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Enrolled Agents - Frequently Asked Questions

Information about Enrolled Agents

1. What is an enrolled agent? (updated 11/8/11)

An enrolled agent is a person who has earned the privilege of representing taxpayers before the Internal Revenue Service. Enrolled agents, like attorneys and certified public accountants (CPAs), 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.

2. How do you become an enrolled agent? (posted 11/8/11)

Follow these steps to become an EA:

  1. Obtain a Preparer Tax Identification Number;
  2. Apply to take the Special Enrollment Examination (SEE);
  3. Achieve passing scores on all 3 parts of the SEE;*
  4. Apply for enrollment; and
  5. Pass a tax compliance check to ensure that you have filed all necessary tax returns and there are no outstanding tax liabilities.

*Certain IRS employees, by virtue of past technical experience, are exempt from the exam requirement.

Review the Candidate Information Bulletin (pdf) to get started.

3. How much does it cost to take the Special Enrollment Examination? (posted 4/25/13)

There is a $105 fee paid at the time of appointment scheduling. The test fee is non-refundable and non-transferable. Please refer to the Candidate Information Bulletin to read the policy on rescheduling appointments.

4. Is it possible to become an enrolled agent if I have or have had problems with my personal tax obligations? (posted 11/8/11)

Failure to timely file tax returns or to pay your taxes may be grounds for denying an application for enrollment. The Return Preparer Office will review all of the facts and circumstances to determine whether a denial of enrollment is warranted.

5. How can I check on the status of my enrolled agent application? (updated 11/25/13)

Form 23 takes 60 days to process. If you haven’t received a response after 60 days, send an email to or call (855) 472-5540. Please be sure to include your full name and address.
6. How can I replace an enrollment card? (updated 11/25/13)

A replacement card may be obtained by calling (855) 472-5540. You may also request a replacement card by e-mail at or by fax at (313) 234-1622. If requesting the card via e-mail, please do not include your SSN. The request should include your name, contact information, such as your daytime phone, and your enrolled agent number.

7. Do enrolled agents have any continuing education requirements? (posted 4/25/13)

Enrolled agents must obtain a minimum of 72 hours per enrollment cycle (every three years). Additionally, they must also obtain a minimum of 16 hours of continuing education (including 2 hours of ethics or professional conduct) each enrollment year.

8. If I live outside the U.S. am I required to obtain a PTIN prior to becoming an enrolled agent? (posted 4/25/13)

Yes, all applicants must have a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in order to register to take the examination. Obtain a PTIN at

SEE Content/Scoring

1. What is covered on the SEE? (posted 11/8/11)

The SEE contains three parts as follows:

2. How many questions are on each part of the examination? (updated 4/25/13)

Each part of the SEE contains 100 questions. 85 questions are scored questions. 15 questions are experimental questions and are not scored.

3. How do I prepare for the test? Are there any study materials? (posted 4/25/13)

In studying for the examination, you may wish to refer to the Internal Revenue Code, Circular 230, IRS publications, as well as IRS tax forms and accompanying instructions. Circular 230, IRS publications, as well as tax forms and accompanying instructions are online at This material is also available from the IRS in DVD format at a cost of $30. To order the IRS Tax Products DVD (Publication 1796) by phone, call 877.233.6767. There is an additional $5 handling fee if ordered by phone. To avoid the handling fee, the DVD can be ordered via the Web at The Tax DVD has IRS tax forms, instructions and publications in an easy-to-use format, and includes a copy of the Internal Revenue Code and links to other Tax Research materials.

There is also a test tutorial that can be viewed at:

4. What is the time limit for each part of the examination? (posted 7/17/06)

Each part is 3.5 hours long. The actual seat time is 4 hours to allow for a tutorial and survey.

5. What is the weight of each question? (posted 7/17/06)

Each item is weighted equally.

6. Do the questions change from year to year? (updated 4/25/13)

A new exam is introduced each May based on tax law through December 31 of the previous year.

7. Do you have to take each part of the examination in order (Part 1 first; then Part 2; then Part 3)? (posted 4/25/13)

No, examinations can be taken in any order. Each exam part may be taken 4 times per testing window, which runs from May 1 to February 28.

8. Is the examination offered year round? (posted 4/25/13)

The test is offered 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.

SEE Availability/Scheduling

1. After I register to take the Special Enrollment Exam, how long do I have to schedule an appointment to test? (updated 4/25/13)

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.

2. I previously passed parts of the exam, how long can I carryover those scores? (posted 11/8/11)

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, 2010 and passed part 2 on February 15, 2011, that individual has until November 14, 2012 to pass the remaining part otherwise he/she loses credit for part 1. On February 14, 2013, if that individual still has not passed all other parts of the examination, he/she loses credit for part 2.

3. How can I get more information or ask a question about the Special Enrollment Exam if I live overseas? (posted 2/5/14)

Phone numbers for candidates testing outside the United States can be found by going to and clicking on “Contact Numbers-Including International Contacts”, which is on the left margin of the page.

Test Center Environment

1. Will the tests be open book or resource assisted? (posted 11/8/11)

The examinations are closed book, so no reference materials, papers or study materials are allowed at the test center. You will not be able to leave the testing room with a copy of any notes taken during the examination. Some examination questions may contain excerpts from the Internal Revenue Code or Income Tax Regulations.

2. What should I bring to the test? (updated 4/25/13)

Please bring with you one unexpired U.S. government issued photo ID that includes your name, photo, and signature. Your first and last name must exactly match the first and last name used to register for the examination. Failure to provide appropriate identification at the time of the examination is considered a missed appointment. As a result, you forfeit your examination fee. 

Paper, pencil and a calculator will be provided at the test site. Personal items are not allowed in the test room and must be stored in a locker. Persons not scheduled to take a test are not permitted to wait in the test center.

3. Why can't we have food or water in the testing room? (updated 4/25/13)

There are three reasons candidates may not bring in food or water into the testing room. First, it minimizes the opportunities for cheating. Second, it avoids possible damage to computer equipment from spillage. Third, eating and drinking can be a distraction to other test takers.

Test Results

1. How do I obtain my SEE results? (posted 11/8/11)

Examination results are available immediately upon completion of the examination.

2. Do I have to send my test results to the IRS? (posted 11/8/11)

No. They will automatically be shared with the IRS and IRS records will be updated accordingly.

3. If you don't grade on a curve and there is no predetermined pass rate, how do you determine if a person passes or fails? Do you have a predetermined passing score?
(updated 4/25/13)

Each item is worth one point. The passing score was determined by the IRS following a cut score study. The cut score study followed a modified Angoff method for establishing the cut score. A panel of subject matter experts composed of enrolled agents and IRS representatives developed a definition of the minimally qualified candidate. Using this definition, they considered each item on the base form and estimated the difficulty of the item for the minimally qualified or borderline candidate. The results of these estimates were analyzed and presented to the IRS for final decision. Once the passing score was determined for the base form, the test developer Prometric began using a statistical equating process to ensure comparability of scores on all forms. Scaled scores are used to report the scores. The tests have been developed to identify the passing candidate from the failing candidate. We do not use either normal distribution or a preconceived pass rate to establish the passing score.

4. How can I determine what the passing percentage is? Is it 60%, 70%, 80% or something different? (posted 11/22/06)

The purpose of a scaled score is to provide a standardized way of reporting test scores to failing candidates when multiple test forms are used. Passing candidates will receive notification of having passed because the test has been designed to identify those who should pass not to rank order the test takers.

Scaled scores are determined by calculating the number of questions answered correctly from the total number of questions in the examination and converting to a scale that ranges from 40 to 130. The IRS has set the scaled passing score at 105, which corresponds to a minimum level of knowledge deemed acceptable by those persons who will be practicing before the IRS. Failing candidates are provided a scaled score value so that they may see how close they are to being successful. Candidates that receive a scaled score of 104 are very close to passing. Candidates with a scaled score of 45 are far from being successful.

5. Once I have passed all three parts of the SEE how do I officially become an enrolled agent? (updated 4/25/13)

Submit a completed Form 23, Application for Enrollment to Practice before the IRS, along with a check for $30 to the address listed on the Form. Please allow 60 days for processing.

Page Last Reviewed or Updated: 05-Feb-2014