How to become an Enrolled Agent

6 min read
How to become an EA

If you’re ready to enhance your career in a high-demand specialization and help people resolve their tax issues with the IRS, then you will benefit from learning how to become an Enrolled Agent (EA). 

Earning your EA designation takes some time and hard work but is very attainable with dedication and guidance. We’re here to walk you step by step through the process of becoming an Enrolled Agent, readying you for career success through EA Exam preparation and continuing education. 

How to become an Enrolled Agent

  1. Get your PTIN. 
  1. Prepare for, take, and pass the SEE. 
  1. Apply for enrollment. 

What is an Enrolled Agent? 

An Enrolled Agent (EA) is a highly qualified tax professional who has earned the legal right to represent clients on their tax matters before the IRS. This may include responding to IRS communications on behalf of their client, appealing a ruling, or assisting with an audit. As a federal designation, EAs can practice anywhere in the US without limitations as to who they can represent or which type of tax matters they can handle. Also, Enrolled Agent is the highest designation the IRS awards. 

How to become an Enrolled Agent 

Earning your Enrolled Agent designation requires planning and study, but the right guidance helps you streamline the journey to earning your credential and enhancing your tax services. In fact, many EAs go through the entire process in just one year, sometimes even less.1 

1. Get your Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) 

The first step in how to become an Enrolled Agent is applying for and receiving your Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). All EAs—in fact, anyone paid to prepare tax returns—need this IRS-issued ID number. 

You can apply for a PTIN online through the IRS.gov website, or by snail mail through the IRS PTIN processing center in San Antonio, Texas. It takes about 15 minutes to apply and costs $19.75.2 Normally, it takes about four to six weeks processing time to receive your PTIN.3 

2. Pass the Special Enrollment Examination (SEE) 

The Special Enrollment Examination (SEE) is a three-part exam testing all matters related to tax preparation and representation. Passing this comprehensive exam is a pivotal moment on your journey of how to become an Enrolled Agent, demonstrating that you are prepared with the knowledge and skills to work in this role. 

The SEE includes three exam parts that you can schedule and take separately, but must all be passed within a three-year period: 

  1. Part 1: Individuals 
  2. Part 2: Businesses 
  3. Part 3: Representation, Practices, and Procedures 

Each exam part contains 100 multiple-choice questions, and you have 3.5 hours (and an optional 15-minute break) to complete them. 

Exams are graded using scaled scoring, with a max score of 130. You must score at least 105 to pass. You’ll receive your score immediately after completing the exam. If you've passed, the report will show a passing designation. If you fail, you will see your score (from 40-104), with a diagnostic indicator in each topic area to help you hone your study.4 

You can retake each exam part up to four times within each testing window; however, at $259 per test, it is important to invest in a great exam review so you are fully prepared and confident to pass on the first try. 

3. Apply for enrollment 

Once you’ve passed all three SEE sections, your path of how to become an Enrolled Agent is close to completion! 

Your last step is applying for enrollment, during which the IRS will conduct a “suitability check” that includes a criminal background check and tax compliance investigation to ensure that you have no outstanding tax liabilities. 

To apply, fill out Form 23 found on the IRS.gov website and pay the $140 application fee. Processing is normally completed within 60 days of your application.5 

How to maintain your Enrolled Agent designation 

You must fulfill certain requirements to keep your hard-earned Enrolled Agent designation active and in good standing. 

EA designation renewal 

You must renew your EA designation every three years, based on the last digit of your social security number. You complete renewal by filling out the IRS's Form 8554 and paying the $140 renewal fee.6 

Continuing education (CE) requirements 

Maintaining your designation also requires you fulfill the EA CE requirements, which includes completing 72 hours of continuing education (CE) credits over the course of each three-year renewal cycle. This includes at least 16 hours of CE per year, two of which must be in ethics. 

PTIN renewal 

You must renew your PTIN annually, from mid-October through December 31. You do this by accessing your IRS.gov account, completing the online renewal form, and paying the $19.75 renewal fee.2 


Get started with Becker 

If you’re wondering how to become an Enrolled Agent, Becker can help you kickstart your tax specialization and continue supporting your career-long success. We hold 60+ years of experience as the #1 trusted name in CPA Exam review; now, we’re combining our exam prep experience with our tax instructors’ expertise to support the tax professional’s entire career evolution. 

At Becker, we’re committed to championing your career and advancing your success. This includes not just the information on how to become an Enrolled Agent, but the support to pass the SEE and maintain your credential. Get ready for Becker's complete EA exam review course and EA CE subscription package—both coming soon!—and let us support your Enrolled Agent career growth.

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