The National Association of Enrolled Agents (NAEA) as we know it today began on June 26, 1972, in Hawthorne, California when five dedicated enrolled agents met together at one of their offices. In this esteemed founding group were: Syd Schuldiner, the first president (1972/73); David Smollan, the second president (1973/74); Leonard Williams, the third president (1974/75); Pauline Creal, the first secretary and first treasurer (1972/73), and J. Norman Lyons. The group set dues at $15, secured tax-exempt status in California, and with the original 35 members embarked on an ambitious series of activities to increase the numbers of enrolled agents. These early pioneers of enrolled agent organization realized that to help the association (then the Association of Enrolled Agents) grow they needed to provide ways for more EAs to meet on a regular basis. Thus, the first two chapters were formed in California. By the time of the first convention on June 29, 1973 in Las Vegas, there were four chapters in California as well as chapters in Arizona, New York. Texas, and Florida.
Long History of the Enrolled Agent
It was at this 1973 convention that Vice President Lee Wurst shared the research he had uncovered on the long history of the enrolled agent. Enrolled agents were first recognized on July 7, 1884 by an Act of Congress signed into law by President Chester A. Arthur, which came about due to fraudulent war loss claims following the Civil War. The “Enabling Act” or “Horse Act of 1884,” which stipulated that enrollment was governed by a committee on enrollment and disbarment, was meant to ensure that enrolled “agents, attorneys, or other persons representing claimants” could help settle claims associated with property the government had seized for use in the Civil War.
Expanded Role of the Enrolled Agent
In 1913, the first income tax law became effective with the ratification of the 16th Amendment by President Woodrow Wilson. The scope of the enrolled agent was expanded to include claims for monetary relief for citizens whose taxes had become inequitable. As income, estate, gift, and other sources of taxes became more complex, the role of enrolled agent grew to include preparation of the many required tax forms. Audits increased and the enrolled agent role evolved to include taxpayer representation, resulting in a series of statutes that were combined in 1941 into a single Treasury Department Circular. Circular 230 replaced the Enabling Act and marked the first publication to specify the rules and regulations that governed procedure, practice, and enrollment. Enrolled agents, Circular 230 practitioners, are federally authorized tax practitioners empowered by the U.S. Department of the Treasury to represent taxpayers before the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for tax issues including audits, collections, and appeals. (Lawyers and CPAs are licensed by states, whereas enrolled agents can practice in all 50 states.) Enrolled agent status is the highest credential awarded by the IRS, secured by passing a three-part Special Enrollment Exam or through previous experience at the IRS.
Today, NAEA has just under 11,000 members and 38 affiliates representing 43 states. It has been headquartered in Washington, DC, since 1981 and the location has helped it exceed expectations in its level of advocacy and government relations activities on Capitol Hill. The EA Journal, begun in 1983, has continued strong to the present and is the association’s flagship bimonthly publication, which focuses on tax law updates and tax issues, practice management, advocacy and government relations, and association governance, with continuing education credits available based on a test on the feature articles. The weekly newsletter E@lert (initially EA-lert), begun in December 1985, keeps members up-to-date on all the latest tax administration, government relations, state, and association news. It is a testament to NAEA that its membership has been from the beginning and remains today highly active at all levels of the organization, from president and directors to affiliate leadership, NAEA committees, and ad hoc volunteers. For more detailed information on NAEA's history, please see Bess Messmer, EA’s, The First 20 Years: 1972-1992 and Ann Shroll, EA’s, The Second 20 Years: 1993-2013.