The process and requirements to become an EA are not nearly as complicated as other public accounting licenses, such as the CPA. Since you don’t need a college degree background as a tax professional to sit for the Enrolled Agent exam, the steps are pretty straightforward. But to gain the EA title, you will need to pass the EA Exam, so let’s see what that entails.
- Do some research on the exam structure and various career opportunities available to EAs
- Obtain a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) and create an account on the SEE Prometric website
- Schedule your exam within one year of your registration date
- Find a strong EA exam prep course and create an actionable study plan
- Prepare mentally and physically for test day
- After passing, apply for EA designation by completing Form 23 (Application for Enrollment to Practice Before the Internal Revenue Service)
Step 1: Learn All About the EA Exam
Before you start anything, you need to do your research. Explore the different career opportunities and look into what you would like to be doing as an EA. Basically, EAs represent both individuals and businesses before the IRS, like attorneys and CPAs, but there are a variety of ways to do so.
The EA Exam (also known as the Special Enrollment Exam) consists of three parts: individual taxation, businesses, and RPP (representation, practice, and procedures). Each part has 100 multiple choice questions—a total of 300 for the entire exam. Check out the IRS EA Frequently Asked Question page to see the exam content. It’s also a great place to start your research!
Step 2: Get a PTIN and Register for Your Exam
Before you can register for the exam, you will need to obtain a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). You can sign up for your PTIN here. You will have to create an account, provide some personal information, and then pay a $50 fee. Once you’ve got your PTIN, you can create an account on the SEE Prometric website and register for your exam.
Step 3: Schedule Your Test
Click “Schedule Your Exam” on the Prometric website to complete the registration process. You can schedule your exam within one year of your registration date. Choose a test site, time, and date for your exam. There are testing centers in most major US metropolitan centers and even in some countries outside of the US. You can also call (800) 306-3926 during business hours to schedule your exam.
Step 4: Find a EA Review Course and Make a Study Plan
Now that you know when you are taking your exam, you can begin to prepare. Since the EA Exam is broken up into three parts, you have to focus on one section of tax knowledge at a time. You are going to need to develop a study plan with a review course that works with your learning style.
Depending on how much tax preparation experience you have, the amount of time you spend studying with your preparation course will vary. You will need to read and understand a lot of information in order to pass, so I suggest spending about 40-60 hours studying for each part. Part 2, Businesses, seems to give people the most trouble, so you will need to spend even more time on this section.
Make sure you spend lots of time with practice questions and mock exams. By answering lots of questions in an exam-like environment, you’ll feel much more comfortable on exam day and confident with your expected score since you’ve already tried out a few mock exams.
Step 5: Finally… Test Day!
The day is finally here, and you’ve done all you can to prepare. You need to make sure you’re healthy too, so get plenty of rest and nutrition before your exam. You’ll want to be at your best when you walk into that testing center. Walk into that Prometric test center like John Travolta walked into the club in Saturday Night Fever: like a boss.
Make sure you arrive at the test center at least 30 minutes before your scheduled exam. Also, make sure you bring a government issued ID that has the exact name used on your exam registration forms. If you miss your appointment or forget your ID, you won’t be allowed to take the exam and will have to pay again to schedule another exam.
”Walk into that Prometric test center like John Travolta walked into the club in Saturday Night Fever—like a boss”
Step 6: Make it Official!
After celebrating your success (a crucial step, in my opinion), you will need to apply for the EA designation. The fastest way to do this is by filling out Form 23, Application for Enrollment to Practice Before the Internal Revenue Service. Once you’ve paid the application fee online and been approved, you will be issued an enrollment card and then bam! You’re a legit Enrolled Agent!