Could Enrolled Agents Take the Place of CPAs?

The accounting profession is certainly aware of the Enrolled Agent (EA), but is it likely that the EA could some day take the place of the CPA?

Not likely, mostly because EAs specialize in only tax. Still, it's certainly worth a look. While there are only 35,000 EAs compared to an estimated half-million CPAs and public accountants, EAs actually report to the government rather than a state board of accountancy. Given the reporting structure and the fact that EAs specialize in preparing tax returns, they may defend their clients before the Internal Revenue Service.

EAs also charge lower fees, and may take fewer hours of continuing education (72 hours every three years compared to 120 hours).

Still, it's difficult to become an EA. EAs must either pass a two-day exam administered by the IRS, or work for the IRS for five years. And, only 30 percent of those taking the test actually pass.

David Costello, president of the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) and a CPA himself, says he considers 'EAs very beneficial. I wouldn't have a problem taking my tax return to an enrolled agent if I didn't do it myself.'

If the differences between a CPA and EA were delivered to the American public, would there be a major shift in alliances? It's certainly something to think about!