What does an Enrolled Agent do?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

An enrolled agent (EA) represents taxpayers in dealing with the United States Government. Enrolled agents are considered Federally Authorized Tax Practitioners, along with certain other tax professionals such as actuaries and attorneys. They are empowered to act on behalf of their clients to negotiate aspects of taxes such as payment agreements. Many taxpayers like working with an enrolled agent because the agent can assist with every stage of the tax preparation process.

Man with hands on his hips
Man with hands on his hips

The concept of the enrolled agent was developed in 1884 by Congress when it created a system for authorizing people to deal with the Treasury on behalf of citizens. This change in the law was made in response to the chaos of claims emerging from the Civil War. Congress realized that people without the ability to do so were representing citizens when they made claims and that the lack of regulation was harming citizens and making it difficult for the country to rebuild. When the Internal Revenue Service came into existence, the law Congress had already established applied there as well.

There are two ways in which someone can become an enrolled agent. The first option is to take an extensive test which is designed to demonstrate competency. The other route requires gaining work experience with the IRS. Usually five years of experience in positions which involve interpreting and applying the tax code are required. Once certified as an enrolled agent, it is also necessary to keep up with continuing education requirements; the tax code changes every year and it is vitally important that people who represent taxpayers stay acquainted with the changes.

When people need to prepare taxes, an enrolled agent can assist with tax preparation and filing. If there is a dispute or question, the enrolled agent can act as a representative. He or she can meet with IRS employees to discuss the situation, with the goal of helping the taxpayer resolve the situation as smoothly as possible. Enrolled agents can develop payment plans, demonstrate that challenged areas of a tax return are correct, and help with the audit process when a taxpayer is audited.

Working as an enrolled agent offers opportunities to work with many different types of people across the United States who may need assistance with their federal taxes. Employment prospects are usually good for certified enrolled agents because many people need assistance with their taxes or have difficulty with the tax code.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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