Contact Us : 800.874.5346 | International: +1 352.375.0772
Contact Us : 800.874.5346 | International: +1 352.375.0772

How to Become an Enrolled Agent

To become an EA, you’ll need to obtain a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) from the IRS, register for and pass all three EA exam parts, apply for enrollment with the IRS, and pass a suitability check.

Wondering what all this entails? On this page, we’ve outlined every step you’ll need to take to become an Enrolled Agent and will walk you through the process so you’re ready to earn your Enrolled Agent designation and take the next step in your career!

What Are the Requirements to Become an Enrolled Agent?

The IRS has four Enrolled Agent requirements that you’ll need to complete to become an EA:
one

Obtain a PTIN.

two

Schedule and pass all three parts of the Enrolled Agent exam within two years.

three

Apply for Enrollment using Form 23 Opens in new window.

four

Pass a suitability check, which includes a tax compliance and criminal background check.

Unlike other professional accounting certifications, there are no education or experience requirements you have to meet to become an EA. You aren’t required to have a college degree, and you don’t even to have to meet a minimum experience requirement as a tax preparer. This means you’re free to get started (and reap the rewards) as soon as you want! But it doesn’t mean it’s a walk in the park.

To prove you know your stuff, you’ll need to pass the Enrolled Agent exam, which has a pass rate that usually sits somewhere between 70% and 74%. It’s something most tax preparers should be able to pass if they study, which makes the short list of requirements pretty great news.

The lack of demanding EA requirements means it’s relatively easy to focus on the exam, complete the other required steps to become an Enrolled Agent, and earn your designation quickly.

We’ve got the details on how to tackle each of those steps below. Plus, we’ll share the guidance and tips we’ve accumulated over decades of helping candidates like you earn their Enrolled Agent certification.

How to obtain a PTIN

The first step to becoming an Enrolled Agent is to obtain a PTIN Opens in new window. If you already have a PTIN, you’ll need to make sure it’s current, and if isn’t, you’ll have to renew it. The IRS issues PTINs on a calendar year basis. You can submit your PTIN application every year starting in mid-October. There is a $35.95 fee to obtain or renew your PTIN. In addition to the PTIN fee, make sure to plan ahead for other Enrolled Agent exam costs, like studying for and scheduling your exam.  

If you need to obtain a PTIN, there are two methods:

  • The fast and easy way to get your PTIN:
    • If you have a Social Security number, all you have to do is fill out a quick online application with the IRS using the IRS Tax Professional PTIN System Opens in new window, which shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes.
    • This is the fastest way to obtain your PTIN, and we recommend candidates use this method if they are able.
  • The slow way to get your PTIN
    • If you don’t have a Social Security number, you must fill out and mail a paper application (Form W-12 Opens in new window) to the IRS, which can take 4-6 weeks.
    • This option is technically open to anyone who needs a Preparer Tax Identification Number, but it doesn’t have any advantages over applying online.

Online PTIN application

Before starting your online application, you should get some information together so you can fill out the form quickly. You’ll need your

  • Social Security number
  • Personal information
    • For example, your name, mailing address, date of birth, etc.
  • Business information (if applicable)
    • For example, your business’s name, mailing address, telephone number, etc.
  • Previous year’s individual tax return (to prove your identity)
  • Explanation(s) of any felony convictions or problems with your U.S. individual or business tax obligations
    • This last one may not apply to you, but if it does, you should know that it doesn’t immediately disqualify you from enrollment. The IRS expects all Enrolled Agents to abide by and uphold their ethical standard and will accept explanations they find satisfactory. The IRS will do a suitability check later once you pass the exam and apply to become an EA.

Once you have everything together, you’ll create an account with the IRS Tax Professional PTIN System Opens in new window and follow the prompts to fill out the application. The process should only take about 15 minutes, and once it’s complete, you’ll get your PTIN.

PTIN application by mail

If you don’t have a Social Security number, you must fill out and mail Form W-12 Opens in new window. This option is available to everyone who wants to utilize it.

If you choose this method, be sure to read the instructions for Form W-12 Opens in new window carefully to avoid any delays in getting your PTIN. We recommend additionally adding a buffer if mail is delayed in your area for any reason.

Registering for and scheduling your Enrolled Agent exam

If you have your PTIN, you’re ready to create your account with Prometric and register for the EA exam. Prometric administers many different exams, so make sure you’re registering for the Enrolled Agent exam specifically. Prometric calls the EA exam the Special Enrollment Examination (SEE), so when you see this instead of “Enrolled Agent exam” or “EA exam,” don’t panic! You’re in the right place.

How to register for the Enrolled Agent exam

There are two ways you can register for the EA exam:

Register online

Follow these steps to register for the EA exam with Prometric:

    1. Go to https://myaccount.prometric.com/login/IRS/IRS Opens in new window.
    2. Click “Create account” and follow the prompts.
    3. Activate your account within 24 hours.
      • You’ll receive an email to activate the account you created. If you don’t activate your account within 24 hours, you’ll have to recreate it.
    4. Log in and set up your profile.
      • You’ll need to provide your:
        • First, middle, and last name
          • This must match the ID you provide when you take your exam.
        • Country
        • Address
        • Primary phone number
        • Date of birth
        • PTIN

You’re able to update most of your profile information in the “Profile” settings after the initial setup, but if you need to change your name, you’ll have to reach out to Prometric directly for help.

Register by fax or mail

You can also register for the Enrolled Agent exam by faxing or mailing Form 2587 Opens in new window to Prometric, but doing either adds time to the process. Before you can schedule your exam, you’ll have to wait:

  • 1 full calendar day if you fax the form
  • 6-10 full calendar days if you mail the form

To expedite the process and avoid any delays when you go to schedule your exam, we recommend following the first method and registering on Prometric’s website instead.

However you decide to register, you must complete your registration (and wait, if you faxed or mailed it) before you can schedule your exam.

How to schedule the Enrolled Agent exam

When you’re ready to schedule your Enrolled Agent exam, follow these steps:

  1. Log into the Prometric account you created when you registered.
  2. Navigate to your “Candidate Account” page.
    • From here you’ll be able to see which exam parts are available to schedule.
  3. Click “Schedule now” next to the exam part you want to sit for.
  4. Select whether you’ve been pre-approved for testing accommodation.
  5. Enter your address, city, and/or zip code to find a test center.
  6. Enter the date range when you’d like to take your exam.
  7. Choose a date and time that works for you from the list of available locations and appointments.
  8. Review and confirm your personal information and appointment details.
  9. Pay the $203 fee, and make sure you print your appointment confirmation and receipt!

After you complete the EA exam scheduling process, check your email to make sure you receive your appointment confirmation, which contains other useful information about your exam. If you notice any issues, reach out to Prometric as soon as possible to correct your appointment information.

Important reminders before scheduling your Enrolled Agent exam

Testing windows Opens in new window

The EA exam testing window lasts from May 1 through February of the following year. Testing does not occur in March or April. The EA exam isn’t available in March or April because this time is set aside each year by the IRS to update the EA exam.

This is when they make adjustments to account for any tax law changes, which will become testable topics when the testing window re-opens in May. Even though you don’t have to pass all three parts in one year, we always recommend trying to because you only have to study one year’s tax law that way!

Make sure you account for the testing window closure during March and April in your plan to earn your Enrolled Agent certification.

If you live outside of the U.S., international testing is available for the EA exam. The IRS has a list of Enrolled Agent exam international testing dates and locations Opens in new window on their website.

Testing order

You can take the three exam parts in any order, but the topics tested in Part 3 build off of content from Parts 1 and 2. You should sit for either Part 1 or Part 2 first depending on which topics you’re more familiar with. Additionally, EA Part 3 has the smallest amount of content, so if you do have to wait to take it until a new year’s tax law is in effect, you’ll have less to study. Sitting for each part in this order means you’ll master the topics more easily and have a better chance of passing each exam part on your first try!

Scheduling rules Opens in new window

Prometric gives you 15 minutes to schedule your exam before you have to start the process over. When you go to schedule, be sure you have all your information gathered so you can schedule quickly. Also, Prometric won’t allow you to schedule an exam more than 6 months in advance, so you probably shouldn’t plan to schedule all 3 parts at the same time.

Testing accommodations

If you need any accommodations guaranteed by the Americans with Disability Act (ADA), contact Prometric first to get pre-approved before scheduling your appointment. Not all test centers are equally equipped for all accommodations. Prometric has a testing accommodations request packet that you’ll need to call about.

There’s only one thing left to do once your appointment is set: Make sure you’re prepared in time! No one wants to pay a rescheduling fee, and it can easily be avoided if you build the perfect study plan.

Create a study plan to pass the Enrolled Agent exam

Taking the Enrolled Agent exam is the most difficult part of becoming an Enrolled Agent. It’s also the step that will take the most time and effort, so you want to make sure you pass each exam part on your first try! Enrolled Agent candidates have two* years to pass all three parts of the Enrolled Agent exam. This may seem like a long time, but without a practical plan, that time can go by very quickly. The EA exam testing window closes in March and April, which can complicate study plans that aren’t scheduled in advance.

*Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the IRS has temporarily expanded the window to three years. For more information, see the notice on the Prometric website Opens in new window.

It is important to begin thinking about your study plan early in the process. Once you sit down with a calendar and cross out all of the days you aren’t able to study, you’ll find yourself with less time to study than you expected.

Once you’ve got your study plan established and are ready to dive into your studies, use our Enrolled Agent exam study tips to set yourself up for success to pass the exams!

Apply for enrollment

After you’ve passed all three Enrolled Agent exam parts within two years, you’ll need to apply for EA enrollment. You can do this online or by mail. There is a $67 application fee due with your submission.

You have one year to submit this form after passing your exams, but why wait? Go ahead and submit it right after you pass your final exam so you can become an EA sooner and get listed on the IRS’s directory of federal tax return preparers!

Pass a suitability check

After you apply for enrollment, the IRS will run a check to confirm you’ve filed your tax returns and paid any outstanding taxes. They’ll also run a background check for criminal records. The IRS provides details on the suitability requirements in Circular 230 Opens in new window..

All of your passed exams are automatically reported to the IRS by Prometric, so after you submit Form 23, the IRS will run the check, and you just need to wait 60-90 days for everything to be processed before you finally receive your Enrolled Agent credential!

Maintain your Enrolled Agent credential

Once you become an Enrolled Agent, the IRS requires you to maintain your Enrolled Agent certification Opens in new window by:

  • Renewing your status as an EA every three years
  • Meeting Continuing Education requirements
  • Renewing your PTIN every year

Take the next steps

Now that you know how to get an EA license, take advantage of our free resources to guide your studies and help you succeed!