How Do I Become an EA?

How Do I Become an Enrolled Agent?

Whether you’ve been asked by your employer or just opened your own practice and have heard that this certification can differentiate you in the market, you’ve resolved to become an EA. Before you dive in, it will help to know what an Enrolled Agent is and the basic steps you need to take.

What is an Enrolled Agent?

According to the IRS, an Enrolled Agent is someone who has passed a three-part IRS exam focusing on individual and business returns or an experienced former member of the IRS. After earning EA status, certification holders are expected to complete specific IRS-designated professional requirements every three years, like completing continuing education and ethics or professional conduct programs.

EAs, unlike non-credentialed preparers, can represent clients for audits, collections, and appeals in IRS administrative hearings. An EA who wants to represent a client in tax court must pass the Tax Court exam.

Earning Enrolled Agent (EA) Status

Becoming an EA involves six steps.

Step 1

Get a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). If you’ve already been preparing taxes for a living, chances are that you’ve already completed this step.

Step 2

Apply for the Special Enrollment Examination (SEE) and review the SEE Candidate Information Bulletin.

Step 3

Study for the exam. The IRS recommends that you review sample text questions and answers as part of your test prep.

Step 4

Take and pass all three portions of the SEE. (Certain former IRS agents are granted a waiver for this exam.)

Step 5

Submit an application for enrollment, which involves a background check and $30 enrollment fee. You can pay online or by mailing a check and completed Form 23 to the IRS.

Step 6

Pass the tax compliance check that is conducted following submission of Form 23.

What are EAs Required to Do?

After becoming an EA, you will have to renew your PTIN annually via the online renewal application and your certification every three years by submitting Form 8554 to the IRS – both processes require a fee. The three-year EA renewal cycle is based on the last digit of your Social Security Number, and more information on the process can be found in Circular 230.

Enrolled Agents must complete a minimum of 16 hours of continuing education each year (two hours must be related to ethics), and a total of 72 hours every three years. Continuing education credits must be earned from an approved provider, and the IRS offers a downloadable credit chart to help you track your progress.

PTIN Update

Following the District Court of D.C.’s ruling, the IRS cannot charge money for issuing and renewing PTINs. This means that you will not have to pay a fee when signing up for or renewing your PTIN this year. If there are any further developments related to PTIN fees, we will provide an update as soon as the information is available.