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!
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.
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 $30.75 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:
Before starting your online application, you should get some information together so you can fill out the form quickly. You’ll need your
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.
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.
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.
There are two ways you can register for the EA exam:
Follow these steps to register for the EA exam with Prometric:
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.
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:
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.
When you’re ready to schedule your Enrolled Agent exam, follow these steps:
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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 $140 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!
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!
Now that you know how to get an EA license, take advantage of our free resources to guide your studies and help you succeed!