What’s the Difference Between an Enrolled Agent and a CPA?

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What's the Difference Between an Enrolled Agent and a CPA?

When it comes to managing your taxes and ensuring compliance with tax laws, you might find yourself choosing between hiring an Enrolled Agent (EA) or a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Both professionals can offer valuable services, but understanding the differences between them is crucial in making an informed decision. This article will explore what is the difference between an Enrolled agent and cpa and their qualifications, roles, and how they can assist you with your tax and financial needs

Understanding Enrolled Agents (EAs)

Qualifications and Certification

An Enrolled Agent is a taxpayer representative who has been engaged and qualified to practice before the Internal Revenue Service. The EA is currently the highest status that one can receive from the IRS mainly because it cannot be bought online. To become an EA, one must take and pass a three-part test known as the Special Enrollment Examination or SEE, which entails a test on individual and business taxes as well as the IRS practices and procedures of representing clients.

Otherwise, a person can become an EA after receiving at least five years of work experience at the IRS, where the specialist is engaged in the interpretation and application of the tax code. The third requirement that one should fulfill before becoming an EAs is the passing of the background check that the IRS conducts.

Scope of Practice

EAs are specialists in taxation as their primary line of practice. Their expertise includes:

Tax Preparation: EAs are competent in filing the personal and business tax returns.

Tax Planning: It aides clients to build plans on how to reduce potential taxes.

Representation: An EAs may practice before the IRS in such functions as the audit, collection and appeal processes for taxpayers.

Tax Resolution: They help the clients deal with their tax troubles, for example in modifying the agreed plan that involves installment agreements and offers in compromise.

Continuing Education

EAs are obligated to update all active credits for continuing education to 72 hours every 3 years in order to remain an EA. This enables them to be aware of changes in the existing and emerging tax laws and regulations to, and fro.

An analysis of Certified Public Accountants (CPAs)

Qualifications and Certification

A Certified Public Accountant is an account who is licensed by a state. To become a CPA, one must:To become a CPA, one must:

Education: Pass a bachelor’s degree in accounting together with other related fields and fulfill a set number of semester hours in accounting as well as business units.

Examination: Successfully complete the Uniform CPA Examination; this is a highly challenging test that is divided into four parts: auditing and attestation, business environment and concepts, financial accounting and reporting as well as regulation.

Experience: Gain some working experience while being supervised by a licensed CPA as is determined by the state board of accountancy.

Licensure: Obtain licensure from the state board of accountancy as a provision of the law to regulate profession in the United States of America.

Scope of Practice

CPAs are versatile than EAs given that the former has general knowledge of accounting than the later. Their services include:

Accounting: Thus, general accounting activities comprise of bookkeeping, financial statement preparation, and financial analysis that CPAs conduct.

Auditing: They carry out assessment and express opinions on the financial information for them to be credible.

Tax Services: CPAs compliance prepare tax returns and give tax planning advice, and/or perform as a power of attorney for individuals before the Internal Revenue Service.

Consulting: They offer corporate advisory services which include: finance, risk, and strategy.

Forensic Accounting: Fraud and other financial irregularities are probe by CPAs.

Continuing Education

One important thing that should enable a holder of a CPA license to practice is to meet continuing professional education (CPE) requirements. These specific details also depend on individual states but on average, the targets revolve around the number of CPE hours to be earned in a year or in a biennial basis.

Main Distinctions Between Enrolled Agents and CPAs


Another distinction that can be made between EAs and CPAs is that of specialization where EAs are more focused on technology. EAs specialize in taxation and as such, they practice and perform tax laws, calculate taxes, and represent clients in the IRS. While being similar to the career of CAs, the career of CPAs has a wider practice area that can comprise accounting, auditing, consulting, and taxation. Hence, CPAs are ideal to attend to clients with multiple needs when it comes to financial solutions.

Certification and Regulation

EAs are federally licensed and regulated by the IRS and this enables tham to practice in all the 50 states. This federal credential helps to ensure that EAs have minimal variations in the levels of knowledge about taxes. Specific CPAs are state licensed and regulated by the state boards of accountancy which explains why the standards and demands could be different in some states. Still, given that CPAs are mostly experienced professionals with stringent education and examination procedures, they presumably perform the task to the highest capabilities.

Representation Rights

Being officers of the court, both EAs and CPAs have the right to practice before the IRS. Nevertheless, EAs enjoy an unlimited practice right where by they are allowed to practice before any office of the IRS; they are allowed to represent any taxpayer in any matter of tax law. Representation rights are also generalized for CPAs but may be restricted by the state license. For instance, some states have limitations for CPAs who act as clients’ representatives through prohibiting them from handling specific tax cases without further requirements.

Continuing Education

EAs are required to renew their continuing education to retain their license and so does the CPAs. EAs have to complete 72 hours of continuing education every three years with emphasis on tax laws and IRS rules. The specific continuing education requirements for CPAs differ from state to state but they generally comprise of accounting, auditing, taxes and other exercises in the financial domain.

Professional Services

While both EAs and CPAs offer tax preparation and planning services, CPAs provide a wider array of professional services, including:While both EAs and CPAs offer tax preparation and planning services, CPAs provide a wider array of professional services, including:

Auditing and Assurance: The financial statements are audited by CPAs and they give a guarantee on the correctness of the statement.

Consulting and Advisory: CPAs provide consulting services, in business and finance.

Forensic Accounting: CPAs analyze cases of fraud and irregularities in systems.

Financial Planning: CPAs help with the issues concerning personal finance, financial planning for retirement, and estate planning issues.

The choice of an enrolled agent can be done in any of the following cases:

Tax-Specific Needs

So if your need is limited to preparing taxes, planning them or having some problems with the IRS an EA is the best option. The specialization in taxation also enables them to deal with any complicated matters relating to taxation as required.

IRS Representation

Therefore, EAs are more helpful when you require an advocate before the IRS like in cases of an audit or tax issue. This means that you and your business will be safeguarded by their legal experience in dealing with the IRS and comprehending the laws of taxation.

Consistent Expertise Across States

Since EAs are federally licensed they can practice in your state and thus can represent you wherever you are in United States. This is especially so if you have tax complications that deal with more than one state or if you frequently relocate.

When to Choose a CPA

Comprehensive Financial Services

However, if you require more than basic tax services, for instance, accounting, audit or any other business related advisory services, then it can be advisable that you engage the services of a CPA. Because of this, they are unique to handle different financial issues.

Business and Financial Planning

Thus, organizations or individuals in need of holistic services related to finance and management should consider hiring CPAs. Accounting and finance plus taxation knowledge enables them to advise and recommend on the best way to handle your money.

Assurance Services

When there is a need for confirmation of the credibility of accounts and other associated figures, getting a CPA’s help in auditing is crucial. Those skills to perform effective audits and give assurance could help improve the quality of your financial reports.


This is the reason why there is a need to decide between an Enrolled Agent and a CPA depending on the situation that needs to be solved. EA are basically tax practitioners with a specialization in working with taxes and are suitable for clients with specific tax requirements.


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