EAs are Partly to Blame for Our Obscurity

Enrolled agents toil in obscurity.

I’ve written about this before, such as this article where I ponder why EAs are such a crabby lot.

And this article, where I equate CPAs to the United States and EAs to Liechtenstein.

EAs spread around plenty of blame for our obscurity.

We blame our designation — the fact that the word “agent” is not well-received by the public.

We blame other people’s designations — the fact that RTRPs — if the courts allow the designation to exist — have the words “tax return preparer” in their name, which is, by default, better for public perception than “agent.”

We blame CPAs for thinking they are the be-all and end-all of taxes.

We blame the National Association of Enrolled Agents for not being proactive in marketing the EA designation.

We blame the IRS for creating the RTRP designation.

We blame the IRS for not requiring CPAs or attorneys to pass the RTRP exam.

We blame the IRS for not requiring CPAs or attorneys to show evidence of tax continuing education.

Some of these are valid points. I have used a few of these myself  — especially the criticism of NAEA for spending so much time on lobbying (or kissing up to the IRS while slamming unenrolled preparers) and so little time on public education about EAs.

But each EA is to blame, too. Myself included.

Yes, we are treated as the red-headed stepchild of the tax world. But a big reason for this is that we ALLOW people to treat us this way.

How many of us act embarrassed when a question comes up about our designation? Count me as guilty on this one.

I also catch myself acting apologetic about not being a CPA, or feeling a need to over-explain to people why I’m not a CPA.

I guess we can call this blog post “Jason’s Manifesto About the EA Designation.”

I’m tired of acting like a second-class citizen. Heck, EAs are more like third-class citizens or the weird relative in the attic. I’m tired of being treated that way.

It’s time for all EAs to say enough is enough and start demanding some respect for our designation. It’s time for all of us to proactively explain to our clients what an EA is. And we need to do it in a positive way, not a “WE HATE CPAS AND ARE ANGRY AT THE WORLD!” type of way (and unfortunately, that’s how a lot of us come across).

Since this is turning into a random stream-of-conscience rant, I’ll admit — I’m at 400 words in this post and am not quite sure how to conclude it, because there’s no real solution to what I’m ranting about. The problem is easy to identify: no one’s heard of EAs and we shoot ourselves in the foot repeatedly with our crabby attitudes and woe-is-us/angry-at-the-world attitude.

Now I’m really ranting and raving. That’s good and healthy sometimes. But the key question, which I’ve asked before and still haven’t found a good answer to, is: what are we going to do about it?

“This blog post, along with comments that may follow, should not be considered tax advice. Before you make final tax or financial decisions, please secure a professional tax advisor to give you advice about your unique situation. To secure Jason as your accountant, please click on the ‘Services’ link at the top of the page.”


  1. Deb Downey says

    I think it would help if people knew what it takes to get the EA designation. How about a tab on your website, or a sidebar on the About Jason tab? By the way, the link for enrolled agent in the Glossary of Terms didn’t work for me.

    • Jason Dinesen says

      Deb, that’s a good point about educating people about how to become an EA. In fact, I think that would make a good topic for a series of blog posts.

      Thanks for the heads-up about the link on the Glossary page, I’ll make sure to fix that.

  2. says

    As someone who works with both CPAs and Enrolled Agents, I’m sure that CPAs do not believe they possess superior tax expertise over EAs. In fact, the progressive CPAs who head tax practices are hiring EAs for their tax preparation staffs. Any CPA who looks over the sample EA exam questions at http://fastforwardacademy.com/enrolled-agent-exam-prep.htm can discover the knowledge possessed by EAs. Hence, CPAs are typically advocates of professionals with Enrolled Agent licenses. I think EAs can safely brag about their ability and know that CPAs support that position.