I’ve been writing about a possible name change for enrolled agents. Today I conclude my thoughts by examining whether a name change would really help EAs.
The short answer is, I don’t think a name change would change much of anything.
Yes, I have written before that the word “agent” is problematic because it creates an automatic assumption that we work for the IRS, and doesn’t really tell people what it is that we do.
But the name isn’t the problem. The problem is that no one has heard of us! Like I wrote in Part 2, 87% of the population has never heard of an enrolled agent.
Enrolled agents have never had a centralized effort to get the EA “brand” out there.
The National Association of Enrolled Agents is a great organization and I am a proud member. Their bi-monthly publication, The EA Journal, is a fine publication. They also offer a the best training out there on audit defense and representation issues at their “National Tax Practice Institute.”
But NAEA has done little to push the EA brand.
When I’ve brought this up, I’ve been told that NAEA is primarily a lobbying organization. And I do think NAEA does a great job of protecting EA interests to the IRS and Congress.
But EAs need a voice to the public, too.
And yes, EAs ourselves bear some responsibility. We need to be less crabby and resentful of CPAs and embrace the uniqueness of our designation.
When I give presentations, I always include a slide at the beginning where I talk about my designation. One of the bullet points on the slide says, in bold words: “I don’t work for the IRS!” This helps break the ice and often draws chuckles from the audience.
But, most EAs operate solo (or at least very small) practices. There’s only so much we can do ourselves.
Yes, we can try changing our little corner of the world. But that has its limitations. It would be much more efficient to have a national group that could push the EA brand, too.
Think about it this way: say you change the EA name to something like “Licensed Tax Practitioner.” That’s a nice, concise name that accurately conveys what it is that EAs do.
But unless there’s a National Association of Licensed Tax Practitioners pushing public awareness of the designation, the “LTP” would remain as anonymous as the current EA designation.
Sure, we wouldn’t have to spend as much time explaining the designation to people, but chances are, the public’s reaction to seeing the “LTP” (or whatever the new designation would be called) would be to say “what the hell is that?”.