An enrolled agent, or EA, is licensed by the federal government and is authorized to appear in place of a taxpayer at any IRS meeting or hearing.
Many EAs are former IRS employees. Agents who did not work for Uncle Sam will have passed a comprehensive IRS exam.
EAs also must complete regular continuing education courses to maintain their status.
Although enrolled agents must have IRS identification numbers, because of their existing professional education requirements, EAs are exempt from the newly instituted IRS competency tests.
Many enrolled agents specialize in specific tax areas, so ask about an agent's area of expertise before you hire him or her.
You can find an EA by using the online search tool on the National Association of Enrolled Agents' website.