Many CPA and tax offices employ Enrolled Agents but few outside of the tax industry understand what an EA is.
An Enrolled Agent is the only federally licensed tax professionals who are able to practice before the IRS in all matters. Attorneys and CPA’s are licensed by their states. EA’s can also represent clients before the US Tax Court after passing a procedural examination. The EA program is promulgated by the IRS. Although many EA’s work at the IRS, most do not. According to the National Association of Enrolled Agents there are approximately 48,000 practicing EA’s in the United States.
The position of Enrolled Agent was created after the Civil War as a response to rampant fraud involving war claims; mostly for horses lost in the war. It seems that claims for lost horses were substantially more than the entire US population of horses, alive or dead. Once citizens found out they could file a claim for a lost horse they sought out someone who could help them. Offices of make-shift claims preparers became common; not unlike crooked tax preparers today who pad tax returns with false claims.
The catchier phrase for the legislation is the “Horse Act of 1884;” signed into law by President Chester Arthur. After the proper training an agent could now be enrolled to be trusted to at least complete tax claims accurately.
The Revenue Act of 1913 greatly expanded the scope of the Enrolled Agent from that of clerk to include the authority to make claims for monetary relief for citizens who were having tax problems. As the tax codes grew and became more complex the expertise and responsibilities of the Enrolled Agent grew to keep pace. In many tax-related situations today’s EA’s exhibit skills on par with CPA’s and Attorneys.