How to become an Enrolled Agent

You need to pass 3 separate IRS exams in order to “demonstrate a special competence in tax matters.” The exam is formally called the IRS Special Enrollment Examination, or SEE, but most people refer to it as the enrolled agent exam. The exam isn’t easy, but we help thousands of students just like you pass the exams every year.

Ready to become an enrolled agent? We can help.

How long does it take to become an enrolled agent?

Generally, it takes about a month to prepare for each part of the enrolled agent exam (between 3-4 months total). Of course, the length of your journey to become an enrolled agent depends on your prior tax experience. We have seen students with a lot of experience and some inexperienced students who applied themselves complete the process much faster.

The IRS allows 2 years from the completion of your first exam to pass all three. Once you pass all of the exams, you need to complete an online application to apply for enrollment to practice before the IRS. Just type “form 23” in the search box on pay.gov to find it. You should receive your enrollment card in about 60 days from the date of your application.

5 TIPS TO HELP YOU PASS THE ENROLLED AGENT EXAM IN 2021 / 2022

Most people assume that once they leave school they are also closing the door on taking stressful exams. In a world where change is the only constant, learning and assessment are an ever present part of professional life, so nothing could be further from the truth! Some assessments can be as simple as a small quiz at the end of a continuing education course. Expert level credentials such as the Enrolled Agent require you successfully pass three high stakes exams within 24 months.

Below are some time-tested tips you can leverage to increase your chances of passing all three of your Special Enrollment Exams (SEE’s) the first time.

1) Understand the Exam Structure and Specification

The EA Exam, officially known as the Special Enrollment Examination (SEE), is a three-part exam administered by Prometric on behalf of the Internal Revenue Service. Each part is taken as a separate 100 multiple choice question exam and you will have 3.5 hours to answer all questions for that part.

The Enrolled Agent examination consists of 3 separate exams that you can take in any order. When you take the exam, you will see 15 questions that you didn’t study. Those questions are likely experimental and don’t count towards your score, so don’t get discouraged.

The IRS recently commissioned a job analysis that brought about some recent updates to the exam specs. The purpose of the review was to obtain specific details about the tasks an Enrolled Agent performs and the knowledge needed to adequately perform those duties.

These changes will go into effect for upcoming examinations beginning May 1, 2021. A full set of the test specifications, including a “tracked changes” version of the updated specifications, are available on Prometric.com.

Below is a comparison chart of the new domain weightings for each part of the EA exam.

SEE Part 1 Domains New Weighting Old Weighting
1. Preliminary Work and Taxpayer Data 16% 20%
2. Income and Assets 20% 25%
3. Deductions and Credits 20% 25%
4. Taxation* 18% 16%
5. Advising the Individual Taxpayer* 13% 0%
6. Specialized Returns for Individuals 13% 14%

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

SEE Part 2 Domains New Weighting Old Weighting
1. Business Entities and Considerations* 35% 33%
2. Business Tax Preparation* 44% 46%
3. Specialized Returns and Taxpayers 21% 21%

*These Domains have been renamed.

SEE Part 3 Domains New Weighting Old Weighting
1. Practices and Procedures 31% 30%
2. Representation before the IRS 29% 28%
3. Specific Areas of Representation* 24% 22%
4. Filing Process* 16% 20%

*These Domains have been renamed.

Source: https://www.irs.gov/tax-professionals/enrolled-agent-news

2) UNDERSTAND THE CHANGES IN TAX YOU WILL NEED TO KNOW

Exams given prior to May 1st 2021 were testing on 2019 tax law. If you studied for exams prior to this timeframe, you will want to familiarize yourself with recent changes to 2020 tax law as follows:

Test takers in 2021 to February 28th of 2022 should be able to identify/ understand:

  • Any applicable inflation adjustments and filing thresholds for 2020 tax law.
  • The relevant changes affecting 2020 individual tax returns
  • The major provisions of the SECURE Act and Taxpayer Certainty & Disaster Act
  • Tax implications of the various COVID-19 provisions to the tax code.
  • The major provisions of the CARES Act affecting individual tax returns.
  • The changes to NOL limitations.
  • Credits and other relief available to individuals and businesses.
  • Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021

3) ENROLLED AGENT EXAM STUDY PLAN

To be successful in passing all three of your EA exams on the first try, you need a study plan that gets you through the material efficiently. Even if you do not like to read, you’ll need to make reading a daily habit early on. A good study plan will have you reading around four to five days per week for the first couple weeks. You will be reading each day for about an hour. Your plan will need to include some additional time for daily quizzes and a review of explanations to questions you are not sure about or those you get wrong. If you do not have a study plan of your own, we have a simple-to-follow study plan that was developed from working with our most successful students. Folks that use it, invariably thank us later because it's so effective & efficient in helping students pass. Paid students can get the study plan here.

4) TRUSTING MARKETING SPIN TECHNOLOGY IS RISKY

Beware of the hype, many courses offer up fancy sounding technology with buzzwords like “groundbreaking” or “award winning”. A deeper look proves the groundbreaking technology is nothing more than marketing hype. A simple google search also proves that awards given for technology were from organizations that charge a fee as part of their sham.

One of the big buzzwords tossed around in education technology today is: adaptive. Study tools that don't collect data in real time are not adaptive. Tools that collect data through one singular assessment and prescribe a path of learning, but don't collect data or provide support in real-time are not adaptive. Unfortunately students are being told they have the best technology when the reality is they are getting basic quizzes spun with all the hype a marketing department can muster.

So what is adaptive? Adaptive sequencing is the ability to continuously collect real-time data on performance and use it to automatically change a students learning experience. Using unproven or overhyped tools thought up by marketing departments in place of a sound study plan in our opinion is risky and could result in failed exams, wasting considerable time and money. When considering an EA course to help you pass your exams on the first try, you want a clean design, and great content delivered through proven study tools, just like those offered here at Fast Forward Academy. You can try the EA exam course here if you are interested in learning more.

5) SET YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS WITH URGENCY IN 2021

“How do I put urgency into my EA studies”, you ask? The answer is simple, make a proclamation that you will take one exam per month over about three months. Write the exam dates on a calendar visible to everyone, if you live alone, that's okay, put in the dates on the wall where you’ll see them multiple times per day. Put the exam date in your phone with a reminder. Tell your friends and family your plans and that your time for the next 3 months is dedicated to preparing for your EA exams.

The difference between dreams and goals is that a goal has a start and completion date next to it. To achieve means to live, act, work, and study with not just purpose, but urgency. Having a written goal that you are now accountable for achieving won’t make preparation harder, it will make it possible in 2021!

Ready To Pass the EA Exam On Your First Try?

Get everything you need to earn your EA with our top-rated Smart Bundle or Online Course!

View Course Details

5 More Reasons you should consider becoming an Enrolled Agent

  1. Increase credibility and earn the respect of your peers
  2. Enrolled Agents are tax experts that have been around since 1884 (longer than CPAs)
  3. Client communications are confidential if relating to non criminal tax matters or proceedings.
  4. Enrolled Agents are exempt from many of the state fees, registration and testing requirements imposed on Tax Return Preparers.
  5. Ability to help referred clients with their IRS issues.

History of the Enrolled Agent

Congress enacts a "temporary" income tax with the passage of the Revenue Act of 1862 in order to fund the Civil War.

Ten years later, this war-time tax was repealed.
1872
Ten years later, this war-time tax was repealed.
1884
The Treasury Department is having a difficult time with claims arising from property confiscated for use in the war effort. Congress gave the Secretary of the Treasury the authority to regulate the attorneys and agents representing taxpayers in these claims with the passage of the Enabling Act of 1884, also known as the “Horse Act” because the property in question was usually a horse. The intent of Congress at that time was not regulating “tax return preparers” as the modern-day income tax regime did not exist. Rather, this law was created to regulate representatives who were helping people prepare cases and file claims with the Treasury Department for losses resulting from the Civil War. Many of these claims were fraudulent, and regulation was deemed necessary to protect the public interest.
The income tax reappeared in 1913 with the ratification of the 16th amendment to the United States Constitution when it became apparent that another major war was upon us—WW1. The first Form 1040 was introduced at this time with a top tax rate of 6%. The form was far less complex than its modern-day equivalent with no additional schedules and one page of instructions. The role of the Enrolled Agent evolved with the needs of citizens as many sought monetary relief from income tax, and audits became more prevalent. Enrolled agents began to assist taxpayers with the preparation of the multitude of tax forms that would arise in the years to follow.
1913
The income tax reappeared in 1913 with the ratification of the 16th amendment to the United States Constitution when it became apparent that another major war was upon us—WW1. The first Form 1040 at this time with a top tax rate of 6%. The form was far less complex than its modern-day equivalent with no additional schedules and one page of instructions. The role of the Enrolled Agent evolved with the needs of citizens as many sought monetary relief from income tax, and audits became more prevalent. Enrolled agents began to assist taxpayers with the preparation of the multitude of tax forms that would arise in the years to follow.
1918
The Revenue Act of 1918 imposed a progressive income-tax rate structure of up to 77 percent.
In 1921, the Treasury Department released Circular 230 to address "the laws and regulations governing the recognition of agents, attorneys, and other persons representing claimants before the Treasury Department."
1921
In 1921, the Treasury Department released Circular 230 to address "the laws and regulations governing the recognition of agents, attorneys, and other persons representing claimants before the Treasury Department."
1959
In 1959, the Treasury Department implemented the first “Special Enrollment Examination.”
In 1966, “Enrolled Agent” became the official name for representatives able to demonstrate special skills and expertise in tax matters by passing the Special Enrollment Examination.
1966
In 1966, “Enrolled Agent” became the official name for representatives able to demonstrate special skills and expertise in tax matters by passing the Special Enrollment Examination.

Thank You!

"I used FFA for the EA exam after becoming frustrated with GLEIM and fell in love with your adaptive software. I passed all parts of the EA and all aspects of my job are now better. Your software and overall system is a large part of the reason I am an EA today. Thank you!"

- Ken
Passed First Time

Why Become an Enrolled Agent?

The EA designation is the highest credential issued by the IRS (technically, the United States Department of the Treasury issues the enrollment card). Enrolled Agents, along with Attorneys and CPAs, are the only tax professionals with unlimited representation rights, meaning they can represent any client on any matter before the IRS. This is true even if the EA did not preparer the tax return involved.

WHat does an Enrolled Agent do?

Simply put, an enrolled agent can perform all of the same functions as a CPA or Attorney before any office of the IRS. The role of an enrolled agent extends beyond simply preparing tax returns. Enrolled agents can help taxpayers navigate audits, request payment agreements with the IRS, settle tax debts and various collection issues, and handle taxpayer appeals.

An EA does not handle criminal matters or represent clients in tax court unless the EA also happens to be an attorney.

IRS Division What can an EA do?

Examinations – When the IRS is investigating the facts and trying to determine if a taxpayer owes money. This is called an “audit.”

Represent the taxpayer before the IRS

Corresponding and communicating with the IRS

Representing a taxpayer at conferences, hearings, or meetings with the IRS

Collections – When the IRS is attempting to collect a tax debt that is enforceable.

Offer in compromise – Offer to pay less.

Executing installment agreements (payment plan) on behalf of client

Extending the collection period

Abatements, releasing liens, preventing a levy (seizure of property).

Office of Appeals – Appealing an IRS enforcement decision.

Collection Due Process (CDP)

Collection Appeals Program (CAP).

Start My Free Trial