My business partner and I are currently looking for an accountant for our growing business. At the moment we have met with two different accountants. One was a CPA and one was an Enrollment Agent. We plan to have a meeting with at least one more accountant before deciding on who to go with.
We found that the both people were very profession, the CPA and Enrollment Agent answered all our question and seemed like we could work well together. Though, the Enrollment Agent seemed to be more knowledge in the aspects of running a business (He ran his own business for 5 years before becoming an Enrollment Agent), he gave us lots of advice from a business perspective (like what entity we should pick, since we are still trying to figure this out) and also seem just more well rounded to give advice. The CPA was also knowledgable in taxes but definitely didn't seem to have a business background.
Which would be the better choice for us? I would have definitely gone with the Enrollment Agent off the back if he was a CPA, but from my understanding CPA are consider a "tier above" Enrollment Agents.
As a practicing CPA, I would suggest you go with the one that can provide the answers you need. In your case, that may be the Enrolled Agent (EA). Even in the area of taxation, I see a number of EAs who are top notch thought leaders in this industry.
To become a CPA, a person must have a four or five year degree. I don't believe there is any education requirement to become an EA. A CPA has to take the CPA exam. When I took it, this exam was 18 hours long, only about 2% of the takers would pass all 4 parts on the first sitting and only about 75% would pass it eventually (about 75% of the people who take the bar exam pass it the first time). When I got my license, you had to have 500 hours of experience working on audited financial statements. I think that requirement is gone now unless you do auditing work. CPAs and EAs both have to take about 40 hours of continuing education every year.
Bottom line, EAs may not have quite the same qualification requirements, but there are occasions when I will take advice from an experienced Enrolled Agents. If you are getting better information from the EA, follow your instincts.