Enrolled Agents vs. CPAs: The Distinctive Roles and Qualifications
Author: Thomas Kiley| Date: October 30, 2023
Enrolled agents (EAs) are tax-focused professionals who have qualified to represent their clients before the Internal Revenue Service by either passing a three-part examination administered by the IRS or by working at the IRS over a period of time. Known as the Special Enrollment Exam (SEE), it is the highest credential awarded by the IRS. Certified public accountants (CPAs) are also qualified to represent clients before the IRS, but their licenses are managed at the state level and are subject to differing requirements when it comes to maintaining their IRS practice privileges
20-20 Services is an IRS-approved continuing education provider.
Both enrolled agents and certified public accountants are qualified tax professionals. As of 2023, there are more than 670,000 actively licensed CPAs and 65,000 EAs. While an EA may focus more on tax preparation and providing tax-related advice, the role of a CPA may also include other accounting practices such as auditing, bookkeeping, preparing financial statements, financial planning, or broader strategic business advisory services. How one achieves and maintains these credentials can differ from state to state. One of the most important distinctions is what qualifies as “continuing education” to maintain one’s status as an enrolled agent vs CPA.
Requirements for Continuing Enrolled Agent Training
To stay active as an enrolled agent, professionals must obtain:
- At least 72 hours of qualified tax continuing education over the three years of their renewal cycle, and
- A minimum of 16 hours every year, 2 of which must be on ethics.
These continuing education credits must come from an IRS-approved continuing education provider and they need to be focused on tax topics.
CPAs also have continuing education requirements. Their hourly totals can vary from state to state but typically fall in the range of 40 hours per year, or 120 hours over 3 years. In addition, the types of courses that qualify as continuing education for their credentials can be broader, as their practices may cover more than just taxes.
An enrolled agent can only obtain education credits from an IRS-approved continuing education provider. An EA working at an accounting firm or a tax firm alongside CPAs needs to pay special attention to their continuing education coursework, as a firm’s training schedule that’s targeted at helping CPA professionals remain compliant might not check all of the boxes that the IRS requires for enrolled agent training.
These possible discrepancies in qualifications for CPE among the different credentials make it especially important for enrolled agents to find a provider that is certified by the IRS and capable of delivering the kinds of courses that meet the firm’s more tax-focused requirements. 20-20 Services is pleased to announce that it has been approved by the IRS to provide continuing education that enrolled agents can count on to meet their ongoing training nes.
Extensive Enrolled Agent Training Resources: Hundreds of Hours
at Your Fingertips
20-20 Services currently offers five different tax-focused courses that provide 24 hours each of EA-qualified CPE from an IRS-certified provider, as well as a 16-hour boot camp training on LLCs and partnerships. We currently have a 24-hour virtual course specifically tailored to enrolled agents that will run from October 30th to November 3rd this year.
Enrolled Agent Credential for Overseas Offices: A Growing Trend in Global Taxation Expertise
In recent years, more tax professionals in overseas offices have been earning the enrolled agent credential. 20-20 Services provides the solutions necessary for offshore tax preparers to be able to easily and effectively maintain their EA credentials. Our track record of providing top-notch professional education to students in a variety of time zones, cultures, and countries has been unmatched among our competitors. Our trainers have the experience required to engage students virtually or in person with fast-paced information delivery, thoughtful responses to questions, and supportive reviews of case study analyses and test scores.
20-20 Services prides itself on creating customized training curriculums that take into account each firm’s existing culture and the individual personalities of the students that attend. To learn more about how we can help you or your firm support and grow the ranks of qualified enrolled agents serving your clients, please contact us. With our recent addition to the list of approved EA continuing education providers, we’re looking forward to making a positive difference for all those around the world who want to help their clients better understand their obligations under the U.S. tax code.