What is the difference between a CPA (Certified Public Accountant) and an EA (Enrolled Agent)?

Category: Tax Professional CredentialsWhat is the difference between a CPA (Certified Public Accountant) and an EA (Enrolled Agent)?
The Income Tax School asked 10 years ago
1 Answers
ITS Staff answered 10 years ago
Many people think that only a CPA is qualified to be a competent tax professional which is far from reality, and is a false perception of the general public. CPAs, by definition, are accountants and tax is law, not accounting. While many CPAs have also become qualified as tax preparers, many have not. Accounting schools typically do not teach individual and small business tax preparation for the general taxpaying public. The CPA exam consists of four parts including only one part on tax and the focus of the tax exam section is on tax theory and corporate taxation. Most CPAs who are qualified tax preparers learned tax preparation after becoming a CPA. The most significant credential in the tax preparation industry is the Enrolled Agent (EA), who is an individual who has passed an intensive IRS exam (comparable in difficulty to the CPA exam) that consists of three sections, all on income tax, including corporate tax. EAs are licensed by the IRS to represent taxpayers before the IRS. There are also many highly qualified tax professionals who are not CPAs or EAs, including graduates of the 180-hour Chartered Tax Professional (CTP) certificate program provided by The Income Tax School.