Girish Neil Shankaran: Insight into an Enrolled Agent

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About The Author
Darryl Albuquerque was born and brought up in Mangalore.  He graduated in Commerce from St. Aloysius and then passed his MBA summa-cum-laude.  He is presently associated with a legal publishing house in Dubai.  His previous stints have been with two of the Big 4 accounting firms both in the US and India.

Girish Neil Shankaran born in 1974 was raised in Mumbai.  He did his schooling and attended college in Mumbai completing his B.Com and then an MBA from the famed Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies, Mumbai. 

He is the son of late Mr. K. N. Shankaran (hailing from Wadakancherry, Kerala) and Mrs. Nathaleen Shankaran.  He has a brother, Mohan Colin, who is based in Dubai, UAE.  Girish?s deceased father worked for many years as a Supervisor in a printing press in Manama, Bahrain.  His mother was a Supervisor in the quality control department of Geoffrey Manners, a pharmaceutical company in Mumbai.  She now leads a retired life in Mumbai, a parishioner of St. Blaise Church, Amboli.  Girish?s mother Nathaleen is half-Mangalorean (her mother hailing from a Mangalorean family of Kankanady) and half-Tamilian (her father hailing from Ootacamund, Tamil Nadu). 

Girish is currently, based in Rotterdam, The Netherlands since January 2005 as a Tax Manager with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).  Prior to this, he lived and worked for PwC in Boston, Massachusetts from May 2001 through November 2004.  His previous work stints were with Arthur Andersen and Rolta, both in Mumbai. 

Girish has also recently passed his Enrolled Agent examination, adding to his credentials as a US tax expert.  He graciously answered a few questions about the examination, in the spirit of sharing his knowledge to other aspiring EAs.  If the need arises, he can be contacted at

Who or What is an Enrolled Agent?

An Enrolled agent (EA), similar to a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or Attorney, is an individual who has demonstrated technical competence in the field of taxation.  The concerned individual is licensed by the Federal Government to represent taxpayers before the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the US taxing authority, at all administrative levels. 

Why the name ‘Enrolled Agent’

?Enrolled? because the individual is licensed by the Federal Government and ?Agent? due to the fact that the individual is authorized to appear before the IRS in place of the taxpayer. 

Why did you do the EA exam?

As part of the credentialing requirements of CPA firms and in particular, PwC, we need to be either EAs, CPAs or Attorneys.  I chose the EA because it is not State regulated.  In other words, you do not need a license to practice in a particular State like CPAs do.  EAs can practice anywhere, since it is a federally granted license. 

Is the exam the only way to become an EA?

There is only one other way.  If you work with the IRS for a particular period of time, you automatically qualify as an EA. 

What are the courses that one needs to complete in order to be an EA and where do you obtain materials for the exam?

You have several private organizations conducting coaching classes before the exams.  For example in Europe, you have the European American Tax Association.  However, I prepared on my own, by purchasing the modules for the four different groups, which are
(1) Individual income taxes;
(2) Sole Proprietorships and Partnerships;
(3) Corporations (including S Corporations), Fiduciaries, Estate and Gift Tax, and Trusts; and
(4) Ethics, Record keeping Procedures, Appeal Procedures, Exempt Organizations, Retirement Plans, Practitioner Penalty Provisions, Research Materials and Collection Procedures. 

Does one have to be employed while doing the EA exam?

There is no such requirement. 

What are the fees to do this course and did your employer pay for it?

Yes, my employer paid for it.  It is US$ 55 if you take all four parts and US$ 45 for less than four parts. 

How is it different from a CPA

Only Enrolled Agents are required to demonstrate, to the IRS, their competence in matters of taxation before they represent a taxpayer before the IRS.  Unlike Attorneys and CPAs, who may or may not choose to specialize in taxes, all EAs specialize in taxation.  As mentioned earlier, EAs are the only taxpayer representatives who receive their right to practice from the United States Government.  (CPAs and Attorneys are licensed by the states). 

What are the rights and responsibilities of an Enrolled Agent?

US Treasury Department, Circular 230 ( ) governs the practice of EAs before the IRS.  This circular has an exhaustive list of rights, responsibilities, duties, continuing professional education requirements etc, which needs to be met by tax practitioners like EAs and CPAs. 

You are physically absent from the US.  Does this mean one does not have to be physically present in the US to be an EA?

An EA is not required to be physically present in the US. 

Are there licensing requirements once the course is finished?

Once you pass the examination, one needs to make an application for enrollment.  The IRS will then scrutinize the application and grant approval accordingly.  Subsequently, once enrollment has been granted, the EA needs to maintain annual Continuous Professional Education requirements referred to as CPE credits. 

Does the IRS do any background checks?

Yes, they do to confirm whether you have been in compliance.  For example, if you are a US citizen or resident, they check whether you filed your tax returns on time, or if you have been held for any felony in the past, etc. This is part of the scrutiny process before enrollment is granted.

Are you bound by any ethical standards?

Yes under the previously mentioned Circular 230. 

What career options open up once you become an EA?

Typically, most firms have the requirements that you cannot sign income tax returns without the required credentials like EA, CPA or Attorneys.  Once you become an EA, you are allowed to sign tax returns and can get involved with host of other tax related issues on behalf of your clients.  These added responsibilities open flood gates for future growth. 

What would a typical work day for an EA be like?

It would be like any other tax professional.  There are deadlines, client commitments, dealings with the IRS on open issues, tax compliance sign offs etc.  One needs to keep abreast of all the latest developments at all times, in addition to client demands.  The latter also ties into the CPE requirements.

At what levels of the IRS would you represent taxpayers and for what kind of work?

Representation would be only for tax related work.  One can appear before the IRS at all administrative levels. 

What are the liabilities you may face as an EA?

The Office of Professional Responsibility can disbar, suspend or censure an EA for disreputable conduct.  The latter would include being convicted for criminal offense under the revenue laws or any offense involving dishonesty or breach of trust, knowingly providing false or misleading information in connection with federal tax matters.  These are some examples. 

Do you have to keep yourself updated through continuing education as an EA?

Yes, annual CPE is mandatory.

How has being an Enrolled Agent helped you in your career and as a person?

In my own situation, there has been no difference.  I have always been enthusiastic about keeping myself abreast with all the latest tax laws.  Further, I have always been an advocate of my clients, but strictly within the ethical professional standards set by Circular 230 and the US Department of Treasury.  These are things which an EA or any tax professional needs to do.  It shouldn?t be any different.  Career wise, it does open opportunities, as I pointed out earlier. 

Any message to aspiring EAs?

It does a world of good for a tax professional and is a recognized credential. 


Author: Darryl Albuquerque- UAE

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