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What is an Enrolled Agent (EA)?

We are regularly asked, “What is an Enrolled Agent (EA)?”

Although there are over 50,000 Enrolled Agents (EA’s) nationwide,  many folks are not familiar with the term so I thought I’d give a brief review.

I’ll start out with a direct quote from the IRS website, “Enrolled agent status is the highest credential the IRS awards.”

OK, that’s sounds real good but what does an EA actually do?

An EA can prepare your taxes, but so can CPA’s and a half million others at the national chains and the local mom and pop operations.  But that where the similarity stops.

I have prepared a chart to compare the differences.  IMPORTANT:  There are excellent tax preparers who are unlicensed, or who are CPA’s or who are EA’s.  There are also some very bad tax preparers who are unlicensed, or who are CPA’s or who are EA’s.  One of the best tax preparers I know has been preparing taxes for over 30 years but is unlicensed.

The point here is not to make any of the three groups look bad, but to point out the differences.







(Note: this includes hundreds of thousands of preparers including most at the national and regional tax preparation chains, as well as at local mom & pop tax preparers)

Testing – total time alloted 3 Exams totaling 10.5 hours Varies by state NONE
Testing – time related to taxes 100% of exam Usually, 25% of exam NONE
How many test questions? 300 Varies by state NONE
Continuing Education required – average hours per year 24 Varies by state NONE – Although an employer may require some continuing education
Continuing Education required – hours per year if a member of NAEA 30 Not Applicable Not Applicable
Continuing Education required – hours per year for tax preparers at Heritage Income Tax. 40 Not Applicable Not Applicable
Can represent clients before the IRS if they prepared the original return YES YES YES
Can attend an office audit on behalf of a client without the client being present YES YES NO
Can represent clients other than those they prepared themselves before the IRS. YES YES NO
Can represent clients at all levels of the IRS. YES YES NO
Can represent clients for lien releases, garnishment releases, payment arrangements, debt collection, offers in compromize, and all dealings before the IRS YES YES NO
Credential granted by: IRS – with authority to practice nationwide State – with authority to practice in the state where they are licensed NO Credential


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Heritage Income Tax Service, Inc. | 4303 Portsmouth Blvd., Portsmouth, VA 23701
(757) 488-7232 | Fax (877) 488-7232

Heritage Income Tax offers a full range of tax preparation services. Located in Portsmouth, Virginia, we serve the entire Hampton Roads area including the cities of Chesapeake, Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Suffolk, Newport News and Hampton.