In late September 2007, the IRS issued final Circular 230 rules introducing the Enrolled Retirement Plan Agent, the first IRS designation permitting such agents limited practice before the IRS.
The ERPA program will mirror the Enrolled Agent program. To obtain the ERPA designation, individuals will be required to pass an examination covering retirement plan matters, apply for enrollment with the Service, and satisfy renewal and continuing education requirements. They will have to demonstrate competency and adhere to professional and ethical standards of conduct. ERPAs will be authorized to represent taxpayers under the Employee Plans Determination Letter program, the Employee Plans Compliance Resolution System, and the Employee Plans Master and Prototype and Volume Submitter programs. ERPAs also may represent taxpayers on matters related to Form 5500 filings, but not on actuarial issues.
An Enrolled Retirement Plan Agent (ERPA) is defined as follows:
Practice as an enrolled retirement plan agent is limited to representation with respect to issues involving the following programs:
** Employee Plans Determination Letter program;
** Employee Plans Compliance Resolution System (EPCRS); and
** Employee Plans Master and Prototype and Volume Submitter program.
** In addition, enrolled retirement plan agents are generally permitted to represent taxpayers with respect to IRS forms under the 5300 and 5500 series which are filed by retirement plans and plan sponsors, but not with respect to actuarial forms or schedules.
ERPAs who practice before the Internal Revenue Service are subject to the provisions of Circular 230 in the same manner as attorneys, certified public accountants, and enrolled agents.
Eligibility for enrollment as enrolled agent or enrolled retirement plan agent:
Enrollment as a retirement plan agent upon examination. The Director of the Office of Professional Responsibility may grant enrollment as an enrolled retirement plan agent to an applicant who demonstrates special competence in qualified retirement plan matters by written examination administered by, or administered under the oversight of, the Director of the Office of Professional Responsibility and who has not engaged in any conduct that would justify the censure, suspension, or disbarment of any practitioner under the provisions of this part.
Enrollment of former Internal Revenue Service employees. The Director of the Office of Professional Responsibility may grant enrollment as an enrolled agent or enrolled retirement plan agent to an applicant who, by virtue of past service and technical experience in the Internal Revenue Service, has qualified for such enrollment and who has not engaged in any conduct that would justify the censure, suspension, or disbarment of any practitioner under the provisions of this part, under the following numerous circumstances, explained on pages 24 and 25 of the Circular 230 regulations.
Enrollment procedures parallel those already in existence
An unenrolled return preparer who prepared the taxpayer’s return may continue to negotiate with the IRS during an examination or bind that taxpayer to a position during an exam. Payroll agents do not fall into this category; however, payroll agents may assist in the exchange of information with the IRS regarding the taxpayer’s return, if the taxpayer authorizes the payroll agent. However, the Form 5307 is not a “return” and its filing may not be made by an unenrolled preparer. The same thing holds true for submissions under EPCRS.
Former Government Employees, Their Partners and Their Associates
There is a one-year prohibition from former employees appearing before or communicating with the intent to influence an employee of the Treasury Department with respect to a rule in which they were involved in developing. The one year starts after Government employment is ended.
While the theoretical effective date throughout was generally September 26, 2007, the examination providers have yet to be selected. At the recent Benefits Conference of the South in Atlanta, Andy Zuckerman, IRS EP Director of Rulings, said that the first enrollments under the ERPA program are probably 18 to 24 months away.
The IRS is now in the process of soliciting bidders to develop and administer the test. They expect to have the program up and running by early 2009.