As a professional tax preparer, it’s important for you to understand the various credentials and qualifications that are widely used throughout the tax preparation industry.
Attorneys are licensed by state courts, the District of Columbia or their designees, such as the state bar. Generally, they have earned a degree in law and passed a bar exam. Attorneys generally have on-going continuing education requirements and professional character standards. Attorneys may offer a range of services; some attorneys specialize in tax preparation and planning.
Attorneys may represent any taxpayer regarding any tax matter before any IRS office, also known as unlimited practice rights.
Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
Certified public accountants (CPAs) are licensed by state boards of accountancy, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories, and have passed the Uniform CPA Examination. They have completed a study in accounting at a college or university and also met experience and good character requirements established by their respective boards of accountancy. In addition, CPAs must comply with ethical requirements and complete specified levels of continuing education to maintain an active CPA license. CPAs may offer a range of services; some CPAs specialize in tax preparation and planning.
CPAs may represent any taxpayer regarding any tax matter before any IRS office, also known as unlimited practice rights.
Enrolled Agent (EA)
Enrolled agents (EAs) are licensed by the IRS. They are subject to a suitability check and must pass a three-part Special Enrollment Examination, which is a comprehensive exam that requires them to demonstrate proficiency in federal tax planning, individual and business tax return preparation, and representation. They must complete 72 hours of continuing education every 3 years.
EAs may generally represent any taxpayer regarding any tax matter before any IRS office, also known as unlimited practice rights.
See also: Do You Need a PTIN, an EFIN or Both?
Annual Filing Season Program Participants
This voluntary program recognizes the efforts of return preparers who are generally not attorneys, CPAs or EAs. It was designed to encourage education & filing season readiness. The IRS issues an Annual Filing Season Program Record of Completion to return preparers who obtain a certain number of continuing education hours in preparation for a specific tax year.
Beginning with returns filed after Dec. 31, 2015, only Annual Filing Season Program participants have limited practice rights.
–via the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)—