Enrolled Agent as a soft?

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Scipionyx
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Joined: Fri Jan 28, 2011 8:04 pm

Enrolled Agent as a soft?

Postby Scipionyx » Sun Apr 17, 2011 1:51 pm

I've worked as an IRS-certified volunteer tax preparer, and although I don't have an intense penchant for tax law in particular, it seems to be an important area of regulation pertaining to most people. I enjoyed helping people avoid fleecing by the IRS, especially when corporations like GE pay zero taxes (and get billions in tax credits) while construction workers making $10,000 a year have to pay over 10% of their income to the federal government. I intend to go into public interest law.

I'm considering taking the Special Enrollment Examination to qualify for certification as an Enrolled Agent by the IRS to be able to legally represent taxpayers before the IRS in all fifty states, and potentially also in Tax Court, in cases like audits and disputes over back taxes owed. Even though attorneys are allowed to represent people before the IRS, passing the Enrolled Agent exam would require an in-depth knowledge of the tax code far surpassing what most people learn in law school, it would allow me to start representing people before and during law school as a side job, and would greatly improve my ability to help people at volunteer tax clinics. On the other hand, the exam would take months of serious study and cost about $400 total for tests and licensing fees, and does not seem essential to my desired career path after law school.

So, for the top law schools, do people know whether being an EA would be a plus on an application, equivalent to something like a Master's degree or seen as above-average work experience? Or not seen as important either way by admissions committees? How about employers after law school? For places like legal aid societies or public interest firms, are disputes with the IRS requiring tax code expertise very common? These answers might help tip the scales for my decision.

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somewhatwayward
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Re: Enrolled Agent as a soft?

Postby somewhatwayward » Sun Apr 17, 2011 1:58 pm

where's taxguy when you need him?

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dpk711
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Re: Enrolled Agent as a soft?

Postby dpk711 » Sun Apr 17, 2011 2:02 pm

This will probably be a boost for NU but I'm not too sure about other T14 schools.

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nealric
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Re: Enrolled Agent as a soft?

Postby nealric » Sun Apr 17, 2011 2:13 pm

I am a tax lawyer.

If you are planning on going to law school, becoming an enrolled agent would be utterly pointless. A JD gives you the same ability to represent taxpayers. Just take a lot of tax classes in law school or do a JD/LLM.


I enjoyed helping people avoid fleecing by the IRS, especially when corporations like GE pay zero taxes (and get billions in tax credits) while construction workers making $10,000 a year have to pay over 10% of their income to the federal government.


[side rant]
A construction worker making $10k a year will almost certainly have no federal income tax liability. If the construction worker is married and/or has kids, they will pay negative taxes through the earned income tax credit. True, they pay payroll taxes, but those are eventually returned to them with interest in retirement.

Also, contrary to popular belief, the corporate income tax is regressive. A corporation is just a vector- it can't pay taxes- only real people can. Research suggests that it is middle and lower income workers who bear the brunt of the corporate tax through lower wages. Although the popular media picks a large corporation every year at the beginning of April to right a puff piece about said corporation paying zero taxes, the average effective corporate tax rate is 28% percent, according to a recent study by Deloitte.

[/side rant]

Scipionyx
Posts: 15
Joined: Fri Jan 28, 2011 8:04 pm

Re: Enrolled Agent as a soft?

Postby Scipionyx » Sun Apr 17, 2011 2:44 pm

nealric: Thanks for your response. I know that attorneys can represent taxpayers, but front-ending the study of tax law before law school would free up time to take other classes in LS, broadening one's potential, no? Do you as a tax lawyer see EAs as having the same knowledge of tax law and ability to represent taxpayers as the average lawyer who's taken a couple tax courses in law school?

The issue I am raising isn't so much having the right to represent which all lawyers would, rather than having the knowledge of tax law to win cases for people before the IRS. I'm guessing from the responses that the EA cert wouldn't be a factor in admissions.

Regarding the federal tax liability of a construction worker, if they aren't a citizen (most construction workers in many parts of the US), and were self-employed rather than getting a W-2, they don't qualify for the EITC or Making Work Pay credits, and even with qualifying dependents has a liability. You have a link to that Deloitte study by any chance?

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nealric
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Re: Enrolled Agent as a soft?

Postby nealric » Mon Apr 18, 2011 8:44 pm

nealric: Thanks for your response. I know that attorneys can represent taxpayers, but front-ending the study of tax law before law school would free up time to take other classes in LS, broadening one's potential, no? Do you as a tax lawyer see EAs as having the same knowledge of tax law and ability to represent taxpayers as the average lawyer who's taken a couple tax courses in law school?

The issue I am raising isn't so much having the right to represent which all lawyers would, rather than having the knowledge of tax law to win cases for people before the IRS. I'm guessing from the responses that the EA cert wouldn't be a factor in admissions.

Regarding the federal tax liability of a construction worker, if they aren't a citizen (most construction workers in many parts of the US), and were self-employed rather than getting a W-2, they don't qualify for the EITC or Making Work Pay credits, and even with qualifying dependents has a liability. You have a link to that Deloitte study by any chance?


To be perfectly honest, you don't need all that much substantive tax knowledge to represent the indigent. Most of the very complicated parts of the tax code only apply to businesses, exempt orgs., or people with international income/residence. If you take Fed. Income Tax I, Tax Practice and Procedure, and do a low income tax clinic (if your school offers one), you will be good to go. Even most small business rarely have complicated tax issues. Also, there's nothing stopping you from studying tax on your own. No need to get a piece of paper that says you studied it.

RE EITC: There is no requirement that you have W2 wages to qualify for the EITC. See http://www.irs.gov/individuals/article/ ... 57,00.html
You don't need to be a citizen, you just need to be a legal resident. The fact that undocumented aliens don't get the EITC is a problem of immigration policy, not tax policy.

RE: Deloitte study: It was published on Tax Notes, which is a subscription publication. I don't have a link, but you can always look it up once you start law school.




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