In the field of accounting, one can get easily confused amid the sea of ellipsis. But a hard core conceptual understanding of certain accreditations is vital to look for a licensed tax professional to guide you through your financial needs intelligently. When making your decision about whom to work with, you may wonder about the differences between an enrolled agent (EA) and a Certified Public Accountant (CPA US Course).
Both CPA and EA are credentials that should uphold stringent ethics and standards. EA is regulated on the federal level and CPA US Course is regulated on the state level. As CPAs are licensed at the state level means they have limited scope of practice within those jurisdictions.
An enrolled agent and a certified public accountant are both tax experts and the work they do is often similar, but there are some differences between an EA vs CPA US Course.
To understand the difference between an EA and a CPA, you should start with the responsibilities and day-to-day work of each. Here’s an overview of both.
A. What is an EA (Enrolled Agent)?
EAs are federally authorized tax practitioners who can
1. Represent taxpayers before the IRS on matters ranging from collections to IRS audits and appeals. Additionally, they often:
2. Provide tax advice
3. File tax returns for individuals, partnerships, corporations, estates, trusts, and other entities with tax-reporting requirements
4. To become an EA, candidates must pass a three-part test, apply to the IRS, and pass a background check.
To maintain the EA designation, they must
1. Complete 72 hours of continuing education every three years.
2. Comply with ethical standards established by the Department of Treasury.
3. Many EAs are also members of the National Association of Enrolled Agents, which has even higher standards for continuing education, as well as its own Code of Ethics.
B. What is a CPA US course (Certified Public Accountant)?
CPA US Course are state-licensed accounting professionals who may be:
· Business advisors
· Corporate accountants and executives
· Tax consultants
· Forensic accountants
· Financial planners
To become a CPA, candidates must
1. Pass a four-part exam and comply with education and experience requirements. The exam is the same no matter which state it’s taken in, but every state has its own education and experience requirements. Most require at least a bachelor’s degree and at least two years of public accounting experience.
2. Each state also has its own rules for maintaining the license, but most require at least 40 hours of continuing education per year, with four of those hours covering ethics.
3. Each state’s board of accountancy, CPA society, and other regulatory agencies have ethical rules and regulations that CPAs must abide by.
4. Many CPAs are also members of the American Institute of CPAs, which has its own Code of Professional Conduct.
C. Comparison: EA Vs. CPA US course
Enrolled agents, or EAs, :- are tax preparers the IRS has authorized to represent taxpayers. Enrolled agent clients include individuals, partnerships, corporations, estates, trusts, and any entities with tax-reporting requirements.
Certified Public Accountants, or CPAs :- are licensed accountants with the statutory privilege to sign an audit report. They can prepare financial accounts, provide audit services, and advise clients on tax matters. Normally, the clients of CPAs are businesses requiring both accounting and tax services.
The steps to becoming an EA or a CPA US Course are quite similar. The main difference between these two processes is the manner in which you fulfill the basic requirements.
C.1 The Exam Eligibility
In order to become an enrolled agent, you must either take the Special Enrollment Exam (SEE), also known as the enrolled agent (EA) exam, or have previous work experience at the IRS. While passing the exam is much easier once you’ve acquired several years of tax experience, there is no prerequisite for taking the EA exam. Therefore, you could sit for it during college if you wanted. You just need a Personal Tax Identification Number (PTIN) to schedule the exam.
In contrast, you must meet educational requirements to take the US CPA Exam. The various state boards of accountancy establish the US CPA Exam application and licensure requirements, and almost everyone expects you to have 120 credit hours of education to sit for the exam. Yes, this requirement is equivalent to a bachelor’s degree, and many state boards also prefer you have your degree in accounting.
C.2 The Exam Content
The EA exam has three parts, and most people find the first and third parts to be the easiest because some experienced tax professionals can pass these parts with minimal studying. Conversely, almost everyone must work hard to pass the second part–Businesses– so it’s naturally considered the hardest.
On the other hand, the US CPA Exam has four parts and much broader content. The section equivalent to the EA exam is Regulation (REG), and only about 70% of the REG content directly relates to the EA exam. The rest covers other topics such as business law.
Still, when we compare REG’s taxation section to the EA exam’s taxation section, we uncover quite a lot of overlap. In fact, the amount of shared content can help candidates earn both certifications at the same time. Candidates who have trouble passing REG can shift their focus to passing the EA exam and earning the EA designation. Once they’ve done so, they can use their expanded tax knowledge to return to the US CPA Exam, pass it, and get their CPA license as well.
C3. The Experience Requirement
If you pursue the enrolled agent designation via the EA exam, you don’t have to meet an experience requirement. You simply must pass the exam. You’ll receive your exam results immediately, and once you’ve passed; you can apply for enrollment. The IRS explains that processing your application may take as long as 60 days (90-120 days if you’re a former IRS employee). Also, as part of their evaluation of your enrollment application, the IRS will conduct a suitability test that includes a review of your personal tax compliance.
To complete your journey to the CPA license, once you’ve passed all four US CPA Exam sections, you must meet the experience and education requirements. The 150-hour education requirement expects you to earn an additional 30 credit hours on top of your base 120 hours (120 + 30 = 150). Satisfying the experience requirement usually involves working in an accounting position for 1-2 years. While there could be exceptions to the rule, CPA licensure generally has a much higher barrier of entry than the enrolled agent credential.
C4. The Career and Compensation
EAs usually don’t work for a firm. They have their own clients and therefore can work at home with flexible hours. Many CPAs start out in audit firms, but as they accumulate experience, they can launch their own CPA firms and have their own clients.
According to Payscale.com, enrolled agents typically make between $33K to $80K a year, while CPAs make between $49K to $115K per year. Enrolled agents also have the opportunity to earn extra money during tax season. Finally, it is to be noted that the IRS puts both EAs and CPAs on the same level.
US CPA salary in India ? In India a fresh CPA starts with a minimum salary of INR 6 Lakh annually in a Big4 or MNC. The salary increases at higher rate compared to non-certified peers. Meanwhile, a CFO can earn more than INR 1 Cr annually.
D. Value Addition
D.1 The Advantage of EAs
1. EAs are tax specialists and work on tax matters only, so they can specialize in certain areas such as tax preparation or tax resolution. The EA designation is a federal credential. Since the enrolled agent credential comes from the IRS and includes the unlimited right to practice on a federal level, EAs can work with clients who have filings all across the United States.
2. Enrolled agents are a more affordable option than tax attorneys. Usually, enrolled agents can perform the same services as a tax attorney for a much lower price. For example, enrolled agents can represent their clients in civil resolution cases.
4. The EA questions are easier, so most candidates only need a few months to pass the EA exam. the benefit of the EA exam is that the sooner you can get licensed, the sooner you and your clients can enjoy your improved status with the IRS.
D.2 The Advantage of CPAs
1. CPAs can handle both accounting and tax matters.
2. CPA’s or CPA US Course expertise mainly lies in accounting and auditing, but most can provide tax filing services as well. This combination is attractive to small businesses that need both audit and tax services, preferably from the same team.
3. CPAs can take a holistic approach for better tax planning.
4. For businesses, hiring a CPA is the more sensible option because someone who “knows the numbers” can make better tax plans.
E. EA vs. CPA
EAs and CPAs are both knowledgeable, experienced professionals who are required to maintain high ethical standards. The primary difference between an EA vs CPA US Course is that EAs specialize in taxation, and CPAs can specialize in taxation and more.
E.1 Working with an EA
If you need help with an IRS issue, such as a collection problem or an audit, then an EA might be your best bet. They’re typically adept at dealing with the IRS, and some EAs even worked as IRS agents before opening their own practices.
They’re also a great option if you need tax preparation and planning advice for an individual or business. While EAs can’t provide compiled, reviewed, or audited financial statements like most CPA’s can, they can generally perform bookkeeping work to put the business’s records into tax-basis statements that they then use to prepare a tax return.
E.2 Working with a CPA
CPAs are federally approved to represent you in all matters before the IRS. Those that specialize in tax preparation can also typically help you with tax and financial planning, accounting needs, and most other financial tasks that you might have.
Look to a CPA to identify the credits and deductions you qualify for to increase your tax refund and help lower your tax bill. Additionally, if you have broader accounting needs — for instance, your bank requires a reviewed financial statement to comply with loan covenants — then working with a CPA can be beneficial.
F. Focus, Skill and Rate Comparison: Differences Between CPA US Course & Enrolled Agent
|Broad accounting, tax and financial services for businesses
|Taxes for businesses and individuals
|Qualifications for Practice
|State education requirements (usually 150 hours of undergrad); pass CPA US Course exam
|Five years IRS experience; pass the EA exam
|Average of $30 to $500, depending on experience, rank within firm, whether CPA is a firm owner
|Average of $12 to $55
G. Which one to Choose? EA vs. CPA US Course
Enrolled agents are not as well-known as CPAs, but they are as good if not better with income tax matters. The path to the CPA US Course is long and arduous but more popular. If you think this is the path for you, carry on. But if you’d like to specialize in tax matters and get on the fast track to working at home with your own clients, then set your course for the EA credential.
When deciding between an EA or a CPA US Course, you will see that both types of professionals are well-qualified. They can both deliver the financial guidance you may need for your taxes. However, which one you should consult depends largely on which issue you’re looking to resolve. As could help you work through an IRS audit or a collection problem, and they can also perform bookkeeping services that could be useful for businesses when preparing tax returns.
CPAs, however, are more adept in meeting your financial planning and accounting needs; and when it comes to tax planning, they can also help you identify tax credits and deductions to lower your tax liability.
Both types of professionals are equally qualified to perform similar tasks, but there are differences in the range of services offered. CPAs can provide a much wider scope of tax services than an EA can. What’s more, general population demand is greater for CPAs than EAs.
If you have accounting needs with a micro focus, working with an EA could be the perfect fit for you. On the other hand, if you are interested in accounting practices that have nothing to do with taxes, such as auditing, then the CPA US Course option may be best.
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