IRS Enrolled Agents and Certified Public Accountants: What’s the Difference Between Expat CPAs and EAs?
Here at Greenback Expat Tax Services, we hire both IRS Enrolled Agents (EAs) and certified public accountants (CPAs). To us, all that matters is that our EAs and expat CPAs are experienced and hard-working licensed professionals. Yet many of our customers come to us and ask: What’s the difference between an EA and a CPA? If you’re looking to satisfy the same curiosity, this article will let you in on all the details.
Let’s start with the similarities. First of all, EAs and CPAs alike are both qualified to work with taxes. At Greenback, each EA and expat CPA is qualified to work with US expat taxes. Second, both EAs and CPAs must pass an exam to become licensed. Both EAs and CPAs are also required to take continuing professional education (CPE) courses every certain number of years to keep their licensure. In addition, an EA can be a CPA and vice versa, as long as he or she passes both exams.
The main difference between an EA and CPA is that an EA deals exclusively with taxes. An EA is, by definition, a tax law expert. In fact, enrolled agents are authorized by the US Department of the Treasury (IRS) to represent American taxpayers. A CPA, on the other hand, can be an expert in any number of things from personal finance to business law to income taxes. Unlike EAs, CPAs must have at least a bachelor’s degree in addition to passing the CPA exam. The last notable difference is that CPAs are licensed at the state level while EAs are federally recognized.
Choosing Between an Expat CPA and an EA for Your Own US Expat Taxes
People often hear that EAs are the “true tax experts” and assume that CPAs are not capable of doing their taxes. This, however, could not be further from the truth. While not all CPAs specialize in taxation, those who do can be just as knowledgeable about the subject as their EA counterparts — it’s just a matter of personal professional preference as opposed to what’s required for the title. So, if you’re considering hiring a professional to do your taxes, the EA-versus-CPA debate is not necessarily the thing to focus on. Rather, spend your energy researching whether the company or person that you’re hiring specializes in the kind of services you’re looking for.
Questions For an EA or an Expat CPA?
At Greenback, we guarantee that each EA and expat CPA on our team is an expert in US expat taxes. For more information on how our EAs and CPAs can help you with our expat tax services, please contact us.