What is an Enrolled Agent (EA)?
An enrolled agent (EA) is a person who has earned the privilege of representing taxpayers before the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by either passing a three-part comprehensive IRS test covering individual and business tax returns, or through experience as a former IRS employee
An EA is a federally authorized tax specialist that operates to provide advisory services to American taxpayers about matters concerning the IRS. Achieving “EA” status is considered the highest credential awarded by the IRS and is legally recognized throughout all U.S states.
As for occupational duties, enrolled agents are empowered to represent American taxpayers before the IRS on matters such as collections, tax appeals, audits, and any other tax issues.
Under existing statutes, EAs are able to provide advisory services and prepare tax returns for anything that is required to report under the IRS. They include entities such as individual taxpayers, corporations, trusts, and estates.
Enrolled agent, like attorneys and certified public accountants (CPAs /US CPA), have unlimited practice rights. This means 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.
1. Enrolled Agents (EA) vs. Certified Public Accountants (CPA)
During tax season, services are offered by both EAs and CPAs, making selection increasingly difficult. Discussed below are the primary differences between EAs and CPAs, which should provide a better understanding of which professional is most suitable for the work required.
EA Education: In order to become an EA, individuals must pass a three-part examination that covers individual and business tax standards and laws. EAs primarily focus on tax preparation and do not spend much time studying the accounting principles that CPAs do.
CPA Education: In order to become a CPA, individuals must complete university studies in accounting, meet practical experience requirements, and pass a four-part Certified Public Accounting exam.
B. Hourly Rate
EA Rate: On average, the hourly rate charged by an EA fluctuates from about $12 to $50 per hour.
CPA Rate: On average, the hourly rate of a CPA ranges largely from about $30 to $500 and is exclusively based on the amount of experience that the CPA holds.
EA Population: The National Association of Enrolled Agents states that approximately 10,000 EAs are currently practicing in the United States.
CPA Population: According to the national databases of CPAs, there are approximately 650,000 CPAs who are currently practicing in the United States.
1. In the most basic sense, EAs focus on tax and professional services while CPAs focus on the generalized accounting principles and standards that are present throughout the United States.
2. Apart from occupational requirements, CPAs generally charge a much higher rate than EAs, and there are more CPAs in the United States than EAs.
3. An EA is the highest credential the IRS awards. A professional with this designation typically makes between $15,000 and $20,000 more than CPAs annually. You’ll want to seek out an EA for any and all tax-related issues. In fact, the IRS says they are uncontested experts on such topics.
2. Can you be both an EA and a CPA?
Another factor to consider as you choose your career path is the earning potential for both the EA credential and CPA license. While both the CPA and EA credential require tax knowledge, the EA is much more niche within the industry and geared more toward tax practitioners.
3. Steps to Become an EA
If an individual wants to become an enrolled agent, there are several requirements that must be met in order to gain that title. Discussed below are the steps needed to be taken in order to achieve the EA title.
1) Create an IRS Account: Go to the IRS’s website and register for an IRS account.
2) Submit IRS Application: In order to submit an IRS application, an individual will be required to present information such as name, address, date of birth, and any outstanding convictions or tax obligations.
3) Acquire PTIN Online: If an individual is not seen to have any outstanding convictions or tax obligations, they will be awarded a Personal Tax Identification Number (PTIN) immediately after application submission.
4) Suitability Check: 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.
5) Register for a Special Enrolment Exam (SEE) Prep: Before rushing into the test, it is recommended that individuals register for an SEE course that provides education for the three parts present on the SEE exam.
6) Register and Pass the SEE Exam: Once ready, individuals must register for their SEE exam, which consists of three major parts: individuals; businesses; and representation, practice, and procedures.
7) Gain IRS Experience: Once the test is passed, it is a requirement that all EA exam-certified individuals gain five years of experience working for the IRS.
8) Apply for Enrolment: After the experience requirement is met, individuals must apply for enrolment in order to finalize the certification. Applying for enrolment consists of background checks, training, licenses, employment experiences, and education history.
9) Continuing Education: Once the EA designation is awarded, individuals must maintain their title by meeting several conditions. Individuals with EA designations are required to earn 72 CPE hours every three years, use an IRS-approved continuing education provider, and review the enrolled
4. Benefits of Becoming an EA
Becoming an EA is a long and grueling process, but obtaining the designation provides many benefits, such as:
· Competitive wages
· Job security
· An increasingly growing job market
· Good standing with the IRS
· Does not require a degree
· Unlimited representational rights
Once you become an EA you must:
· Renew your status as an enrolled agent every three years
· Obtain continuing education
· Renew your PTIN annually
5. Why Get an Enrolled Agent License?
The EA credential can verify your credibility, open doors to new careers, and attract work opportunities. Tax preparers, accountants, and those wanting to move into tax preparation can gain confidence with an EA license.
When it comes to tax preparation, EAs can do many tasks a client needs. These professionals can argue tax law, discuss audits with the IRS, deal with the IRS collections department, and make appeals. Not everyone can provide these services, which puts EAs in high demand and a position of great earning potential.
2. National Credentials
The EA credential is a federal designation handed down by the U.S. Department of the Treasury. This allows you to work anywhere in the country. Alternatively, CPA licensure is state-specific with certain restrictions. Clients know that enrolled agents can work across state lines.
3. Job Stability
EAs enjoy steady work from individuals, tax-prep firms, law firms, accounting firms, and other corporations. Virtually everyone must pay taxes of some sort, and the ever-changing tax code means even more job security for enrolled agents.
4. Educational Requirements
The IRS does not require any specific educational background to become an enrolled agent. Applicants have to pass each section of the three-part exam and undergo a background check.
Aspiring EAs may find that an accounting degree sets them apart from their peers. Candidates who already hold undergraduate degrees may boost their skills and knowledge with a certificate in accounting or master’s in taxation.
6. SEE Exam Structure: Individuals
Part 1 : Taxation and Individuals
1.1 Taxpayer data (14 questions)
1.2 Income and assets (17 questions)
1.3 Deductions and credits (17 questions)
1.4 Taxation (15 questions)
1.5 Advising the taxpayer (11 questions)
1.6 Specialized returns (12 questions)
Part 2 : Taxation and Businesses
2.1 Business entities and considerations (30 questions)
2.2 Business tax preparation (37 questions)
2.3 Specialized returns (18 questions).
Part 3: Representation, Practices and Procedures
3.1 Practices and procedures (26 questions)
3.2 Representation before the IRS (25 questions)
3.3 Specific areas of representation (20 questions)
3.4 Filing process (14 questions)
Note: Test-takers must schedule four hours for each section. This includes 3.5 hours to take the test and 30 minutes for a pre-examination tutorial and post-examination survey. Candidates do not have to take all parts of the test on the same day or on consecutive days. They also do not have to complete the parts in any particular order. Prometric only offers the exam at its testing sites and not through off-site proctors.
7. Scoring the Exam
The EA licensing examination contains three parts, each consisting of 100 multiple-choice questions. Of those 100 questions, 85 questions count toward the test-taker’s score. The other 15 questions are experimental and are not scored.
Each question is marked right or wrong. No weighting system applies to the final score. The IRS uses a scaled scoring system for the SEE. This approach evaluates the total number of questions answered correctly against the number of questions on the exam.
The system converts this number to a scale that runs from 40-130. Test-takers must earn a scaled score of 105 or higher to pass. At the end of the exam, candidates receive a notification on their computer screen indicating that they have passed. They will not see their scaled score. The IRS only determines if a test-taker is qualified, not how qualified they may be.
Test-takers who fail receive their scaled score of 40-104 and diagnostic information indicating which areas need improvement. The system ranks a candidates’ performance in each exam area on a scale of 1-3. A score of one shows an area of weakness, while three indicates relative strength.
SEE Exam Scoring
|Average Pass Rate
|Representation, Practices and Procedures
8. EA Exam Fees
Each part of the SEE costs $185, which is due upon registration. This fee is non-transferable and non-refundable. Test-takers who fail the exam must pay the same fee to retake the test. To maximize the value of their investment, candidates should wait to register until they are fully prepared to take the exam. Candidates who pass the exam must pay a $67 enrolment fee when they apply to practice before the IRS.
9.Top Tips for Prospective EA Accountants
9.1 Review Prometric’s Sample Test Questions
Prometric is the testing and assessment company that offers the SEE on behalf of the IRS. The company provides a 100-question simulated SEE. This test also introduces candidates to the technology, functions, timed approach, and best practices relevant to the SEE. These resources do not cost money.
9.2 Commit to 150-200 Hours of Study
Becoming an EA requires one exam. Thus, the exam covers rigorous topics spread over three 100-question sections. Test-takers often spend more than 10 hours just taking the SEE. Effective preparation for this test requires 150-200 hours of study.
9.3 Go to the Source
The internet offers plenty of data and information about the SEE. Test-takers should be selective with their study resources. The IRS is the most accurate source of information about U.S. taxation. Data from other sources may be out of date or inaccurate.
9.4 Enroll in a Prep Course(EA Certification)
Community colleges and educational assessment companies offer online and in-person preparation courses for aspiring EAs. These programs may include computer-based lessons, study guides, lectures, or practice exams. Some programs offer access to learning aids, like digital flashcards or simulated exams. Others provide one-on-one support.
How long it takes to get EA certification depends on the candidate’s tax law and accounting knowledge. Well-prepared test-takers may pass the exam with little additional study. Other candidates may need several months of preparation time.
10. Is enrolled agent a good career?
Individuals who are considering a new career path may find that becoming an enrolled agent is the right choice. Offering excellent job security and the opportunity to have jurisdiction throughout the United States, the position of enrolled agent can provide a good salary along with a rewarding career.
11. Common Enrolled Agent Salary Ranges in the United States
1.Entry Level $25,000
12. EA Job Opportunities in India
12.1 Prospects of EA in India
An Enrolled Agent is a person who has earned the privilege of preparing US tax returns and also representing taxpayers before the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by passing a three-part comprehensive IRS test covering individual and business tax returns. The course is really useful if you wish to continue any kind of US taxation jobs.
There is a wide scope of job opportunities for many who wish to pursue this field. Many opportunities lie in the US as the course deals with US taxation. Indian ITES – BPO and KPO industry servicing International and US Financial and Accounting domain is growing leaps and bounds.
All these firms including BIG4, require knowledgeable and skilled resources to service their US and International clients on US taxation. Enrolled Agent being highest credential awarded by IRS for US taxation practice; Job seekers with EA qualification are most preferred resources by these companies.
All fortune 500 companies which have their shared services, International Banks , Financial Institutions , Big 4 and other accounting companies need EA’s in their system . New FATCA (Foreign accounting tax compliance act) rules stipulate that all the Indian banks and Financial Institutions also need to submit reports on transactions entered by US investors. EA’s will be prime resource to handle these work process.
Enrolled agent will have opportunity to work in:
a. Big 4 audit firms
b. Accounting and taxation BPO’s & KPO’s
c. Shared service centers
d. International Banks & FIs BPO & KPO’s
e. Indian banks & FIs
f. Indian International companies.