Become A Member
The enrollment card has become a symbol of excellence and professionalism in the representation of all types of taxpayers before the IRS and other governmental tax agencies, such as California’s Franchise Tax Board. Here are the answers to many frequently asked questions about becoming an EA.
Q. What are the steps for becoming an Enrolled Agent?
An individual may become an Enrolled Agent in one of two ways. The primary way is to pass the three-part Special Enrollment Examination (SEE). Following successful completion of the SEE, you'll be the object of Treasury Department background investigation. The only other way to become an EA is to have been employed by the IRS for at least five years, regularly applying and interpreting the provisions of the Internal Revenue Code and regulations.
Q. What is the “passing rate” for the exam?
Historically, less than one-third of applicants pass the exam annually.
Q. What is meant by “applying for the enrollment card”?
The Treasury Department's background investigation is based on detailed information you must provide after you’ve been notified you’ve passed the exam. The investigation will include an examination (although not an “audit”) of your own tax returns for the last three years. Once the background investigation has been successfully completed the Director of the Office of Professional Responsibility of the Internal Revenue Service may issue your enrollment card.
Q. How can I apply for the examination and when is it held?
You may schedule your appointment for the testing period May 1, 2011-February 29, 2012. There is no testing in March and April. Contact the California Society of Enrolled Agents at 800/777-2732 for further information regarding the next examination.
Q. How can I prepare for the exam?
The examination is based entirely on the various IRS publications, and preparing for the exam can be done in a variety of ways: self-study, using only the IRS publications; a correspondence course; an eight-to-ten week preparatory course; a one or two day “crash” course; or any combination of these (click here for more information).
Q. What kinds of experience should I have before taking the enrollment exam?
While we recommend that you have some tax preparation experience, there is no mandatory minimum experience required to sit for the SEE.
Q. What are the employment opportunities for an Enrolled Agent?
A large number of Enrolled Agents are self-employed, with practices that offer year-round services to their clients (and often will include bookkeeping, payroll, and other services). EAs also are employed by other firms of Enrolled Agents, by CPA firms, by attorneys specializing in areas of taxation, by large commercial tax preparation firms, by banks and investment companies, and by private firms needing in-house tax expertise. Building a year-round tax practice takes time and experience, so some will start their tax career on a part-time basis while still employed in another occupation, with the intent of developing the tax practice in a self-supporting and profitable business. The California Society of Enrolled Agents offers special annual workshops for new Enrolled Agents and Tax Practice Management workshops to help all EAs.
Q. As an EA, will I have to do all types of tax returns in my own practice?
No. You can limit your practice to the types of returns you prefer doing. You may choose to specialize in certain areas of taxation (e.g., military personnel, farmers, clergy, or entertainers). Some EAs do not prepare tax returns at all; they limit their practices to audit representation and tax-collection matters only (an EA is not required to have prepared the return in order to represent a taxpayer being audited).
Q. How much money can I make as an Enrolled Agent?
Because the types of tax practices vary so much, there is no pat answer to this question. How much you can earn will depend on your tax experience, the type of tax practice you have, and how hard you want to work! If you plan to start your own practice, it takes time (often three to five years) to build a substantial client base, so many EAs begin their practices as “part-time” businesses, allowing time for their practices to grow into “full-time” careers.
Other questions? Attend one of our local Chapter meetings held every 1st Thursday of the Month (except April) and speak with Member EAs! For information on the upcoming meeting or to register to attend, contact Linda Wall at firstname.lastname@example.org.