The enrolled agent certification can help boost your accounting career, particularly if you work in the field of tax preparation or auditing. When learning about this profession, you might naturally wonder how many enrolled agents there are, either in the US or beyond. Luckily, the IRS provides some very specific information on this topic.
According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), an enrolled agent is a person who can represent a taxpayer before the agency. In other words, EAs are nationally-recognized tax experts. EAs may come from any profession, but most are accountants who deal with tax preparation. In order to earn this privilege, a person must take and pass the Special Enrollment Examination (SEE).
Based on the Freedom of Information Act, the IRS provides the names and contact information of all active enrolled agents on its website. As of March 26, 2021, there are 66,679 enrolled agents throughout the world. However, this list updates twice a year, in March and September.
Although EAs deal specifically with the US tax code, they may be located in other countries to assist international clients paying American taxes. Nevertheless, the vast majority of EAs – 62,973, or 94% – are located in the US.
However, there are also plenty of EAs in the following countries:
Currently, there are 12,700 active EAs in the state of California. As a result, it’s the state with the most EAs by far. In comparison, the runners up are Florida with 4,534 and New York with 4,451. Unsurprisingly, states with the largest populations tend to have the most EAs.
Unfortunately, the IRS does not seem to publish numbers of EA exam candidates. Ultimately, this seems a little odd, especially considering how easy it is to find exactly how many IRS enrolled agents are there.
There are three parts to the SEE, also called the enrolled agent exam. You must pass all three to become an EA, and each of the three has a slightly different pass rate. Here’s a breakdown of the last three years. Each date range runs from May of one year to February of the following year, as the exam is not offered in March or April.
|Part 1: Individuals||Part 2: Businesses||Part 3: Representation, Practices, and Procedures|
As you can see, Part 3 tends to have the highest pass rate, but Part 1 has the lowest.
According to Salary.com, an enrolled agent in the US makes an average of $49,508 as of early 2021. However, the typical salary range is between $41,620 and $58,015. This is about 10% more than unenrolled tax preparers make. Thus, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for all tax preparers, both enrolled and unenrolled, is $44,300.
After finding out how many enrolled agents there are and what they make, if you’d like to become an EA yourself, the steps are relatively easy. In fact, there are no education or experience requirements. Here’s a basic outline of the steps.
If you don’t already have a preparer tax identification number (PTIN), visit the IRS website and complete an application. Subsequently, you’ll be able to find your PTIN online.
As previously mentioned, you must pass a three-part exam. Specifically, each part lasts 3.5 hours and consists of 100 multiple choice questions. Although the Special Enrollment Exam is difficult, there are many EA test prep programs to help you study. Check out my list of the best enrolled agent courses for 2021.
Alternatively, if you’ve worked for the IRS for at least five years, you may qualify for EA status without needing to take the exam. Usually, your experience needs to be in one of the following jobs: appeals officer, special agent, revenue officer or agent, tax or tax law specialist, or settlement officer. If this applies to you, you can fill out a form to apply for the EA certification.
Once you’ve passed the SEE, you have one year to apply for EA status. You’ll need to fill out some forms and pay a $30 fee, and then wait about 60 days for processing. During this time, the IRS reviews your personal tax records.
For more information about the process of becoming enrolled, check out my full article on how to become an EA.