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This page is dedicated to professionals who are looking for specific steps on how to become an Enrolled Agent in the quickest way possible.
The first 5 steps are important decisions to make before you begin the application process. Step 6-10 show exactly what you need to do from registration, planning, studying, passing the exam for you to become an Enrolled Agent within 6-12 months.
First realize that the first step is NOT filling out application forms and paying the fees.
But rather, the first step is to make sure you understand all that’s involved and whether becoming an Enrolled Agent adds tangible benefits in your career.
An enrolled agent is an expert in tax preparation. Together with CPAs and attorneys, Enrolled Agents have unlimited rights to represent taxpayers before the IRS for audits, collections and appeals.
In order to convince yourself and your family as to why you need to take the time, money, and effort and put it toward the Enrolled Agent exam and licensing process, you have to understand the benefits of becoming an Enrolled Agent.
The main reasons to become an enrolled agent include setting yourself apart from regular tax professionals, gaining clients’ trust with a qualification that includes receiving special privileges from the IRS, and to differentiate yourself from attorneys and CPAs as a tax expert.
Before embarking on your EA journey, it is worth spending the time to analyze the pros and cons of getting an EA versus other related qualifications. Pick one that fits your interests and long term career path.
There will be costs associated with receiving and maintaining the Enrollment Agent status. Do the costs, including exam and ongoing fees (i.e., Continuing Education or EA CE), exceed the benefits of being an EA? If your answer is no, then let’s keep going!
How about the opportunity cost of spending time and effort on the EA exam – would this be too much of a sacrifice as you juggle your role as a professional, spouse and/or parent?
Once you make up your mind to become an Enrolled Agent, there are two tracks to get there:
I am going to explain Track #1 in steps 6-10 below.
(For former IRS employees who prefer Track #2, please click here)
The Enrolled Agent exam is technically called the Special Enrollment Examination or SEE.
You do not need any prior educational or work experience to get qualified for the SEE, but you’ll need to register for a PTIN and that can be easily done online. Here are the steps:
It is easiest to register online, but you can choose to manually fill out Form W-12 and mail to the IRS. This method takes up to 6 weeks. I highly recommend going the online route because if you have to spend 6 weeks waiting for your PTIN, this could drastically cut into your overall EA exam progress.
Please note that the PTIN expires at the end of each year. The renewal process is the same as the registration, and yes, you’ll have to pay the $50 fee again.
I suggest to start studying before scheduling the exam because through studying, you’ll know for sure when you are ready to schedule your exam. Without a review course, your path to become an Enrolled Agent is made tougher. Additionally, IRS doesn’t provide its own Enrolled Agent study materials, so our we recommend finding a good review course.
There are a number of good review courses with a relatively big price range based on the sophistication of the product.
I have my Enrolled Agent course recommendation here. You may choose an Enrolled Agent course based on your background, learning style and budget.
About 3 weeks before you are expect to be done with the studying, schedule your preferred part of the exam. You don’t need to take the parts in sequential order. And I’d just like to add that you shouldn’t study for them at the same time, although you can. But it is not recommended.
To pick a location, you have to register at the Prometric — the administrator of the EA exam. Here are the steps:
1. Go to www.prometric.com/irs
2. Click “Schedule my test” button in the “I want to…” box
3. A login box appears. For first-timer, click “Create Account” to set up your user ID and password.
4. Go to your email box, click on the confirmation link, and activate your account.
5. Log in to fill in your personal details. You should have your PTIN ready.
6. Click “Save and Continue” to complete the registration.
You can also choose to fax or mail in the application, but you can only register and schedule the same day using the online method.
Go back to the Prometric IRS page and click “Locate a Test Center” button in the “I want to…” box.
You can search by entering the keyword of your preferred location.
Once registered, you have to take the exam within 2 years. Here are the steps on how to schedule the exam:
For more details on the registration and scheduling, check out the EA exam candidate bulletin.
You have to apply for enrollment within one year of passing all three parts of the exam. You can do this by filling out Form 23.
If you go through the “exam” path, all you need is to submit this form and pay $30 online to the IRS. The process takes 60 days.
If you go through the “experience” path, you will need to submit extra information on your education, training, license and work experience. Please note that this former IRS employee review takes longer – around 3 months. And just so you’re prepared, it could be longer.
In both cases, there will be a background check.
If you know you have some problems in your history, take the initiative to alert IRS by listing the info in a disclosure statement with the application. Explain how the problem originated, how it was corrected, and why it won’t happen again.
Additionally, make sure you don’t have overdue tax charges before applying!
It feels great to be a freshly minted EA, but in order to keep the license active, don’t forget the continuing education (EA CE) requirements.
Candidates must complete 72 hours of CPE (16 hours minimum per year) within 3-year enrollment period. At least 2 hours of ethics are required each year.
The process on how to become an Enrolled Agent may sound complicated, but once you take the first step on how to become an EA, it’s completely doable. Please go back and click on the relevant link to proceed, or go to our Enrolled Agent blog for more info. Best of luck on your journey to becoming an Enrolled Agent!
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