Professionals who help clients with taxes may benefit from becoming enrolled agents (EAs). The IRS empowers EAs with tools unavailable to most other tax preparers. These professionals can speak on clients’ behalf, argue disputes, and make cases to the federal taxation authorities. EAs can handle virtually any situation that may arise in the case of a taxpayer.
The best way to become an Enrolled Agent in one year is to pass each part of the EA exam on your first attempt. There are three exam parts you’ll have to study and sit for separately, but it doesn’t have to be as difficult as it sounds. To make becoming an EA manageable, you just need to set small, incremental goals and create a solid study plan. Being realistic about your expectations will help you make a plan you can keep. Candidates are more likely to stay on track when they regularly meet the benchmarks they set.
How to be an Enrolled Agent-Scope and Benefit for Tax Professionals: 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…. continue reading
One of the most common questions often comes to mind: How long does it take to become an Enrolled Agent (EA)? The common reason behind this is quite understandable. Before you get too far into the process of becoming an EA, you want to know if it is worth the time, effort, and funds required. But the benefits of the EA include increased job opportunities, income, status before the IRS, and tax expertise, so I believe that the designation is very advantageous. One of the main reasons people choose to become an EA is the generous enrolled agent salary.
However, passing the EA exam (officially called the Special Enrollment Exam (SEE)) can take a good deal of time, so you need to prepare for that.
How Long Does It Take to Become an Enrolled Agent?
Depending on your tax knowledge, becoming an enrolled agent can take 3-8 months. You may hear some enrolled agents boast that the EA exam is easy and they passed it in just a few weeks. Yet, the reality is that most candidates are not able to pass in 1 month. You may need more than 1 month or even more than 1 year to pass. But as long as that timeline works for your lifestyle, you shouldn’t feel pressured to pass faster. You have two years* to pass all three parts of the EA exam, so while you do not technically need to pass all three in the same year, many candidates want to pass before tax season to get more clients. This means appointments to take the exam early in the year can fill up quickly.
*Note: Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the IRS has extended the 2-year period to 3 years, giving candidates more time to safely sit for and pass their exams.
When Can You Take the Enrolled Agent Exam?
The Enrolled Agent exam is available for candidates to take 10 out of the 12 months in a year. The testing window lasts from May 1 to February 28 of the following year. The 2 blackout months (March and April) allow the exam administrators to make any necessary adjustments to the exam. They also use this time to update the content according to the most recent tax law.
The Study Plan
The number of months your EA exam journey will last depends on how many study hours you will need. Also, the other half of the equation is how quickly you can accumulate those study hours. If you are not super familiar with the current tax code, getting ready to pass all 3 parts may take you a few hundred hours. A sample guideline is provided below.
Number of EA Exam Study Weeks
|# Of Study Hours
It’s a good idea to set aside regular time for studying, such as an hour before work or during your lunch break. You can try to study for the Enrolled Agent exam “during your free time,” but if you’re like most people, there just isn’t enough extra time when you’re also working or going to school. The Gleim study plan suggested devoting the following time span.
|Average time spent studying per part of the EA exam
Based on this, one can make two types of time-based study plans as mentioned below.
- Deadline -based study Plan for EA exam
If you have a firm deadline to become an EA, you may need to sacrifice other obligations to fit in enough study time to pass then you can follow the steps mentioned below.
- Mark your deadline and make sure to note any obligations that may interrupt your studies, such as holidays or other life events.
- Work backward from the deadline you marked. If you have weeks where three or more days are not available for studying, count them as half-weeks.
- Take the total amount of hours you will need to study (see chart above) and divide it by the number of weeks you have until your exam. That will give you your study hours per week. If it seems unattainable, you’ll have to either make some scheduling sacrifices or reconsider your deadline.
- These hours are included in the total time chart above, so you should aim to complete all of your review material at least one week before your exam. This is when you touch up on topics you haven’t practiced in a while or might still be struggling with.
- Be sure to set a benchmark every week to check your progress against.
Example: For a nine-week plan, if you are studying 10 hours a week, and your first three weeks are full weeks, you should be at least 30% done with your studies by the end of the third week. Write “30% done” for the final day, and check your progress when you get there. If you start to fall behind (for example, by missing two benchmarks in a row), you may need to adjust your study plan.
- If you are behind or think you need more time, you can reschedule your exam as long as you do so at least five days before your current exam date. Rescheduling your exam will require a $35 fee. If you know you need to reschedule and do so 30 days or more before your exam, you can reschedule for free.
- Hours- based study plan for EA exam
If you only have a certain number of hours each day available to study, you should set test dates that give you enough time to hit your hours targets. It is more or less similar to above with the following parameters.
- Make sure to note any important obligations that may interrupt your studies, such as holidays or other life events.
- Set a realistic goal, but be serious about it. It might be easy to commit to studying for only an hour a week, but you should aim as high as you reasonably can.
- Divide the total number of hours you need to study by the hours per week you can study. If you have weeks where three or more days are not available for studying, count them as half-weeks. This will give you the approximate number of weeks you will need to be ready to sit for the exam.
Sample Enrolled Agent study plan (Gleim)
Because the Enrolled Agent exam tests the previous year’s tax law, there is no better time to start studying than right after-tax season. All of that year’s tax laws are fresh in your mind, which will just help you more while studying and answering questions. Below we cover a sample plan to study for the Enrolled Agent exam using an average of 10 hours per week. Your exact plan will likely differ based on your goals and commitments.
EA Part 1
Start Date April 22
Final Review June 24
Exam Date July 1
EA Part 2
Start Date July 5
Final Review September 27
Exam Date October 4
EA Part 3
Start Date October 17
Final Review November 28
Exam Date December 5
How Long Do You Have to Pass the EA Exam?
Once you pass your first EA exam part, your credit for that section lasts for 2 years from the date you passed. Therefore, you should pass the remaining 2 sections within those 2 years to avoid losing credit for your passed section and having to take it again. However, if you don’t pass a part of the EA exam after taking it 4 times in the same testing window, you must wait until the next testing window to try for the fifth time.
Enrolled Agent (EA) – The Complete Kaleidoscope: Course, Eligibility, Syllabus, Exam Structure and Job Opportunities in India: An enrolled agent (EA) is a person who is authorized to represent 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…. Continue reading
What Can You Do to Pass the Enrolled Agent Exam Faster?
If you’d like to pass the EA exam as soon as possible, follow these tips:
- Skip Content You Already Know
No matter which course you choose, you may be able to speed up the process by skipping the reading and moving straight into the quizzes. If your review course suggests you study an exam content area more than you think is necessary, you can try to take the shortcut by answering practice questions first. In doing so, you may find that you’re already proficient in that area. However, if you try this study strategy and score low on the practice quizzes, you should do the reading. You must have sufficient comprehension of every exam topic. So, read the book or watch the videos to refresh your understanding of the material. Then, after you’ve gone back to the basics, you can return to the MCQs.
Only by focusing on your weak areas can you truly save time. If you ignore the troublesome topics, you risk failing an exam part, which just draws the exam process out even longer. To focus on your weak areas, take a mock test at the start of each study unit. Then, use the results of the quiz to figure out which topics need more of your attention. After that, prioritize those topics in your reading and quizzing until you’ve aced them.
- Make Sacrifices with Your Time
You may be able to pass the exam within 2 years by going about your life as usual and studying for the exam in your free time. But if you want to get the exam over with so you can enjoy the EA designation ASAP, you’ll have to adjust your agenda. To pass the exam fast, you must make a study schedule. In the process, you can carve out even more weekly study time when you temporarily drop non-essential activities from your normal routine. It might not be fun, but it will be worthwhile once you’ve finished the exam and have the EA to show for it.
- Pass Each Section on the First Attempt
This mandate may be easier said than done, but it’s the ideal goal for someone who feels the need to speed up their EA proceedings. To pull it off, you must
- Rely on an EA review course,
- Give yourself plenty of time to prepare,
- Stick to a realistic but consistent study schedule, and
- Use your study materials to master all of the exam content.
Remember: Passing each part, the first time can be done: it just takes dedication, hard work, and persistence.
How Long Does It Take to Get the EA License After You Pass the Exam?
After you pass all 3 parts of the Enrolled Agent exam, you must submit the Application for Enrollment, A.K.A. Form 23. You have 1 year from the time you pass your final exam part to fill out this document. You’ll also have to pay your enrollment fee to the IRS at this time.
How long does it take to become an enrolled agent after completing the exam?
Approving your application can take up to 90 days because it involves a background check. And because this final procedure can extend so long, becoming an EA can take you anywhere from 3-8 months.
Follow these steps to become an EA:
- Obtain a Preparer Tax Identification Number;
- Apply to take the Special Enrollment Examination (SEE);
- Achieve passing scores on all 3 parts of the SEE;*
- Apply for enrollment; and
- 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.
The best way to become an Enrolled Agent in one year is to pass each part of the EA exam on your first attempt. There are three exam parts you’ll have to study and sit for separately, but it doesn’t have to be as difficult as it sounds. To make becoming an EA manageable, you just need to set small, incremental goals and create a solid study plan. It is advisable to do a self-evaluation check by asking the following questions to oneself.
- How familiar am I with the material on the Enrolled Agent exam?
- When was the last time I studied for an exam or took a tax course?
- How much time do I have available to study each week?
- Do I have a deadline to become an Enrolled Agent?
- How long can I concentrate in one sitting?
Being realistic about your expectations will help you make a plan you can keep. Candidates are more likely to stay on track when they regularly meet the benchmarks they set. On an average, depending on experience, you should expect to invest up to 40-70 hours of total study time for each exam part.
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