By Chris de Lorimier, EA
Learn more about Chris on NerdWallet’s Ask an Advisor
Ever heard of an enrolled agent? If you’re paying someone — or some software company — to help you with your taxes, and you’re not getting the level of service and expertise (or the refund) you deserve, then it may be time to look to an “EA.”
I like to think about preparing taxes like preparing a recipe. Imagine your favorite dish, and think of all the ingredients involved in making it. Many ingredients are used in multiple recipes — but no ingredient is used in every single one. Further, what if there’s something missing that could make your favorite dish taste even better? Something you may not have even thought about, because you aren’t a chef?
Enrolled agents are chefs, and their ingredients are the provisions of the U.S. tax code. The recipe? Your tax success.
Enrolled agents are the only federally licensed practitioners who specialize in taxation and have unlimited rights to handle taxpayers’ problems before the IRS. Sound like a CPA? Some of us are also CPAs, and we are bound by the same ethical standards as CPAs and attorneys. But we are tax specialists, not auditors, and our license allows us to work with any client anywhere in the country. Even a CPA can’t do that.
Back to the kitchen! Just as you could buy a cake mix off the shelf, you could buy one-size-fits-all tax software. The results you get may be “good enough,” but they’re hardly tailored to your specific needs or preferences. Off-the-shelf software can’t address all the nuances involved in every family’s or company’s finances. Not only will you get programmed results, you’ll get them with little in the way of feedback, suggestions or education on what you can do to reduce your current tax bill, clear away past wreckage or optimize your tax planning for the future. Many EAs provide additional services, such as bookkeeping and payroll, to serve clients’ needs year-round.
A good chef can tell when “something’s missing” — a sprinkle of salt, a dose of cumin, a splash of cider vinegar. A good EA can also tell when something’s missing — an item on your tax return that could benefit you. Not only must we pass a comprehensive exam on the tax code, we must also complete 24 hours of continuing education each year to stay abreast of its ever-changing provisions.
Good enrolled agents love it in the “kitchen.” We’re passionate about helping our clients devise tax solutions that clear away past problems, head off new ones and, of course, reduce your tax bill as much as legally possible. We love our clients, and our clients love us.
Franchise tax companies and out-of-the-box software can provide general information and guidance, but specialized situations require the kind of specialized help that EAs are uniquely qualified to provide.
To learn more, visit the National Association of Enrolled Agents or your state’s affiliate for EAs.
Image via iStock.