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Enrolled Agent exam changes

Your guide to Enrolled Agent exam changes and updates

The Enrolled Agent (EA) exam is changing in May of 2021, and as the leading Enrolled Agent review provider, Gleim is prepared to help you. Gleim is the most trusted EA exam review provider, and more candidates have passed with us than with any other course. Our Access Until You Pass® guarantee means you get free updates to your review materials as long as you are studying with our Premium Review.

Want to learn about the changes? You will find all you need to know about the new exam changes right here in our comprehensive guide below. You may also find our Free EA Exam Guide and EA practice test questions useful as you take the next step to becoming an Enrolled Agent.

Yearly Enrolled Agent exam changes

The Enrolled Agent exam changes each year after the close of the Spring tax season to reflect the previous year’s tax law. Enrolled Agent exam candidates will see these changes each May when the exam window opens, and they will stay in effect through the following February. These changes are made only to the content and do not include changes to the administration or format of the exam.

When the IRS or Prometric plans more drastic changes, such as changes to the exam format, they are announced in advance. We have compiled current, upcoming, and past changes for Enrolled Agent candidates to be aware of.

Why the Enrolled Agent exam changes

In addition to the yearly changes, the IRS commissioned Prometric to do a job analysis of the tasks performed by and the knowledge required to become a tax preparer or tax accountant. Analyses like this are usually completed every couple of years to ensure the Enrolled Agent exam accurately reflects the tasks required of a tax preparer.

The EA exam is meant to reflect the current role of Enrolled Agents and tax preparers in the United States, and as that role changes, the exam is updated to keep pace. This is mostly seen in the yearly updates to the exam content for updated tax law; however, more drastic changes are also a part of keeping the exam consistent with the demands of the public.

Enrolled Agent exam changes in 2021

Prometric and the IRS are making changes to the EA exam that will appear on the EA exam beginning in May of 2021. Changes were only made to the content tested on the exam, including examples on topics already tested. There were also minor updates made to the administration of the exam.

Changes to the exam based on the CARES act will become testable May 1, 2021 along with the additional changes. We have outlined the sections affected by COVID Relief Legislation and the CARES act. Next to each topic you will see a number in parenthesis. The number indicates the domain and subdomain the topic can be found on the Enrolled Agent exam syllabus.

Changes to Part 1

Domain 4, “Taxation and Advice,” is being split into two separate domains: “Taxation” and “Advising the Individual Taxpayer.” The topics themselves changed only slightly, but breaking them into distinct domains should help candidates better prepare for these different types of questions. The weights of the remaining domains have also been adjusted to account for the new domain and to give more significance to the “Taxation” domain.

SEE Part 1 DomainsNew % of the examOld % of the exam
1. Preliminary Work and Taxpayer Data16%20%
2. Income and Assets20%25%
3. Deductions and Credits20%25%
4. Taxation*18%16%
5. Advising the Individual Taxpayer*13%0%
6. Specialized Returns for Individuals13%14%

*The old Domain named “Taxation and Advice” was split into two separate domains called “Taxation” and “Advising the Individual Taxpayer”.

Content Added to EA Part 1

Content was added for residential energy credits, penalty for perjury, mid-year estimated tax planning, Forms 1099-NEC and 1099-K, antique property sales, as well as a minor addition to the nonqualified use rules about military exemption.

Tax provisions for members of the military

Penalty of perjury

Content Removed from EA Part 1

A lot of irrelevant material was removed from EA Part 1, including outdated or expired material about Voluntary Disclosure Programs and Transition Tax. “Real Property Rental Income” was moved from EA Part 1 and will be covered in EA Part 2.

Taxability of net unrealized appreciation (NUA)

Tax Planning: Advantages and disadvantages of MFJ/MFS/HOH filing statuses in various scenarios

Healthcare individual responsibility payment and exceptions

Ownership of a foreign corporation

Tax Planning: Adjustments, deductions, and credits for tax planning

International voluntary disclosure options.

Tax Planning: Character of transaction

Content Removed from EA Part 1

A lot of irrelevant material was removed from EA Part 1, including outdated or expired material about Voluntary Disclosure Programs and Transition Tax. “Real Property Rental Income” was moved from EA Part 1 and will be covered in EA Part 2.

Taxability of net unrealized appreciation (NUA)

Tax Planning: Advantages and disadvantages of MFJ/MFS/HOH filing statuses in various scenarios

Healthcare individual responsibility payment and exceptions

Ownership of a foreign corporation

Tax Planning: Adjustments, deductions, and credits for tax planning

International voluntary disclosure options.

Tax Planning: Character of transaction

Content Revised in EA Part 1

Many sections were revised and edited for clarity, such as changing “Rental Income” to “Personal Property Rental.”

COVID Relief Legislation

  • Net operating loss (2.1)
  • Student loans and employer payments (2.1)
  • Required minimum distribution (2.2)
  • Charitable contributions (2.4 and 3.1)
  • Minimum tax credit (4.1)
  • Employment tax (4.1)
  • Advising the taxpayer (5.1) – RMD and NOL

Changes to Part 2

Domains 1 and 2 have been renamed for clarification. Domain 1 (now “Business Entities and Considerations”) was given slightly more weight over Domain 2 (now “Business Tax Preparation.”)

SEE Part 2 DomainsNew % of the examOld % of the exam
1. Business Entities and Considerations*35%33%
2. Business Tax Preperation*44%46%
3. Specialized Returns and Taxpayers21%21%

*These Domains have been renamed.

Content Added to EA Part 2

EA Part 2 now tests Rental Property (formerly in EA Part 1) and Partnership Level Audit and Opt Out (formerly in EA Part 3). A fifth subdomain has been added under Domain 3, “Specialized Returns and Taxpayers,” to focus on Rental Property.

Partnership cancellation of debt

Commercial rentals vs residential rentals (from EA Part 1)

Partnership level audit and opt-out (from EA Part 3)

Mixed-used property/vacation home (from EA Part 1)

Vehicle use and expenses

Passive loss limitation (from EA Part 1)

Balance sheet’s relationship to income statement and depreciation

Rental income (from EA Part 1)

Real estate professional qualifications

Content Added to EA Part 2

EA Part 2 now tests Rental Property (formerly in EA Part 1) and Partnership Level Audit and Opt Out (formerly in EA Part 3). A fifth subdomain has been added under Domain 3, “Specialized Returns and Taxpayers,” to focus on Rental Property.

Partnership cancellation of debt

Commercial rentals vs residential rentals (from EA Part 1)

Partnership level audit and opt-out (from EA Part 3)

Mixed-used property/vacation home (from EA Part 1)

Vehicle use and expenses

Passive loss limitation (from EA Part 1)

Balance sheet’s relationship to income statement and depreciation

Rental income (from EA Part 1)

Real estate professional qualifications

Content Removed from EA Part 2

Much like EA Part 1, a lot of outdated and irrelevant material was removed from EA Part 2.

Corporations: International information reporting and taxes

Farm inventory

S corporations: Non-cash distributions

Disposition of farm assets

Income in respect of a decendent

Content Removed from EA Part 2

Much like EA Part 1, a lot of outdated and irrelevant material was removed from EA Part 2.

Corporations: International information reporting and taxes

Farm inventory

S corporations: Non-cash distributions

Disposition of farm assets

Income in respect of a decendent

Content Revised in EA Part 2

Similar to EA Part 1, many topics within EA Part 2 were revised for clarity. Testing of these topics has more or less stayed the same, but candidates have a clearer idea of what to study.

Domain 2 is now titled “Business Tax Preparation” instead of “Business Financial Information

COVID Relief Legislation

  • Minimum tax credit (1.3)
  • FICA (2.5)
  • Net operating loss (2.2)
  • Qualified improvement property (2.2)
  • Interest expense (2.2)
  • Required minimum retirement distribution (3.3)

Changes to Part 3

Many of these changes involved clarifying topics or reorganizing them. Domain 3 was renamed “Specific Areas of Representation.”

SEE Part 3 DomainsNew % of the examOld % of the exam
1. Practices and Procedures31%30%
2. Representation before the IRS29%28%
3. Specific Areas of Representation*24%22%
4. Filing Process*16%20%

*These Domains have been renamed.

Content Added to EA Part 3

EA Part 3 had only one topic added: “Taxpayer’s Burden of Proof.”

Content Removed from EA Part 3

The entirety of subdomain 4.2, “Information Shared with Taxpayer,” has been removed.

Tax shelters

Employment reimbursement policies

IRS notices

Case being reported

Innocent spouse

Partnership level audit and opt-out (moved to EA2)

Preparer conflict of interest

Inconsistencies within the source data

Recordkeeping requirements

Significance of signature

List of returns prepared

Due diligence requirements

Consequences of dishonesty

Content Removed from EA Part 3

The entirety of subdomain 4.2, “Information Shared with Taxpayer,” has been removed.

Tax shelters

Employment reimbursement policies

IRS notices

Case being reported

Innocent spouse

Partnership level audit and opt-out (moved to EA2)

Preparer conflict of interest

Inconsistencies within the source data

Recordkeeping requirements

Significance of signature

List of returns prepared

Due diligence requirements

Consequences of dishonesty

Content Revised in EA Part 3

“Special Rules for Partnership Audits” was moved from Part 3 to Part 2 of the exam.

Changes to the Enrolled Agent Exam Administration

Fee Change

The Enrolled Agent examination fee is increasing from $182 USD to $185 USD per part.

Score Release Change

Between May 1, 2021, and August 1, 2021, Enrolled Agent candidates will not receive their score immediately after completing their exam. During this period, Prometric and the IRS will collect and analyze test results to establish the passing score. Scores will then be released by email starting August 5, 2021.

Beginning August 2, 2021, scores will be released normally. That is, upon completion of the exam, a pass/fail message will appear on your computer screen, and you will later receive an email from Prometric containing your score report.

What is NOT changing in 2021

Though the Enrolled Agent exam changes for 2021 are significant, they will NOT impact:

  • Number of exam parts
    • The EA exam is still a three-part exam
  • Question types in each part
    • The EA exam will remain multiple-choice only
  • Number of questions per part
    • Each EA exam part will still contain 100 MCQs divided into two parts
  • Exam administration
  • Eligibility and registration
  • Total testing time
  • Scaled score of 105 required to pass.

Enrolled Agent exam changes 2021 FAQs

If I have to take a part testing the new exam content, do I get credit for parts I previously passed under the current exam content?

Yes, as long as you have credit for those parts passed (if it’s been less than 2 or 3 years* since you have passed them) you will retain credit even if you sit for the remaining parts after May 2021.

*For any exam parts that had not expired as of February 29, 2020 and any examination parts passed on June 1, 2020 or later, candidates were given an extension on the normal 2 year period to pass all 3 parts of the EA exams. Read our blog for more information.

When does the window testing the current exam content end?

Testing for the 2020 version of the exam will cease on February 28, 2021. There is no testing in March or April.

When will the updated exam begin?

The new version of the exam will begin testing on May 1, 2021.

When will registration begin for the new exam?

Registration for the new version of the exam will begin on March 1, 2021.

How to prepare for the Enrolled Agent exam changes

Whenever the Enrolled Agent exam changes, candidates have a lot of questions about how it is going to affect them. Use our Enrolled Agent exam changes resources to ensure you have a plan for the EA exam, no matter what kind of changes are announced.

How should I prepare for the new material on the EA exam?

The best EA review providers will carefully examine all of the EA exam changes and make sure their material is up-to-date with plenty of time for you to sit for the EA exam. Regardless of what your plans are for the EA exam, working with an EA review provider will ensure you’re prepared.

Should I plan to pass before the Enrolled Agent exam changes?

When Enrolled Agent exam changes are significant, you may not want to be among the first candidates to take the new version of the exam.

Gleim knows from experience that it can be hard to prepare for a newly-revised exam. The unknowns you face when taking a revised exam can create exam anxiety and undermine your confidence, as you aren’t able to rely on other test takers’ experiences. Many candidates try to quickly finish the exam before changes take effect to avoid the unknowns of the new exam.

In general, our advice is to pass the EA exam as soon as possible. After all, the sooner you pass all three parts of the EA exam, the sooner you can start reaping the benefits of being a EA. Avoiding anxiety is another bonus to quickly passing the exam. But take stock of your circumstances. If you can’t realistically make time to prepare, there’s no reason to sit for an exam you won’t pass.

Benefits of taking the EA exam before it changes

one

You can avoid having to test on entirely new material.

This is probably the most obvious advantage, but we’re mentioning it anyway. If you take the EA exam before it changes, you’re not going to have to worry about studying material that is brand new to the exam (and “untested” on EA candidates).

two

If you pass one part, you won’t lose credit!

This is important because it means you don’t have to rush to pass all parts of the exam before changes take affect. Even if you only pass one part, that is still great! Credit for any part of the exam you’ve already taken remains valid for up to two (2) or three (3) years. For any part you pass before the exam changes, you don’t have to take the new version of that part even though the exam has changed.

three

The deadline is a great motivator.

If you have a hard time motivating yourself, having an outside deadline is a great way to hold yourself accountable. Many EA candidates are professionals who juggle commitments outside of work. You may not have an abundance of time to study, but having a firm deadline can help make your studies a priority

Benefits of taking the EA exam after it changes

one

You’re testing on the most up-to-date material.

The EA exam changes for a good reason: to keep pace with the industry’s developing expectations for Enrolled Agents. This could be anything from small changes due to a minor tax update or a significant overhaul because of a new tax law. Regardless, testing with the most up-to-date material will ensure your skills best match the current or expected industry demand. If you’re currently in the workforce, it’s likely you’re already familiar with the content the EA exam is going to add, since the exam will be testing topics used in the Spring tax season.

two

You’ll have more time to complete your studies.

While only a minor concern for most people, getting a testing appointment at a particular time or testing center can be a big deal for some candidates. When the EA exam changes, many candidates hurry to sit for the exam before the changes take effect. This can cause testing centers to fill up quickly, especially toward the end of a testing window before the EA exam changes. If you’re going to try to take the exam before it changes, be sure you make your testing appointment early.

How the Enrolled Agent exam has changed in the past

While the Enrolled Agent exam changes each year to reflect the previous year’s tax law, occasionally the IRS and Prometric will make changes to the administration or format of the exam. The Gleim Enrolled Agent Review is always updated to reflect what you need to know to pass your upcoming exams, but below we’ll discuss how the exam has changed in the past.

2020 Changes

A few administrative changes were made to the Enrolled Agent exam in 2020 in addition to the normal content changes.

International testing locations

Prometric and the IRS opened testing to a few international locations at specified times. However, these testing dates were heavily impacted by the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, and many were cancelled due to health concerns. The IRS and Prometric will announce future testing dates in 2021 to accommodate international candidates.

The IRS and Prometric planned to expand eligible testing areas to the following cities:

  • London, England
  • Tokyo, Japan
  • Toronto, Canada
  • Seoul, South Korea
  • Bangalore, New Delhi, and Hyderabad, India

15-minute break

The IRS and Prometric added a break into the 3 1/2 hour exam time. The break is 15 minutes long and is granted once the candidate has submitted their first 50 questions to be graded. Candidates will not be given the opportunity to return to these 50 questions after they have submitted them. Candidates must manage their time wisely to ensure they have ample time to answer both halves of the exam.

During the break, candidates may use the restroom and eat or drink any snacks brought to the testing center. They are also able to relax in the lobby. Prometric’s security protocols must still be followed at all times during this break, including not using any electronic devices or phones. Candidates who choose to leave the testing room (not the testing center) will need to sign in again and show identification to be readmitted.

After 15 minutes, the exam timer will restart. If the candidate does not return to take the second half (questions 51-100) before the 15-minute break expires, they will lose valuable testing time.

Unscheduled breaks are still allowed, but the exam timer will not be paused if the candidate chooses to take one.

2018 Changes

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) was first testable in 2018. To accompany this addition, Gleim has a separate blog and video detailing these changes. The current version of the EA exam has implemented the changes that are still relevant, and the Gleim Premium Enrolled Agent Review System has been updated as well.