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How to Become an Enrolled Agent

Becoming an Enrolled Agent (EA) means you must meet the requirements, obtain a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) from the IRS, register for and pass all three parts of the EA exam, and submit your application to the IRS.

If you are interested in the Enrolled Agent certification and are curious about the steps you need to take to pass the exam, check out our quick access guide.

What is an Enrolled Agent?

Enrolled Agents are professionals who have demonstrated special competence in tax matters and professional ethics and are authorized to practice before the IRS as taxpayers’ agents or legal representatives. To this end, they pass the Enrolled Agent exam (also known as the Special Enrollment Examination or SEE) and apply for enrollment.

“Practice before the IRS” includes all matters connected to communicating with the IRS regarding a client’s rights, privileges, and liabilities under laws and regulations administered by the IRS.

Enrolled Agent Salary Guide

What are the Requirements to Become an Enrolled Agent?

The IRS has outlined four steps to successfully become an Enrolled Agent:
one

Obtain a PTIN

two

Schedule and take the Enrolled Agent exam at Prometric and pass all three parts within two years

three

Apply for Enrollment using Form 23 Opens in new window.

four

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

How to Obtain a PTIN

The first step toward becoming an Enrolled Agent is to obtain a PTIN. If you already have a PTIN, you will need to make sure it is current. The IRS has reinstated a fee to obtain and renew PTINs for tax preparers.

For candidates who need to obtain a PTIN, there are two methods:

NOTE: If you do not have a Social Security number, you must fill out Form W-12 and submit your request by mail.

Online PTIN Application

Before starting your online application, you should have the following information on hand so you can fill out the form quickly:

  • Social Security number
  • Personal information, such as your name, mailing address, date of birth, etc.
  • Business information (if applicable), such as the business’s name, mailing address, telephone number, etc.
  • Your previous year’s individual tax return to prove your identity
  • Explanations of any felony convictions or problems with your U.S. individual or business tax obligations

You will then create an account with the IRS Tax Professional PTIN System Opens in new window and follow the on-screen prompts to fill out the application. The process should only take about 15 minutes, and once it is complete, you will get your PTIN.

PTIN Application by Mail

Candidates who prefer to fill out a paper form or who do not have a Social Security number must fill out Form W-12 Opens in new window. This method can take 4-6 weeks to complete.

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!

Enrolled Agent Exam Cost

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 is 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 Enrolled Agent exam is only offered 10 months out of the year (the other two are used to update the exam for any tax law changes), which can complicate study plans that aren’t scheduled in advance.

*NOTE: 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 are unable to study, you might find yourself with less time to study than you expected.

Webinar: Creating an Enrolled Agent Exam Study Plan

Enrolled Agent Exam Study Tips

Apply for Enrollment

After you have passed all three Enrolled Agent exams within two years, you will have one year to submit Form 23, Application for Enrollment to Practice Before the IRS Opens in new window. There is both a paper form and an online form available through pay.gov Opens in new window. Both versions require a $67 application fee.

All of your passed exams are automatically reported to the IRS by Prometric, so after you submit Form 23, you just need to wait 60-90 days for everything to be processed and you’ll receive your certification.

How to Maintain Your Enrolled Agent Credential

The IRS requires active Enrolled Agents to maintain their status with annual PTIN renewals and Continuing Education (CE).

PTIN Renewal

You will need to renew your PTIN each year with the IRS. You can renew your PTIN from mid-October to December 31 on the IRS website Opens in new window.

Continuing Education (CE)

You also need to keep up with the Continuing Education required for every three-year Renewal Cycle, the dates of which are based on the last digit of your SSN. The IRS produces a Renewal Cycle chart Opens in new window to make it easy to track (EAs without an SSN are also included in the chart).

To help newly certified Enrolled Agents complete their CE requirements, the Gleim Premium Enrolled Agent Review System now comes with up to 72 free CE hours (72 for a 3-part set and 16 per individual part)! These hours apply toward any tax course in our CE course catalog.

Your First Renewal Cycle

Use the IRS chart linked above to determine the number of CE hours you need to complete for your first Renewal Cycle. You need to complete two hours for each month you’ve had your Enrolled Agent credential by the end of the Renewal Cycle. Two hours of CE must be in ethics for each year you are enrolled in your first Renewal Cycle. Ethics hours are included in the total number of required hours. So if you are enrolled in December, your two hours of CE must be in ethics.

NOTE: While you must complete two hours of CE for each month you are enrolled, you do not need to complete two hours each month; you can complete those hours at any time during the year. You can complete them all up front in the first month you are enrolled or wait until December and complete them all before December 31. We recommend getting it done earlier, if possible.

After Your First Renewal Cycle

You will need to complete 72 hours of CE for each Renewal Cycle, an average of 24 hours per year, and2 hours of ethics each year. The IRS requires a minimum of 16 hours each year (2 of which are ethics). This CE can be done at any point during the year, but must be completed by December 31.

Example Continuing Education Schedule 1
Year 124
Year 224
Year 324
Example Continuing Education Schedule 2
Year 116
Year 216
Year 340
Example Continuing Education Schedule 3
Year 116
Year 228
Year 328

NOTE: You can break up your hours however you like as long as you complete a minimum of 16 hours each year and 72 hours total over the 3-year period.

Gleim has two packages of CE for Enrolled Agents! You can complete your CE requirements at home at your convenience with our online courses. We have topics that range from yearly tax updates to specific scenarios you may encounter as an Enrolled Agent.

Enrolled Agent Renewal

When you need to renew your certification, you must fill out Form 8554, Application for Renewal of Enrollment to Practice Before the IRS Opens in new window. You can do so either by mail or through pay.gov Opens in new window, similar to when you first applied to become an Enrolled Agent.

Do not delay becoming an Enrolled Agent because of Renewal Cycles. The sooner you earn the Enrolled Agent credential, the sooner you can increase your earning potential.