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Enrolled Agents (EA) is a tax advisor who is a federally-authorized tax practitioner empowered by the U.S. Department of Treasury. Enrolled Agents represent taxpayers before the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for tax issues.
An enrolled agent is a tax practitioner who is licensed at the federal level by the IRS. In fact, enrolled agent status is the highest credential awarded by the IRS. On the other hand, certified public accountants are licensed by their applicable state boards of accountancy.
Simply, there are five steps to become an EA
- You have to obtain a “Preparer Tax Identification Number”
- Apply to take the Special Enrollment Examination (SEE)
- Achieve passing scores on all three parts of the SEE
- Apply for enrollment
- Pass a suitability check (tax filed history, tax liabilities, criminal background, etc.)
The EA Exam, officially known as the Special Enrollment Examination (SEE), is a three-part exam administered by Prometric on behalf of the IRS. Each part is taken as a separate 100 question exam and you will have 3.5 hours to answer all questions for that part. Among the 100 questions, only 85 questions are scored and 15 questions are experimental questions that will not socred.
Part 1: Individual
Part 2: Business
Part 3: Representation, Practices, and Procedures
Candidates may schedule each part of the exam at their convenience, in any order. It is not required to take all parts in one sitting. However, the candidates have a two-year window from the time they pass the first part to pass the other two parts of the exam.
The most difficult test for most candidates is Part 2 (Business). Only about 60% of exam takers have passed this part. Part 1 (Individual) of the exam is also challenging; approximately 75-80% of exam takers have passed this part.
You can schedule an examination appointment at any time online at Prometric.com/see; by calling 800-306-3926.
You have to bring an unexpired government-issued photo ID that includes your name, photo, and signature. Paper, pencil, and a calculator will be provided at the test site.
The scaled passing score is 105. Scaled scores are determined by calculating the number of questions answered correctly and converting it to scale that ranges from 40 to 130.
The Enrolled Agent Exam testing window runs from May 1 to February 28 of the following year.
The Enrolled Agent exam has 3 parts, and you must pay a testing fee for each one. The EA exam testing fee is $181.94.
As the average Enrolled Agent exam pass rate is 71%.
Continuing Education and the Other
You must apply for enrollment within one year of the date you passed the third examination part. You may electronically apply for enrollment and make a secure payment of the $67 enrollment fee at Pay.gov
You may also apply for enrollment by mail by submitting a completed Form 23, Application for Enrollment to Practice Before the IRS (PDF), along with a check for $67 to the address listed on the Form.
The national average annual salary of an Enrolled Agent is approximately $45,000.
Enrolled agents work for tax preparation firm, or as self-employed owners. Enrolled agents are federally recognized and can serve any client in any state.
Enrolled agents must obtain 72 hours of continuing education every three years. A minimum of 16 hours must be earned per year, two of which must be on ethics.
Consequently, the EA exam does not have any education or experience requirements. Instead, a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) is the only thing you need for IRS exam eligibility.
While Enrolled Agents do perform accounting tasks, and may perform certain kinds of audits, they are limited in that they cannot express an “unqualified” type of opinion.
Enrolled Agents are specifically authorized to represent taxpayers before the IRS at all administrative levels, up to, but not including Tax Court. Most Enrolled Agents operate accounting practices and complete directly with CPA’s, bookkeepers, and other accountants.
You should plan to study at least 50 hours for each part of the exam, at a pace of at least 10 to 15 hours per week.
Depending on your tax knowledge, becoming an enrolled agent can take 3-8 months.