Become an Enrolled Agent: The Expert Guide

Enrolled Agent (EA) is the highest credential in the tax industry, awarded by the IRS. This guide will help you understand what the credential means to you as a tax preparer, outline the complete process to become an EA, and how to leverage Surgent Income Tax School to accelerate the process.

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YouTube: Pathway to the Enrolled Agent

What Is an Enrolled Agent?

An Enrolled Agent is the highest credential awarded in the tax preparation industry. EAs are authorized by the IRS to represent taxpayers, handle advanced tax matters, and practice before the IRS.

Unlike CPAs who must be licensed in each state, EAs can represent clients anywhere in the country. Their expertise and IRS-given authority also allow them to earn significantly more than typical tax preparers.

Enrolled Agent Course and Exam Overview

To become an EA, you must pass a comprehensive 3-part exam covering individual, business, and representation-focused tax topics. While challenging, this exam is very achievable with proper preparation.

Our enrolled agent courses allow you to build up your knowledge over time, even starting from scratch. You can go from your first intro tax course to passing the EA exams in less than 18 months.

Our multi-course certificate programs cover all the topics tested on the EA exams. After completing the courses, we recommend supplementing with our EA Exam Review for focused prep and practice tests.

The Value of Becoming an Enrolled Agent

EAs enjoy flexible work options, higher earning potential, and high demand for their services. Without needing a college degree or accounting background, becoming an EA provides a clear path to a rewarding tax career.

Additional Benefits to an EA Career

  • Like attorneys and certified public accountants (CPAs), Enrolled Agents have unlimited practice rights, meaning they are unrestricted as to which taxpayers they can represent, what types of tax matters they can handle, and which IRS offices they can represent clients before.
  • The Enrolled Agent credential is nationally recognized, meaning Enrolled Agents are authorized by the IRS to practice in any state. Interestingly, CPAs have to be licensed separately in each state they wish to practice in.
  • You don’t need a college degree to become an Enrolled Agent — you need only a high school diploma or equivalent.
  • You don’t need to know accounting or high-level math to become an Enrolled Agent.
  • There is a shortage of Enrolled Agents who can handle more complicated tax returns and represent clients before the IRS.
  • Your earning potential is much greater as an Enrolled Agent because you have a higher level of tax knowledge and are unrestricted — meaning you are able to do more things for your clients. You can easily work year-round assisting clients with tax preparation, representation, and many other tax issues.
  • You can pass the three-part Enrolled Agent Exam, also called the Special Enrollment Exam (SEE), one part at a time — and you have two years from passing the first exam to pass all three! This makes studying for and passing the exam much more manageable.

How to Become an Enrolled Agent in 4 Steps

Step 1:

Enroll in the Chartered Tax Professional CTP® Certificate Program

Our Chartered Tax Professional (CTP) Certificate Program provides comprehensive training to prepare you for the EA exams. This 100% online program includes:

  • 5 tax courses totaling 157 hours of instruction
  • Covers basic income tax preparation up to advanced tax topics
  • Ideal for beginners or those new to taxes
  • Courses align with EA exam content
  • Most CTP graduates pass the EA exams after also taking our EA Exam Review
  • Can be completed in less than 18 months

Courses included in the CTP® program:

Learn more about the CTP® Certificate Program & Enroll Now

With structured online courses that take you from tax basics to advanced concepts, the CTP program gives you the foundational knowledge needed to become an Enrolled Agent. Our step-by-step curriculum designed for EA exam preparation allows you to gain expertise in all areas tested on the exam.

Already have some experience?

Experienced tax preparers can try to test out of the Comprehensive Tax Course to save time and money within the CTP® program.

Learn more about the Test Out option.

Step 2:

Complete a Surgent EA review course

After you’ve gotten a few tax courses under your belt, you should consider registering for Part 1 of Surgent’s EA Review Course, and you can work toward your EA status at the same time. This will put you on the fast track to becoming an Enrolled Agent. Surgent’s course is a leader in EA Exam preparation. The course offers:

  • New EA Exam Review innovations – Intelligent Software
  • Over 1,800 Multiple-Choice Questions – With Full Text Answers
  • Up-to-Date IRS Publications – Built Right Into the Software
  • Over 96% Pass Rate
  • Simulated Exam Mode
  • Pass or Refund Guarantee

Learn more about the Surgent Enrolled Agent Review Courses

Step 3:

Take the IRS SEE examination

To become a professional EA, you must pass the IRS Special Enrollment Examination (SEE) – also known as the EA exam.

The SEE consists of 3 separate parts that can be taken individually:

Part 1 – Individuals

Part 2 – Businesses

Part 3 – Representation, Practices, and Procedures

You have 2 years to pass all 3 exam parts after passing the first one. This flexible schedule makes earning your EA more achievable.

Learn More about the SEE Exam

Follow these steps to take the EA exam:

  1. Create an Account with Prometric, if you don’t have one.
  2. Review the Candidate Information Bulletin – This bulletin will provide you with important information about the examination and the process for becoming an Enrolled Agent. Review the Candidate Information Bulletin
  3. Review Exam Content Outlines – Read the full detailed test specifications to become familiar with the content of each part of the exam.
  4. Prepare for your Exam – Please review the Candidate Information Bulletin for test content and scoring information, test center regulations and ID policies, registration and scheduling issues and contact information.
  5. Register for and Schedule Your Exam – Prior to scheduling an examination appointment you must register for each part of the examination that you wish to take through Prometric, who administers the exam for the IRS. There is a $182.00 fee per part, paid at the time of appointment scheduling. The test fee is nonrefundable and nontransferable.
  6. Take your Exam, which will be taken in person at a Prometric Testing Center.

With proper preparation, the EA exam is very passable. Our Enrolled Agent prep courses help you learn and practice the content so you can pass with confidence. The rewarding EA credential is well worth the effort to pass the SEE.

Step 4:

Register with the IRS as an Enrolled Agent

  1. Successfully pass all three parts of the EA exam (SEE exam) within two years.
  2. Obtain or continue to maintain your Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) through the IRS.
  3. Apply for enrollment by completing the Form 23 Enrolled Agent application and pay $67.
  4. Pass a suitability check, which will include tax compliance to ensure that you have filed all necessary tax returns and there are no outstanding tax liabilities; and criminal background. Successful examination candidates usually have the process completed within 90 days of receipt of their application.

Congratulations! You’re now an Enrolled Agent!

Step 5:

Continue your education to maintain your EA credential

Now that you’re an Enrolled Agent, the only thing left for you to do is keep up with your annual credits. Individuals who obtain the Enrolled Agent status must adhere to ethical standards and complete 72 hours of continuing education (CE) courses every three years. A minimum of 16 hours must be earned per year, two of which must be on ethics. Enrolled Agents must use an IRS-approved CE provider.

Learn more about EA CE requirements

Get started today! Choose your pathway to becoming an EA: