Would a Name Change Help Enrolled Agents? Part 2

As part of the Great Name Change Investigation, the National Association of Enrolled Agents conducted a nationwide survey of average citizens. One of the questions was if the person had heard of the term “enrolled agent.” The survey showed that 87% of respondents had never heard of the term enrolled agent.

When asked which alternative names they preferred, the average citizen chose the following (my emphasis added):

  1. Federally Licensed Taxpayer Representative, 22%
  2. Licensed Tax Professional, 16%
  3. Federal Tax Specialist, 16%
  4. Tax Advisor, 11%
  5. Federal Taxpayer Representative, 10%
  6. Federally Licensed Tax Practitioner, 9%
  7. Licensed Taxpayer Representative, 8%
  8. Enrolled Agent, 5%
  9. Other, 2%

NAEA also surveyed its members. Members chose the following as their preferred name:

  1. Federally Licensed Tax Practitioner, 29%
  2. Licensed Tax Professional, 25%
  3. Enrolled Agent, 19%
  4. Federally Licensed Taxpayer Representative, 12%
  5. Federal Tax Specialist, 8%
  6. Licensed Taxpayer Representative, 4%
  7. Federal Taxpayer Representative, 2%
  8. Tax Advisor, 1%

Like I said in Part 1, I’m not sure what I chose when I responded to the survey (I swear I selected “certified tax practitioner,” but obviously not, since it apparently wasn’t even an option!)

So “tax practitioner” or “tax professional” coupled with the words “federally licensed” seem to be the winners among both the average citizen and NAEA members.

Ultimately, the NAEA board, in its April 2011 meeting, voted to keep the EA name. In that meeting, a motion was made to change the name to “Federal Tax Specialist.” The motion failed 11-2.

Another motion was made to tack the word “tax” onto the EA designation (though not stated in the minutes, I believe this motion would have created a designation called “enrolled tax agent”). The motion died for lack of a second.

The board then voted, 7-6, to keep the EA name as-is, and that was that.

I’m not really sure what would have happened if the NAEA had decided to change the EA name to something else, because it’s ultimately the IRS’s call. I suppose NAEA would have made a recommendation to the IRS to change the name.

In Part 3, next Wednesday, I’ll give my opinions on the name change debate.

Here’s a sneak preview: while I think the term “agent” is problematic because it automatically connotes a relationship with the IRS and doesn’t really tell the public what it is that an EA does, I’m not sure that the name is the problem as much as the fact that the public relations efforts on behalf of EAs have been woefully nonexistent.