Why You Should Become An Enrolled Agent

Note: If you’re already an EA, CPA, or attorney, then this post will be of zero interest to you. If you’re an unenrolled preparer, however, keep reading…

It’s becoming increasingly common for me to receive emails like this one from a return preparer in Sacramento, CA:

I would like to pursue this opportunity. I am currently not an EA. What ways have others moved ahead until they became an EA? Can I hire one? What do you suggest?

Here was my verbatim reply to this particular email:

By “this opportunity”, I presume you’re referring to collections representation services?

While hiring an EA, CPA, or attorney is definitely an option, I would still encourage you to obtain your Enrolled Agent license yourself. Honestly, the test isn’t that difficult for an experienced tax preparer that puts in a couple weeks of study. The Gleim test prep books are the ones I used, and they were pretty good.

The reason I would encourage you to get your license yourself, even if you hire a licensed person to do the work, is because by IRS regulation, you must be licensed in order to solicit representation services. In other words, it’s a violation for an unlicensed person, even an experienced preparer, to sell licensed representation services.

A couple weeks of study and a few hundred dollars for the tests is a tiny price to pay to be able to sell something as lucrative as tax resolution, in my biased opinion. 🙂

Since this comes up frequently, I figured it was finally worth it’s own blog post, so here we go.

Let’s start with the one thing that I feel I’ve become a broken record about over the past few years:

In order to sell tax resolution services, you MUST be licensed. This is non-negotiable.

I’m starting with this, instead of “why you should be licensed”, because I feel like it’s the most salient point for anybody reading this blog. Most folks end up here because of the information I provide on marketing and selling tax resolution services.

In case you’re not familiar with Revenue Procedure 81-38, this was the original Revenue Procedure covering limited practice without enrollment. Section 8 of this Revenue Procedure explicitly bars individuals that are NOT an EA, CPA, or attorney from soliciting representation services (which is what “tax resolution”) is.

Many folks erroneously believe that every provision of 81-38 was replaced by Revenue Procedure 2014-42Continue reading

Making money *after* tax season

It’s been a hard push the past few months.

There’s one day left to go in a jam packed tax season. You’ve made plenty of cash to last for a while. You’re exhausted, and you’re just ready for it to all be over.

Sure, you’ll have some extensions to work on. But it’ll be the life of leisure after this week, right?

For most tax professionals, that statement couldn’t be further from the truth.

Now, if you’ve configured your life in such a manner that you can live on your tax season revenue for the remainder of the year, then I applaud you.

For most tax pros, however, it couldn’t be farther from the truth. The stark reality for most of our colleagues is that tax season is the time when you have enough money to finally catch up on bills, pay your own taxes, pay off the Christmas credit cards, catch up on the mortgage they were two months behind on, pay the kid’s next tuition bill, and on, and on.

Even though we make good money during tax season, it’s not that hard for it to suddenly all vanish, and then we’re struggling again for the rest of the year.

Here’s how you break out of that boom and bust cycle: Have multiple revenue sources within your practice to even out the peaks and valleys of seasonal business. Specifically, I suggest having three solid revenue sources within any practice, and my favorite happens to be IRS collections representation.

There are a number of issues impacting all professional service providers, including CPAs, attorneys, and EAs alike. Consider the following info from the legal world, while bearing in mind that similar trends exist in the accounting space:

  1. Smaller Pie – As the New York Times recently pointed out, “Legal forms are now available online and require training well below a lawyer’s to fill them out.” In other words, the Internet is decreasing the public’s reliance on attorneys for simple matters. The same phenomenon has been see for CPAs and EAs with the rise of QuickBooks, consumer tax software, and IRS Free File.
  2. More Mouths to Feed – The number of attorneys continues to grow: We saw 6,694 new attorneys passing the bar last year in California alone. Worse, a lot of the larger firms are laying off, and when those layed off attorneys can’t find work, they start their own practices, creating more competition. Business
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Why Your Tax Season Business Model Is Probably Flawed

One of the beautiful things about being in the tax industry is that we have the flexibility of choosing any number of business models we’d like in order to create the lifestyle we desire. Very few professions permit this level of work/life balance.

For example, there is the business model upon which nearly the entire retail tax preparation industry is based: The purely seasonal model. In this model, the business is literally only functional, with the doors open and staff and clients in the office, for a few months each year. For 2015, this means generating nearly every dollar of revenue between Jan. 20 and Apr. 15. This business model allows even the solo practitioner to earn a comfortable six figure annual income with only a few months of work.

The greatest thing about this business model, in my mind, is that it allows the tax professional to spend the rest of the year (e.g., 6 to 8 months) doing something completely different, and far more awesome, such as sailing the south Pacific.

A variation on this business model involves a small year-round business, with a significant seasonal swelling of staff, clients, and revenue. This business model is great for the practitioner that wants to work year-round, but doesn’t want to work full time year-round. This is the business model that the majority of tax professionals I speak with actually desire. This model allows the practitioner significant flexibility for multiple, short vacations nearly any time of the year, and allows one to set their own working hours nearly at will. Revenues in the off season can be dialed up or down as desired simply by turning marketing campaigns on or off.

You’ll notice that a key element of these business models is choice. As a business, it’s completely up to you to select how you want your business to operate, and how much time you want to spend operating in it and when.

For most of the past four years that I’ve been in private practice, with the exception of the first few months of startup, I’ve operated largely part-time, but year-round, with no tax season, offering only one service (tax resolution). This business model worked well for me, as it allowed me to travel the world while still representing my clients and making a good living. This business model also has some flaws, particularly the lack of client retention, but I accepted those … Continue reading