I recently attended three of the four days of NATP’s annual TAXPRO Symposium in Atlantic City (see my TWTP posts).
While it had nothing to do with the topic of discussion, during the first session we were told that many current Enrolled Agents, although exempt from the competency test component of the new tax preparer regulation regime, will be taking the test. Our symposium instructor is one such EA.
Why? Because they want to be able to acquire the initials RTRP.
The reason is the continued public confusion with the Enrolled Agent designation. Our instructor gave an example -
A taxpayer looking to engage a paid preparer asks why he should choose her. She explains, “Because I am an EA.” The next question is, “What is an EA”, to which she answers, “An Enrolled Agent.” The prospective client then says, “Oh, so you work for the IRS.”
Next the taxpayer shopping for a preparer asks a previously unenrolled tax pro the same initial question. The answer given is, “Because I am an RTRP.” When asked what an RTRP is the answer comes back, “A Registered Tax Return Preparer.” Who do you think the taxpayer will select.
The question I ask is whether an EA, upon passing the test, will be granted the RTRP designation by the IRS.
One prominent veteran tax professional, an Enrolled Agent, told me -
“CPAs, Attorneys and EAs can become RTRPs but they must test and pass and meet other qualifications. I want the initials to first, preserve what the EA credential means and second to get the advertising that RTRPs will get. I believe with 400,000 RTRPs of the future with only 50,000 EAs that RTRPs will be the designation for return preparers.”
It sounds like a good idea. I believe that CPAs and attorneys should also be allowed to have the credentials RTRP to identify their tax knowledge and currency – but not by voluntarily taking the test. CPAs and attorneys who want to prepare 1040s should be required to take the test and maintain the CPE in federal taxation.
EAs are a different issue. They have already passed a much more comprehensive test and must maintain more CPE in federal taxation than RTRPs. I can see that EAs who have voluntarily taken the test to be granted the RTRP designation, and now “advertise” as Jane Q Taxpayer, EA, RTRP, could hurt the credibility of the “plain” EA.
Perhaps the IRS should automatically issue all EAs (but NOT CPAs or attorneys) the additional designation of RTRP because they have, in effect, already qualified by means of the EA Exam and maintain at least the minimum 15 hours of annual CPE in federal taxation. Or the EA designation could be changed to ERTRP (Enrolled Registered Tax Return Preparer), or ETRP (Enrolled Tax Return Preparer).
What do my EA readers think?
While we were on the subject, the instructor also told us that Prometric, the outside firm hired by the IRS to conduct the competency tests, is an extremely intimidating proctor. We were told to equate Prometric with the TSA.
There will be metal detectors and pat downs, we will not be able to take anything into the test with us, if we have to leave the room to use the jake during the test we will be personally escorted to and from by a Prometric employee. While it was mentioned that the test would be somewhat “open book” there will be no print copy of Publication 17 to be found in the test room – one must search an online version of the Pub.
This is just one more reason why I will wait until the spring of 2013 to sit for the test. Maybe the testing will cause the IRS enough agita by then they will rethink their position on grandfathering.