Q: What’s an enrolled agent?
A: Unlike lawyers or accountants, enrolled agents specialize in taxation. Throughout the year they advise, represent and prepare returns for individuals, partnerships, corporations, estates, trusts, and any entities with tax-reporting requirements. In California, for example, more than 4,000 members of the California Society of Enrolled Agents prepare almost 2 million tax returns each year. An enrolled agent’s expertise in the constantly changing field of tax law enables them to be an effective representative when the IRS audits taxpayers.
Q: How does one become an enrolled agent?
A: Enrolled agents are the only taxpayer representatives who receive that license from the U.S. government (accountants and attorneys are licensed by the state). An individual can become an enrolled agent in one of two ways: • Pass an IRS approved comprehensive exam on the taxation of individuals, corporations, partnerships, estates, trusts, procedures, and ethics. • Be an employee of the IRS for five years, regularly applying and interpreting the provisions of the Internal Revenue Code and regulations.Of all the individuals who take the examination, only one-third receive a passing mark. Then, they can apply for enrollment and subject themselves to a background investigation. In addition to the stringent testing and application process, enrolled agents are required to earn 72 hours of continuing professional education, reported every three years, to maintain their status. Because of the difficulty in becoming enrolled and maintaining enrollment, there are fewer than 40,000 enrolled agents in the United States. In contrast, there are about 375,000 certified public accountants nationwide.
Q: Do I need to hire a professional tax preparer?
A: If you’re confident that you can prepare an accurate tax return on your own and can devote the time needed to prepare an accurate return, then no. But if your tax situation is sufficiently complex that you’re not confident of your ability, or if you don’t have the time, then you should hire a professional.
Q: What’s your fee?
A: It depends on the complexity of the return and the amount of time I need to spend on it. I don’t have specific hourly or by-form rates. Each return is an individual case.
Q: How long will it take to prepare my return?
A: That depends on my workload. During tax season, my general commitment is to have the return prepared within two weeks of the date I receive all the information. If it’s a return complex, it might take longer.
Q: What’s your background?
A: I have a BS in accounting from Golden Gate University and have been an enrolled agent since 2004. I’ve prepared thousands of tax returns, and I work on them year-round.
Q: Are you available for consultations about changing tax laws?
A: Yes. I encourage my clients to call me if they ever have questions about their tax situation. I rarely charge for such calls from my existing clients, unless the question is so complex that it requires extensive research on my part. In those cases, I’ll tell you in advance.
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