TAX NEWS - 2010

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After Passing The IRS EA Exam You Become A ..?

So, you just passed the IRS EA exam. Congratulations!

Okay... now what the heck is an enrolled agent?

Sure, maybe you know what it is if you've been preparing for the EA Exam, or if you happen to be an enrolled agent already, or if you're just one of those geeks who look up things on Wikipedia for fun (you know who you are). But if you'd never heard the term before, you'd probably have no idea what the job required.

That's not the case with other job titles. "First Grade Teacher." "Tire Store Owner." "Female Bodybuilder." With these and other job titles, there's no question about what the position entails. Teaching first graders. Running a tire store. Making out-of-shape men feel badly about themselves. The titles all aptly describe the jobs being performed.

Not so with "enrolled agent." Neither of the words in the title describe to a taxpayer what it is that person does, or wherein his expertise lies. Let's face it: the term doesn't really tell the average joe anything about what it is the job entails- that is, being a federally licensed tax preparer. When you think of "enrolled," do you picture someone who has passed the ea examination on tax laws and representation issues? And does the word "agent" bring to mind a person who can represent you before the Internal Revenue Service? Put the words together- what picture do you get now? (I personally get the image of a trenchcoat-donning CIA operative, signing up for classes at the local community college. But that's just me.)

Truth be told, though, enrolled agents- despite their strange title- have actually been around since 1884. Yeah. Seriously. You'd think a position with more than one hundred years of service on its resume would have a little more recognition, a little more clout in the collective knowledge of the American citizenry. But still, uttering the term "enrolled agent" to the average taxpayer garners a resounding response of, "Huh?"

The reason for this disparity is most likely due to the moniker mishap. And it's something that is being brought to light as of late, with recent changes to tax preparer regulations. The new tax laws create two new classes of tax preparers- making the already inadequate title even more inapt. The solution? New names!

Now, for the happy few of you out there who have grown attached to the title "enrolled agent," who cling to it like that female bodybuilder clings to her dumbbells, this may be quite the paradigm shift. But perhaps the new recognition you'll receive with a more appropriate title will be enough to soothe your grief. Below are listed some of the possible options for the new appellation:

Federal Tax Practitioner
Federal Taxpayer Representative
Federal Tax Professional
Federal Tax Specialist
Certified Tax Practitioner
Certified Taxpayer Representative
Certified Tax Professional
Federally Authorized Tax Practitioner
Federally Authorized Taxpayer Representative (my personal favorite, just because the acronym, "FATR" could be simply pronounced "fatter")
Federally Authorized Tax Professional
Licensed Tax Practitioner
Licensed Taxpayer Representative
Licensed Tax Professional
Federally Licensed Tax Practitioner
Federally Licensed Taxpayer Representative
Federally Licensed Tax Professional

Maybe none of those roll off the tongue as easily as "enrolled agent." Maybe you're happy with the way things were. But the change could be a good thing, whichever of the options above are chosen. Just think: one day in the not-so-distant future, when you tell people at a party what you do for a living (after everyone's oohed and aahed over the first grade teacher's cute student stories), you won't be met with blank stares. Who knows? By then, people may actually have heard of your job. What a concept.
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