EAs are Partly to Blame for Our Obscurity

Enrolled agents toil in obscurity.

I’ve written about this before, such as this article where I ponder why EAs are such a crabby lot.

And this article, where I equate CPAs to the United States and EAs to Liechtenstein.

EAs spread around plenty of blame for our obscurity.

We blame our designation — the fact that the word “agent” is not well-received by the public.

We blame other people’s designations — the fact that RTRPs — if the courts allow the designation to exist — have the words “tax return preparer” in their name, which is, by default, better for public perception than “agent.”

We blame CPAs for thinking they are the be-all and end-all of taxes.

We blame the National Association of Enrolled Agents for not being proactive in marketing the EA designation.

We blame the IRS for creating the RTRP designation.

We blame the IRS for not requiring CPAs or attorneys to pass the RTRP exam.

We blame the IRS for not requiring CPAs or attorneys to show evidence of tax continuing education.

Some of these are valid points. I have used a few of these myself  — especially the criticism of NAEA for spending so much time on lobbying (or kissing up to the IRS while slamming unenrolled preparers) and so little time on public education about EAs.

But each EA is to blame, too. Myself included.

Yes, we are treated as the red-headed stepchild of the tax world. But a big reason for this is that we ALLOW people to treat us this way.

How many of us act embarrassed when a question comes up about our designation? Count me as guilty on this one.

I also catch myself acting apologetic about not being a CPA, or feeling a need to over-explain to people why I’m not a CPA.

I guess we can call this blog post “Jason’s Manifesto About the EA Designation.”

I’m tired of acting like a second-class citizen. Heck, EAs are more like third-class citizens or the weird relative in the attic. I’m tired of being treated that way.

It’s time for all EAs to say enough is enough and start demanding some respect for our designation. It’s time for all of us to proactively explain to our clients what an EA is. And we need to do it in a positive way, not a “WE HATE CPAS AND ARE ANGRY AT THE WORLD!” type of way (and unfortunately, that’s how a lot of us come across).

Since this is turning into a random stream-of-conscience rant, I’ll admit — I’m at 400 words in this post and am not quite sure how to conclude it, because there’s no real solution to what I’m ranting about. The problem is easy to identify: no one’s heard of EAs and we shoot ourselves in the foot repeatedly with our crabby attitudes and woe-is-us/angry-at-the-world attitude.

Now I’m really ranting and raving. That’s good and healthy sometimes. But the key question, which I’ve asked before and still haven’t found a good answer to, is: what are we going to do about it?