Who Can Prepare Your Tax Returns?
Frequently Asked Questions
An attorney at law (or attorney-at-law) in the United States is a practitioner in a court of law who is legally qualified to prosecute and defend actions in such court on the retainer of clients. Alternative terms include counselor (or counsellor-at-law) and lawyer. Almost all U.S. jurisdictions require successful completion of a bar examination to be licensed as an attorney. All but a few of those states which require a bar exam also require the applicant to have taken a degree in professional law from an accredited law school; most require it to be a professional degree in law granted in the United States (usually the Juris Doctor, or J.D., a doctorate). Only a few states accept foreign law degrees. In addition to this formal education, attorneys in most jurisdictions must complete regular Continuing Legal Education (CLE) requirements. Attorneys are empowered by the Department of the Treasury to represent taxpayers before all administrative levels of the IRS, and have unlimited rights to represent taxpayers before the IRS (attorneys are licensed by state authorities rather than by the Department of the Treasury).
Certified Acceptance Agent (CAA)
A certified acceptance agent is a person (i.e., an individual or an entity) who, pursuant to a written agreement with the IRS, is authorized to assist alien individuals and other foreign persons in obtaining ITINs from the IRS and who also assumes a greater responsibility than an acceptance agent in facilitating the application process for obtaining ITINs. The certified acceptance agent process does not apply to obtaining EINs. See section 5.01 of the revenue procedure for the role of a certified acceptance agent. A person acting in its capacity as a certified acceptance agent does not act as an agent of the IRS and is not authorized to hold itself out as an agent of the IRS.
Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
Accountants who are licensed by the states, (not by the Department of the Treasury) on a state by state basis to practice who have passed the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination, hold a minimum of a bachelor's degree in accounting and have met additional state continuing education and experience requirements for certification as a CPA. CPAs are empowered by the Department of the Treasury to represent taxpayers before all administrative levels of the IRS, and also have unlimited rights to represent taxpayers before the IRS.
Enrolled Agent (EA)
An enrolled agent is a federally-authorized tax practitioner who has technical expertise in the field of federal taxation and who is empowered by the U.S. Department of the Treasury to represent taxpayers before all administrative levels of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for audits, collections, and appeals. Enrolled agents are federally-licensed tax practitioners who specialize in taxation and who have unlimited rights to represent taxpayers before the IRS.
Enrolled Actuary (EAC)
An enrolled actuary who has been licensed by a Joint Board of the Department of the Treasury and the Department of Labor to perform a variety of actuarial tasks required of pension plans in the United States by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA).
Enrolled Retirement Plan Agent (ERPA)
Enrolled Retirement Plan Agent is an individual who has been approved by the IRS to practice before the IRS on certain retirement plan issues. An ERPA is similar to an Enrolled Agent. The rules governing ERPAs are set forth in Circular 230.
Registered Tax Return Preparer (RTRP)
A Registered Tax Return Preparer is a new category of federal tax return preparers created by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. Starting January 1, 2014, only Registered Tax Return Preparers, Certified Public Accountants, Attorneys and Enrolled Agents will be authorized to prepare and sign federal individual tax returns for payment. In order to become a Registered Tax Return Preparer, a person must be age 18 or older, registered with the IRS and have a valid Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). A Registered Tax Return Preparers has passed a competency test covering tax law issues, individual tax return preparation and ethics. He or she has passed a tax compliance check conducted by the IRS. To maintain the designation, a Registered Tax Return Preparer must complete 15 hours of continuing education courses each year and renew his or her PTIN annually and adhere to ethical standards established by the Department of the Treasury.
Supervised Registered Tax Preparer (SRTP)
Supervised preparer, which is an individual who does not, and is not required to, sign a tax return as paid preparer, works at a firm at least 80 percent owned by CPAs, Attorneys or Enrolled Agents, and is supervised by a CPA, Attorney or Enrolled Agent and has a PTIN number.