It's Possible
It's Possible

Being the “bestest” tax nerd you can be

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I became enamored with taxes at a very early age. I will forever be thankful to my math teacher in junior high school who introduced me to taxes. For two weeks, a long table was strewn with piles of tax forms. I can still remember the wonderful smell of musty paper. It was just so inviting to that 12-year-old girl! Please do not ask why; it just was. I am forever thankful to that awesome teacher.

As life happens, it took a while before I returned to that love I had for taxes, and it all started when I was soon going to be an empty nester. My husband and I had a landscaping business, but I also needed a new challenge. My only thought was, “Taxes!” I started with taking tax classes and then I volunteered with the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. It was very rewarding, but I wanted more. I decided to apply for a part-time position at a local tax firm. Two days per week at first. Within months, I was working full time.

My head spun from what I was learning. Yet, I knew I wanted to know more. Dancing numbers across the tax form was so much fun to watch! At this tax firm, we only had one enrolled agent (EA) and representation work kept walking in the front door. Therefore, one fine morning in 2010, the owner announced that I (along with a coworker) was going to study for the Special Enrollment Examination (SEE). Oh, the questions that ran through my head! Did I know enough? Was I able to study, work full time, plus do all the work for our home business? Sure, I was loving every aspect of what I was doing in helping clients navigate through IRS letters and such. But, the task of studying was a little intimidating. However, never being one to shy away from a challenge, I began my 3-month journey to study to obtain my enrolled agent credential.

As I began to study, I really did not know where to start. There were some study materials available, but the choices were limited. I turned to my favorite thing to do when I was in a quandary of where to start. I searched the internet for “EA exam.” Searching the internet is always my go-to strategy. Guess what? I found a test online that was several years old. It was the last year that the IRS gave the exam in person, and it had the answers to the questions, as well. To start the process of studying, I took part 1 cold turkey, sitting right there at my desk. Oh my, what a train wreck! Failed it terribly. So, I studied the subject matter of every single one of those questions I missed by reading publication after publication. Next, I retook the test, studied what I missed again, until I felt comfortable to take the actual test itself. Voila, I took the test and passed it on the first try. Thus, I did the same system for each of the parts and passed them on the first try, as well. Each time I wanted to tap the computer monitor to make sure it was not a mistake. There is nothing like doing it the hard way, but it worked.

Since becoming an enrolled agent in 2010, I have had the privilege of assisting many people with tax preparation and tax compliance issues. My favorite (and most successful) representation went to federal appeals court on an innocent spouse case. I was able to save my client close to $100,000. I made a difference in that person’s life! Extremely satisfying. In January 2015, I started my own practice. At the same time, I began working for a major company to assist many, many clients. In 2019, I took the next logical step by becoming an NTPI Fellow® to deepen my knowledge of tax representation.

An unexpected benefit of becoming an enrolled agent has been discovering that I have a gift for teaching continuing education/continuing professional education. To date, I have taught various tax topics to thousands of other EAs and CPAs. I have also mentored others to become EAs. All of this because I returned to my love of taxes and said “Yes,” to being an EA.

If you are thinking about becoming an EA, I say, “Now is the time!” There are many wonderful study programs out there to make the process easier than what I did! Tip: Test-taking skills are a must. If you are already an enrolled agent, you have attained a special credential only held by a few. You should be very proud of yourself! To every tax professional, I would commend you to never stop perfecting your tax craft. Continue to seek quality continuing education. And be the “bestest” tax nerd you can be.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published the National Association of Enrolled Agents.

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