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If you’re a tax preparer looking to take your skills to the next level, or if you’re looking for a new, fulfilling career working with and helping other people, you may want to consider earning your Enrolled Agent credential. But what exactly does an Enrolled Agent do? And once you decide it’s the right career path, how do you earn the credential? In this post, we’ll cover the job duties, the qualifications, and give you a step-by-step guide on how to become an Enrolled Agent.

What is an Enrolled Agent?

The definition of an Enrolled Agent (EA) is a tax professional who has achieved the highest credential the IRS offers. EAs are federally authorized to represent taxpayers before the IRS and, like CPAs and attorneys, have unlimited representation rights. This means EAs can represent any taxpayer, whether they prepare returns for them or not. EAs can also represent any tax matter and appeal to any office of the IRS.

An EA’s job varies from day to day; some days will see an EA preparing tax returns or providing written advice to third parties regarding business transactions; other days will see her helping clients with audits or representing clients during hearings or conferences. The job varies, but the core of the EA profession is in service to others.

How to Become an Enrolled Agent

There is no formal education requirement to become an EA, but experience in the tax field is a plus. However, anyone can become an EA provided they pass the standards laid out by the IRS, no matter their previous position. Here are 7 steps you can take to launch your EA career:

1. Obtain a Personal Tax Identification Number (PTIN)

To obtain a PTIN, you will need your social security number, your personal information, your business information, your previous year’s individual tax return, an explanation for any felony convictions, an explanation for any issues with tax obligations, and any U.S. based professional certification information.

Once you’ve gathered all of your information, you can create an account on the IRS website. Then you can apply for your PTIN. If approved, your PTIN will be provided to you electronically.

2. Study for the Special Enrollment Exam (SEE)

The SEE is administered over three separate exams:

  • Part 1: Individuals
  • Part 2: Businesses
  • Part 3: Representation, Practices, and Procedures

All of the information on the exam is publically available via the IRS’s website. However, there is no set route of study on the website, and it is very difficult to sift through all of the information and decide what is relevant to the exam. Instead, consider an EA Review course to help you study quicker and more efficiently for the exam.

Surgent EA Review features A.S.A.P. Technology which helps students study more efficiently through an algorithm that tailors learning to your individual needs. The information is presented in a logical way to help you pass the EA exam in fewer hours of study.

3. Register for the SEE

Once you have some studying under your belt, it’s time to register for the exam. You can register for the SEE via Prometric’s Special Enrollment Exam webpage; be sure to schedule early as slots can sometimes fill up.

4. Take the SEE

All three parts of the SEE must be passed within a two-year window. Each exam lasts 3.5 hours and contains 100 multiple choice questions. A minimum score of 105 is required to pass.

5. Apply for Enrollment

Once you’ve passed all three parts of the Enrolled Agent Exam, you can apply for enrollment to practice before the IRS by filling out Form 23. The cost to apply is $30.

6. Pass a Sustainability Check

Candidates who apply for enrollment must pass a suitability check, including a tax compliance check and background check.

7. Start Your New Career

Enrolled Agent jobs can be found in a variety of organizations from large public accounting firms to small accounting businesses. Enrolled Agents can also start their own tax business. The opportunities for tax preparers become more varied with Enrolled Agent status, and candidates will find that career doors open up with the certification.

How to Maintain Your Enrolled Agent Status

Once you become an Enrolled Agent, it’s important you maintain your status from year to year. Enrolled Agents perform the following to maintain EA status:

  • 1. Renew their PTIN Annually
  • 2. Obtain 72 hours of continuing education every three years through an IRS approved continuing education provider. A minimum of 16 hours must be completed each year, 2 of which must be in ethics.
  • 3. Renew Enrolled Agent status every 3 years


Are you ready to start studying for the Special Enrollment Exam?

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