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The History of Enrolled Agents: How "Lost" Horses Created the Profession

Updated: Dec 15, 2020

When I tell most people that I recently became an Enrolled Agent (EA), the most common response is one of utmost confusion. Questions immediately follow like “is that a college major?” or “do you get a badge with that?” Even my boyfriend thought the position required us to move to Hollywood as I would be working for movie stars. I have since learned to preface my answer with a short summary like an Enrolled Agent specializes in all tax matters and can represent you before the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).


While I sometimes have a captive audience for this spiel, the job description lacks some excitement. Needless to say, I was on the hunt for some tidbit of information to enliven the conversation.


Apparently, the position of Enrolled Agent was created in 1884 under very peculiar circumstances. The United States was still cleaning up from the destruction left by the Civil War. The government was spending a lot of money compensating citizens whose property was used for the war effort. But, many claims, especially for supposedly "lost" and "dead" horses, were fraudulent.


In response, President Chester A. Arthur (who graduated from Union College in Schenectady, NY just as I did!) passed the Horse Act of 1884 to weed out bad claims and to create the position of Enrolled Agent to help those people with legitimate requests.


By 1913, the income tax was just enacted and President Wilson expanded the role of Enrolled Agents to include preparation of tax returns and gave them greater representation rights.


So not to beat a dead horse here, but I think I just found the thing that made being an Enrolled Agent a little bit more interesting. I may not get a badge or work with the actors and actresses that grace the big screen, but I can do your tax return and advocate for you if the government took your horse.




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