EA Exam 101

Welcome to The EA Guide! My name is Bryan Kesler and I wanted to help give you the basic background on what the EA exam is and what to expect.

What is an EA?

“EA” stands for Enrolled Agent. An IRS EA is allowed to represent taxpayers before the IRS (Internal Revenue Service). This representation includes examination, collection, and appeals. An EA can also provide tax consultation services and prepare state and federal tax returns.

As an Enrolled Agent, you will have unlimited practice rights. Similar to attorneys and Certified Public Accountants (CPAs), you will be unrestricted as to which taxpayers you can represent, the types of tax matters you handle, and which IRS offices you can represent clients before.

To become an EA you must pass the SEE (Special Enrollment Exam) which is administered by the NAEA (National Association of Enrolled Agents) and is a 3 part exam. You can also attain the status of Enrolled Agent through experience as a former IRS employee (requirements discussed below). Enrolled Agent status is the highest credential the IRS awards.

Here are my most recommended resources for future enrolled agents.

The Three Parts of the EA/SEE exam:

Each of the 3 parts of the SEE exam include 100 multiple choice questions and you are given 3.5 hours to complete each exam. 

You do NOT have to take all 3 parts in sequential order.

Part 1 - Individuals

Topics Covered:
* Section 1: Preliminary Work and Taxpayer Data (15%)
* Section 2: Income and Assets (25%)
* Section 3: Deductions and Credits (25%)
* Section 4: Taxation and Advice (20%)

* Section 5. Specialized Returns for Individuals (15%)

Part 2 - Businesses

Topics Covered:
* Section 1: Businesses (45%)
* Section 2: Business Financial Information (40%)
* Section 3: Specialized Returns and Taxpayers (15%)

Part 3 - Representation, Practices and Procedures

Topics Covered
* Section 1: Practices and Procedures (35%)
* Section 2: Representation before the IRS (30%)
* Section 3: Specific Types of Representation (30%)
* Section 4: Completion of the Filing Process (5%)

What Are the Professional and Educational Requirements to Sit for the EA exam?

None! All that matters is your knowledge of the tax code and the ability to pass the SEE Test

Continuing Education Requirements?

Once you have passed the SEE you must obtain a minimum of 72 hours of continuing education every enrollment cycle (every 3 years). 

Of that 72 hours, you must obtain a minimum of 16 hour each year including 2 hours of ethics or professional conduct training.

How Often and When Can I Sit for the Exam?

The exam window is from May 1 to February 28 of the following year. The test is not offered during the annual blackout period in March and April. During this time the test is updated for the most recent tax law.

When do I have to sit after I have registered to take the SEE?

Your examination appointment must be scheduled within one year of the date of registration. If space permits, you may register and schedule up to 2 days prior to your test date.

How Long Are My Test Score Good?

Candidates who pass a part of the examination can carryover passing scores up to two years from the date the candidate took the examination. For example, if a candidate took and passed part 1 on November 15, 2011 and passed part 2 on February 15, 2012, that individual has until November 14, 2013 to pass the remaining part otherwise he/she loses credit for part 1. On February 14, 2014, if that individual still has not passed all other parts of the examination, he/she loses credit for part 2.

How is the EA Exam Scored?

Per IRS.gov, there are multiple versions of each test administered and Prometric uses a scaled scoring process to ensure comparability between those versions.

Each question on the exam is worth one point, and scaled scores are determined by calculating the number of questions you answered correctly from the sum of all questions in the examination and converting to a scale that ranges from 40 to 130.

The IRS has determined the passing score per section to be a minimum of 105 points.

Since there are only multiple choice questions on the EA exam your score will be released once you complete the test.

What Are the Pass Rates for the EA Exam?

The pass rates for the EA exam are significantly higher than other accounting exams such as the CPA or CMA. Here is a snapshot from the Prometric website for the typical pass rates for the SEE by section over the past 3 years. 

It appears that SEE section 2 has gotten substantially more difficult since 2011, so I recommend studying the hardest for this section.

What Are the Best EA Review Courses Available?

See top 4 EA Review Courses reviewed by me here

What are the salary expectations for an Enrolled Agent?

There is limited salary data available for Enrolled Agents, but as an EA you can expect to charge at a rate similar to what a CPA charges depending on your level of experience.

Example charge rate that I was able to find:
Consulting/Auditing - Can charge as much as $150 per hour
Basic Payroll/Bookkeeping - Expect to earn between $25-$50 per hour

What Is My Next Step?

You need to find a EA review course that is going to GUARANTEE you will pass the EA exam on your first try so you can start expanding your career options!

List of Top EA Review Courses and Discounts