What is an Enrolled Agent (EA)?Back to Top
An enrolled agent is a tax professional who has earned the privilege of practicing and representing taxpayers before all offices of the Internal Revenue Service. He can negotiate on behalf of the client with the IRS during examinations and appeals, and act in place of a taxpayer, signing consents and executing agreements on their behalf. An enrolled agent is the only tax professional granted a right to practice directly from the U.S. government. She holds a federal license and has the right to represent any taxpayer regarding federal tax matters in any state and is a tax specialist, which sets them apart from attorneys or CPAs who do not always specialize in taxes. Unlike an un-enrolled tax preparer, the practice of enrolled agents before the IRS is not limited and they may represent any taxpayer before the IRS, performing the same tasks as an attorney or CPA. The capabilities of an enrolled agent extend beyond just preparing returns to areas such as representing clients in cases involving audits, collections, and appeals.
The Basic Requirements:Back to Top
To become an Enrolled Agent, you must pass the IRS Special Enrollment Examination (SEE). This is a comprehensive examination demonstrating your competence in tax. A notable exception to the testing requirement is that someone with five years of relevant employment with the Internal Revenue Service may apply for enrollment without taking the exam.
As part of the registration process the IRS will also confirm that you are current with your tax obligations and ask background check questions regarding previous issues with the IRS and felonies or tax convictions.
The IRS Special Enrollment Examination:Back to Top
The SEE is a three part test that is administered on behalf of the Internal Revenue Service by a third party, Prometric. Each part of the test is a separate 100 question 3.5 hour test.
Each of the three parts is taken in a separate sitting and has a separate subject matter. Part one focuses on the individual tax return, part two on business returns and part three on a combination of representation, practice and procedures. The tests don’t need to be taken in any particular order.
Each year the tests are updated to reflect current tax law as of the most recent tax season. The 2013 testing season began on May 1st 2013 and continues until February 28th 2014 and the subject matter is based on tax law in effect during the 2012 tax season. There is no testing in March or April.
Once you’ve past any one of the three parts you have two years to complete the remaining two parts before losing credit for the previous part completed. If you don’t pass a test the first time, you can apply to repeat the test up to four times within one May-Feb cycle.
Overview of the greater process:Back to Top
- Obtain a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN)
- Register with Prometric for the specific part, test location, and test session. This will be repeated for each of the three parts.
- Pass the three parts of the test.
- File form 23 ‘Application for Enrollment to Practice before the Internal Revenue Service’
What’s a PTIN?Back to Top
A Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) is issued by the IRS and every paid tax return preparer must have one. If you have been preparing returns professionally, you will already have your PTIN. If not, you will need to obtain a PTIN before taking the SEE.
How to apply for a PTIN:Back to Top
The process can be completed quickly online or you can do it by mail. To do so online, you’ll create an account, complete the application, pay a $64.25 fee and get your PTIN.
The application asks for a variety of routine personal information, for info about your previous tax return to determine currency with your personal tax obligation and for explanations of previous felonies and/or problem with tax obligations.
Once you have a PTIN and begin receiving compensation as a tax professional, you will need to renew your PTIN on an annual basis.
Preparation for the SEE:Back to Top
There are a variety of ways to prepare for the exam, from self-study of IRS forms and Circular 230 and use of dedicated study guides, through online simulated tests and facilitated online courses. Check out our advertisers in the side bar or take a look at the NAEA overview. Whichever way you plan on approaching, pick one test, prepare for it and pass it before moving on to the next test to make things simpler.
All questions are multiple choice. They come in three variations, direct answer, incomplete sentences, and all correct except type questions.
The SEE is essentially a pass fail exam. If your score on each part is adequate to pass, you will find out immediately without knowing what your score was. If the score doesn’t cut it, you will receive a numeric score and a diagnostic summary that high lights areas requiring additional study. A passing score is 105 out of 130.
An additional important preparation step is to become very familiar with the requirements of the test site. For example, arriving early to take care of business and having adequate and appropriate identification. Prometric and the IRS have created a very useful Candidate Information Bulletin that is a must read.
Both the IRS and NAEA have useful summaries of the Becoming an EA process. The IRS has a page that describes previous test examples and a pretty good FAQ page. Prometric also has a page to demonstrate a test format example.
The steps to registration for the exam with Prometric:Back to Top
- Create a login on the Prometric site
- Select the exam you plan on completing
- Pay for the test ($109.00 per sitting )
- Select the ‘State’ program. Since the SEE is a federal exam, look for the IRS in the list of states.
After passing all three parts of the Exam:Back to Top
First of all, congratulations! Once you have passed all three parts of the exam, the next step is to file Form 23, “Application for Enrollment to Practice before the Internal Revenue Service”, within one year of the date you finished the tests. This is a simple straight forward application requesting ID information and asking some yes/no questions about previous sanctions, denials to practice, and convictions of tax crimes or felonies.
Brief description of the three parts of the exam:Back to Top
Summary of Testing and Registration Costs (2013):Back to Top
- Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) Registration fee: $50.00 (renews annually at $50.00)
- 3 tests @ $109.00 each
- Form 23 Application fee = $30.00
Links Summary:Back to Top
- NAEA’s Becoming an EA page
- IRS overview on becoming an EA
- IRS PTIN overview
- IRS PTIN Registration
- Candidate Information Bulletin
- Form 23, ‘Application for Enrollment to Practice before the Internal Revenue Service’
- IRS Test Examples
- Prometric Test Format Example
- IRS FAQ regarding the SEE process
- NAEA SEE Study Overview
NAEA Phone Numbers:
202-822-6232 or Toll Free: 855-880-6232