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Jul 9, 2015 5 min read

How to Become an Enrolled Agent: Step-by-Step Guide

While you don’t need a certain degree, you do need to prove your competence before you can start practicing as an EA.

How to Become an Enrolled Agent: Step-by-Step Guide

What qualifications are necessary to become an enrolled agent?

An enrolled agent is a federally certified tax practitioner who can represent taxpayers before all administrative levels of the Internal Revenue Service. Enrolled agents help individuals, corporations, and trusts when audited by the IRS. Enrolled agents specialize in tax resolution. The status of an enrolled agent is the highest credential given by the IRS.

What qualifications are necessary when becoming an enrolled agent?

While you don’t need a certain degree or diploma, you do need to prove your competence before you can start practicing as an enrolled agent. You can do this one of two ways: work for the IRS, or take the Special Enrollment Exam (also called the SEE--more details below). Regardless of the route you choose, you must pass a suitability check. The suitability check ensures that you have not been fraudulent or late in your own tax documents.

1. IRS Experience

You can apply to be an Enrolled Agent after at least five years of experience working with the IRS.  After your service, fill out Form 23. The suitability check will be performed, along with a background check upon receipt of the form and payment. The background check verifies your work experience. The IRS will use these instructions to determine if your technical experience in the field qualifies you.

2. Special Enrolled Agent Exam

  • For those who don’t have a half-decade or more experience, you can take the Special Enrollment Exam. This exam is run by Prometric and comes in three parts; you can take them in any order you like. You must, however, pass all three sections. We’ve even created an easy step-by-step guide for you!

  • Obtain a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). To do so, go to the IRS PTIN website. To receive your PTIN, you will need to have these things ready:
      • Personal and Business Information (name and mailing address)

      • Explanations for felony convictions, if needed

      • Explanations for any business or individual problems with tax obligations

      • Credit or Debit card to pay the $64.25 fee

      • Any certification information (required if you are already a CPA,  attorney, enrolled agent, enrolled retirement plan agent, enrolled actuary, or certified acceptance agent) if applicable; you’ll need the certification number, issuance jurisdiction, and expiration date.
      • Your PTIN will arrive when the bank clears your payment. This usually happens within 15 minutes.
    Register, schedule, and pay for the exam.  The enrolled agent exam is $109 for all three sections.  You will sign up for your scheduled time and testing site at the Prometric site.

      • Section One is about individual tax preparation.
      • Section Two is about preparing taxes for businesses.
      • Section Three is about representation, practice, and procedures.
      • The IRS publishes old tests with the correct answers after so many years have passed.  Just make sure to recheck the information in case the tax code has been updated enough to render the question and answer outdated.
      • You can also take an Enrolled Agent exam preparation course. Here is a link provided by weighing the features of the top five online courses. It also includes a helpful discount for each course.
        Study! The following links are the guides to each section, so you will know what information will be included in each part.
  • Apply for enrollment. After you have passed all three sections of the test, you need to apply for enrollment. Do so using Form 23. It’s at this point in the process that the IRS will perform the suitability and background checks

What qualifications are necessary when becoming an enrolled agent?

Depending on the individual and their circumstances, the time varies. Becoming an enrolled agent generally takes several steps. Factors that affect the timeline include prior knowledge, study pace, and availability. Here is an approximate timeline of how long it will take:

Study and Exam Preparation: 6-9 months (preparation time varies widely)

Exam Scheduling and Taking: 1 month (could overlap with study time)

Background Check and Final Processing: 2 months

Total Time: Approximately 8-12 months from start to finish.


Becoming an Enrolled Agent

A career as an enrolled agent can be a fulfilling career of helping others. The SEE exam and the IRS experience will give you the tools you need to feel confident in your abilities and knowledge when becoming an enrolled agent. Canopy wishes you good luck! 

Canopy offers accounting practice management software that brings together all of your practice’s mission-critical functions in one place. Get started with your free 15-day trial today!

Learn more about becoming an enrolled agent on the Canopy blog.
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