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, or even if you’re a seasoned CPA looking to add a more tax-focused and nationally-recognized credential to your repertoire, 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?
By definition, an Enrolled Agent (EA) is a tax professional who has achieved the highest credential the Internal Revenue Service 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. Unlike the CPA credential, which falls under state boards for licensing, continuing education, and other compliance matters, the EA credential is valid in any state.
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 Examination (SEE)
There are three parts to the exam:
- Part 1: Individuals
- Part 2: Businesses
- Part 3: Representation, Practices, and Procedures
All of the information on the exam is publicly 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, a proprietary adaptive learning solution that helps students study more efficiently through an algorithm that tailors learning to your individual knowledge and study progress. As you study with Surgent EA Review, study materials will be tailored to you and presented in a logical way to help you pass the EA exam in the fewest possible hours of study. In addition, Surgent EA Review has a feature called ReadySCORE. ReadySCORE uses real EA Exam scoring along with your study progress to estimate what you would score on the actual EA Exam if you were to take it at that moment. ReadySCORE continually updates as you study, so you’ll see just how much you’ve learned — and actually know when you’re truly ready to pass the exam.
3. Register for the SEE
Once you have some studying under your belt, it’s time to register for one or more parts of the exam. You can take them in any order you choose. You can register for the SEE via Prometric’s Special Enrollment Examination webpage; be sure to schedule early as slots can sometimes fill up. It’s also a good idea to review the Candidate Information Bulletin.
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. You will need to achieve a passing score on all three parts of the exam to become an Enrolled Agent.
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 for you to maintain your status from year to year. Enrolled Agents are required to do the following to maintain their active EA status:
- 1. Renew their PTIN annually
- 2. Obtain 72 hours of continuing education every three years through an IRS approved continuing education provider (such as Surgent, which offers IRS-approved live webinars, IRS-approved self-study courses, and cost-effective Continuing Education packages designed just for EAs). 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?
Sign up for a Surgent EA Review free trial!