called the Special Enrollment Examination, which focuses on tax laws and issues. An EA doesn’t necessarily have an accounting background and may simply focus on tax preparation. Some IRS EAs will also develop a legal specialty, which comes in handy when navigating complicated tax laws.
Tax Problems and Representation
If you’re ever subjected to an audit, it’s important to make sure you have either a CPA or EA to represent you. In many cases, your representative will merely need to help you gather the documentation necessary to answer the IRS’s questions. However, if it comes down to an audit, either a CPA or EA will have the expertise necessary to stand in front of the IRS.
One benefit of working with an EA, though, is that your professional can represent you in a court of law in any state. This is because this tax person is licensed by the federal government. A tax attorney, on the other hand, is licensed only to practice law in that state. A CPA is a great help when it comes to accounting and bookkeeping, but an EA is better once a person’s taxes get to the auditing phase.
When it comes to filing your taxes, it’s important to know you’re working with the right person. While a CPA is great for bookkeeping and business auditing, the best person to represent you if you find yourself in an auditing situation is an enrolled agent, at which point the tax specialty comes in handy.
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Stephen Wallick started Stephen Wallick & Associates to provide tax and accounting services to Contractors, Real Estate Investors, and Realtors. Steve specializes in IRS Tax Resolution services and works with his clients to resolve cases under scrutiny by the IRS. As a tax professional and enrolled agent, Steve can save you money with IRS loopholes each year. With over 20 years going up against “The Man”, Steve is uniquely qualified to resolve even the toughest IRS cases.