You need to pass a three-part IRS exam 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, or EA exam. The exam isn't easy, but we help thousands of students just like you pass the exam every year.
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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 3 years from the date you pass your first part to pass all three parts. Once you pass all three parts of the exam, 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.
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 to successfully pass a 3-part high stakes exam within 36 months.
Below are some time-tested tips you can leverage to increase your chances of passing all three parts of the Special Enrollment Exam (SEE) the first time.
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 parts 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 exam specifications reflect the common tasks an Enrolled Agent performs and the knowledge needed to adequately perform those duties.
Below is a chart of the domain weightings for each part of the EA exam.
|SEE Part 1 Domains||Weighting|
|1. Preliminary Work and Taxpayer Data||16%|
|2. Income and Assets||20%|
|3. Deductions and Credits||20%|
|5. Advising the Individual Taxpayer||13%|
|6. Specialized Returns for Individuals||13%|
|SEE Part 2 Domains||Weighting|
|1. Business Entities and Considerations||35%|
|2. Business Tax Preparation||44%|
|3. Specialized Returns and Taxpayers||21%|
|SEE Part 3 Domains||Weighting|
|1. Practices and Procedures||31%|
|2. Representation before the IRS||29%|
|3. Specific Areas of Representation||24%|
|4. Filing Process||16%|
For exams taken between May 1, 2023 – February 29, 2024, all references on the examination are to the Internal Revenue Code, Code of Federal Regulations, IRS forms, instructions and publications, as amended through December 31, 2022. Also, unless otherwise stated, all questions relate to the calendar year 2022. Questions that contain the term ‘current tax year' refer to the calendar year 2022. In answering questions, candidates should not take into account any legislation or court decisions after December 31, 2022.
To be successful in passing all three parts of the EA exam 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.
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.
"How do I put urgency into my EA studies", you ask? The answer is simple, make a proclamation that you will take one part per month over a three-month period. Write the dates you plan to take each part on a calendar where you'll see them multiple times per day. Put the dates 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 and passing the EA exam.
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!
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"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!"
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.
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)