An enrolled agent (EA) is a Treasury-licensed individual who has passed: 1) the IRS-administered, three-part Special Enrollment Examination (SEE) and 2) a suitability check (the IRS prefers EAs pay their taxes in a timely manner :).
The examination is split into three parts: individual taxation, business taxation and practice before the IRS. Once an individual passes all three sections, they are deemed to have a thorough understanding of tax law, which allows them to practice before the IRS like a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or attorney.
There are many different types of people who can prepare your tax return (whether or not they hold a tax-related designation), but only a handful of designations can represent you before the IRS if you were to be audited.
Of the six total designations that can represent a taxpayer, attorneys, CPAs and EAs have no limitations on practice before the IRS (as long as they are not otherwise under suspension or disbarred). Enrolled agents, like attorneys and CPAs, can represent any taxpayer for any tax year even if they did not prepare the return in question.
So, maybe you’ve decided you’d rather not continue to prepare your own taxes, but you’re also not sure you need the firepower of a CPA, consider reaching out to your friendly, neighborhood enrolled agent!