Enrolled Agents Hold The Most Expansive Tax Return Preparer Credentials According To The IRS
There are many differing levels of skills, education and expertise that you can choose from when selecting a tax return preparer or tax professional. All tax return preparers must have an IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN), but that is where the similarities end. It is important to note that the PTIN is not a tax return preparer credential – rather, all preparers (regardless of credential or lack of one) are legally required to have a PTIN to prepare a tax return for compensation. Tax Samaritan recommends that all taxpayers should make certain that their preparer has one and that they enters it on all returns filed with the IRS.
An important difference among tax return preparer credentials is in the area of “representation rights” and “specialization”. Only three credentials afford the taxpayer with unlimited representation rights: Enrolled Agents (EAs), Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) and attorneys. But only Enrolled Agents must demonstrate on an initial and ongoing basis extensive knowledge and expertise exclusively in the realm of income taxes. EAs have a national reputation for quality, reliability and ability specifically in the area of tax preparation and tax representation that is exclusive to all the different types of tax return preparer credentials.
As the IRS states “enrolled agents hold the most expansive license IRS grants and must pass a suitability check, as well as a three-part Special Enrollment Examination, a comprehensive exam that covers individual tax, business tax and representation issues. They complete 72 hours of continuing education every 3 years”. Enrolled Agents are the “blue chip” for tax return preparer credentials.
Preparers that are not an EA, CPA or attorney are known as “unenrolled preparers” and have limited practice rights and may only represent clients whose returns they prepared and signed and only at the initial audit level. In addition, they are not held to any minimum required level of skill, education or expertise. In other words, they hold no tax return preparer credentials.
Please see the IRS article on Understanding Tax Return Preparer Credentials to learn more about the different credentials including the above quote.
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Tax Samaritan is a team of Enrolled Agents with over 25 years of experience focusing on US tax preparation and representation. We maintain this tax blog where all articles are written by Enrolled Agents. Our main objective is to educate US taxpayers on their tax responsibilities and the selection of a tax professional. Our articles are also designed to help taxpayers looking to self prepare, providing specific tips and pitfalls to avoid.
When looking for a tax professional, choose carefully. We recommend that you hire a credentialed tax professional such as Tax Samaritan that is an Enrolled Agent (America’s Tax Experts). If you are a US taxpayer overseas, we further recommend that you seek a professional who is experienced in expat tax preparation, like Tax Samaritan (most tax professionals have limited to no experience with the unique tax issues of expat taxpayers).
Randall Brody is an enrolled agent, licensed by the US Department of the Treasury to represent taxpayers before the IRS for audits, collections and appeals. To attain the enrolled agent designation, candidates must demonstrate expertise in taxation, fulfill continuing education credits and adhere to a stringent code of ethics.
Every effort has been taken to provide the most accurate and honest analysis of the tax information provided in this blog. Please use your discretion before making any decisions based on the information provided. This blog is not intended to be a substitute for seeking professional tax advice based on your individual needs.