Enrolled Agent vs. CPA (What’s the Difference?)

Enrolled Agent vs. CPA (What’s the Difference?)
Updated on May 10, 2024

When it comes to managing your taxes, having the right support is crucial. Two common options are enrolled agents and CPAs. But which is best for you? To help you make an informed decision, we’ve put together a quick summary of the differences between these two roles. 

Here’s what you need to know about enrolled agents versus CPAs. 

Key Takeaways

  • Enrolled agents (EAs) and certified public accountants (CPAs) are both professionals equipped to handle tax matters. 
  • EAs specialize in tax matters and are authorized by the IRS. 
  • CPAs are licensed accountants with broader financial expertise. 
  • Both can help you, though one may be a better fit depending on your unique tax needs. 

What Is an Enrolled Agent? 

IRS enrolled agents (EAs) are tax advisors who have been licensed by the IRS. They have demonstrated their expertise in tax matters by passing a rigorous examination. They may also have experience working at the IRS. 

Enrolled agent status is the highest certification given out by the IRS. They are authorized to represent taxpayers in audits, appeals, and collections. 

What Is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA)? 

Certified public accountants (CPAs) are licensed accountants who have completed specific education requirements and passed the CPA exam. CPAs offer a range of financial services, including accounting, auditing, and tax preparation. They can advise and represent clients on additional financial matters not related to taxes. 

What’s the Difference Between EAs and CPAs? 

Scope of Expertise: 

  • EAs specialize primarily in tax matters and are well-versed in IRS regulations and tax codes. 
  • CPAs have a broader scope of expertise, including tax preparation as well as accounting, auditing, and financial planning. 

Licensing and Regulation: 

  • EAs are licensed directly by the IRS and are regulated by the Department of the Treasury. 
  • CPAs are licensed by state boards of accountancy and are regulated by state laws and professional standards. 

Education: 

  • EAs are not required to have a specific college degree. Instead, they must either pass a comprehensive examination administered by the IRS or have relevant work experience at the IRS. 
  • CPAs are typically required to hold at least a master’s degree in accounting or a related field from an accredited college or university. In addition to completing educational requirements, candidates must also fulfill a certain number of accounting and business credits to sit for the CPA exam. 
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How Are Enrolled Agents and CPAs Similar? 

While EAs and CPAs have distinct roles and qualifications, they share some similarities: 

  • Expertise in Taxation: Both EAs and CPAs possess extensive knowledge of tax laws, regulations, and procedures. 
  • Professionalism: EAs and CPAs are bound by ethical standards and professional conduct codes, ensuring integrity and reliability in their services. 
  • Client Representation: Both EAs and CPAs can have unlimited representation rights. This means they can represent their clients before the IRS in all tax matters, including audits, appeals, and collections. 

EA vs. CPA: Which Is Best for You? 

Choosing between an EA and a CPA depends on your specific tax and financial needs: 

  • If you need specialized expertise in tax matters or need representation before the IRS for tax-related issues, an EA may be the right choice. 
  • If you’re looking for a broader range of financial services beyond tax preparation, such as accounting, auditing, or financial planning, a CPA might be better suited to your needs. 

Get the Help You Need from Greenback 

When considering an enrolled agent versus a CPA, there are a few factors to keep in mind. But what if you didn’t have to choose?  

At Greenback Expat Tax Services, we have a full team of IRS enrolled agents and CPAs. Our accountants are equipped to give Americans around the world the tax support they need. No matter what type of financial advice you’re looking for, we can help. 

If you’re ready to be matched with a Greenback accountant, click the get started button below. For general questions on expat taxes or working with Greenback, contact our Customer Champions.

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