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Who can act for you before the IRS: Part 2: Treasury Circular 230

Let’s continue our discussion of who can act on your behalf before the IRS. In part one, we noted that IRS Form 2848 is one way to create a power of attorney authorization for someone to do this. But using the form is not the only way to put such representation in place.

In this part of the post, we will focus on the types of tax professionals who can be authorized to appear for a taxpayer before the IRS.

Let’s start with tax attorneys. Attorneys are licensed by state; there is no national licensure. But there are no limitations on which tax cases attorneys can handle or clients they can represent before the IRS.

When you get into a tax controversy or are trying to avoid one, it makes good sense to enlist the services of an experienced tax attorney when dealing with the IRS. A good attorney has the problem-solving capacity and command of legal tools needed to resolve tax controversies or avoid them in the first place.

Tax attorneys are not, however, the only tax professionals who can represent clients in IRS dealings. Like attorneys, certified public accountants (CPAs), have practice rights before the IRS that are unlimited in scope.

There is also a type of tax professional called “enrolled agents.” These are people who, like attorneys and CPAs, have no restrictions on the types of tax issues they can handle before the IRS.

The term “enrolled agent” is a curious one historically. It dates back to the aftermath of the Civil War, when Congress passed legislation to govern the submission of damage claims to the Treasury Department.

Today, Treasury’s Circular 230 contains regulations that apply to enrolled agents. In order to become an enrolled agent, it is necessary to pass a competency test and complete a specific amount of continuing education every three years. The minimum amount of that education is currently 72 hours. But the National Association of Enrolled Agents requires more than that of its members: 90 hours every three years.

Source: IRS.gov, “Enrolled Agent Information

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