Enrolled Agent Continuing Education Requirements

If you have recently obtained your Enrolled Agent certification, you may not be aware that you will be required to fulfill 72 hours of approved CPE hours within three years of earning your EA certification.  In addition, you are also required to earn 2 hours of ethics credit hours each year, for a total of 6 credit hours of enrolled agent ethics cpe training within the three year period.  It is important that you are not only aware of the continuing education requirements, but also that you make sure you are earning your credit hours and not waiting till the last minute.

Enrolled Agent Continuing Professional Education Hours

continuing-education-Enrolled-AgentLike a number of professional fields that require continuing education hours, the purpose of the CPE credit hours for enrolled agents, is to make sure you keep up with developments in the field and changes to the tax laws.  It is important to be aware of the requirements and also to use an approved IRS provider, once you enroll in a course, the provider notifies the IRS of your completion of the course.  Keep in mind that you are required to complete 16 credit hours each year and two credit hours of enrolled agent ethics cpe.

The great thing about CPE credit hours, is there are a number of providers offering enrolled agent continuing education classes online, so you can take the roughly 1-2 hour long classes at your own pace, without having to take time out of your day or worry about getting to a physical class.  Of course, there are also accounting seminars and other programs available, you can also take, so be sure to keep a lookout for any Enrolled Agent CPE credit hours if you are going to a tax seminar or accounting seminar.  Keep in mind that in order for the credits to be counted, the classes MUST be approved by the IRS.

Enrollment Cycles

One thing to keep in mind and be aware of is that there are cycles to the enrolled agent period, that correspond to the last digit of your tax identification number  or Social security number.  If you get your certification midpoint in an enrollment cycle, you are required to obtain 2 hours of CPE credit per month, and also fulfill the two hours of ethics requirements per year.  After the cycle renews you will be back to the yearly 16 credit hours and 2 ethics hours per year.

CPE Courses

As mentioned previously there are a number of traditional classroom or CPE offerings, you will want to check with your local community college or university accounting departments for EA recognized courses.  Additionally Gleim as well as Fast Forward Academy also offer a full range of online enrolled agent CPE approved credit hours you can take.  For the most part, unless a conference is offering approved enrolled agent CPE credit hours, the vast majority of enrolled agent elect to take the online courses, since it’s straightforward, extremely affordable and they can knock out the courses whenever they have free time.

What If You Cannot Complete Your CPE Requirements?

One of the most common questions enrolled agents have is; what they should do if they cannot complete the CPE requirements or forgot about the requirements.  The answer is, that you should try not to fall into that category, not only can your certification be revoked, but with online classes these day’s, there is really no excuse not to complete your CPE requirements.  In extreme circumstances, medical emergencies, extended active military duty or if you are out of the US for an extended period of time, you maybe able to qualify for a waiver of your continuing education requirements.  You should refer to section Section 10.6(j) of Treasury Department Circular 230 to see if you meet the requirements.

Refer to Section 10.6(j) of Treasury Department Circular 230 to determine if you meet the qualifications to request a waiver of continuing education requirements.  Bear in mind waivers are not granted automatically and they are used in most serious of circumstances.  Don’t think you will be able to claim you “were out of the country on business for two months” and get out of the CPE requirements, because you neglected to fulfill the requirements.

Special Requirements For National Association of Enrolled Agents

If you are a member of the national association of enrolled agents, you are required to complete 30 hours of CE or continuing education credits each year.  In order to renew your membership in the NAEA you are required to document your previous years CE hours.

CPE Exams

In order to successfully gain credit for your CE or CPE hours, you are required to pass an exam at the end of the 1-2 hour long course with at least a 70% or higher score.  If you pay attention and take notes you should have no problems passing the exam.  Unlike the Enrolled Agent (SEE) exam, you don’t have to use a proctor or have someone administer the test to you.  And unlike the SEE exam, the CPE exams are open book and you can retake them as many times as needed to pass.

Enrolled Agent vs CPA

Many people maybe wondering what exactly is the difference between an enrolled agent and a CPA.  And if they both handle tax accounting questions and preparation, why is there two different types of certification if you will. You also will likely be wondering, how you can become an enrolled agent or CPA and which one is more popular and has better job opportunities.  Hopefully by the end of this article, you will have a better grasp on the differences between EA’s or enrolled agents and CPA’s.

Enrolled Agent vs CPA: What’s The Difference Anyway?

When it comes to handling tax matters, individuals and corporations either will hire a Certified Public Accountant (CPA or enrolled Agent (EA) to handle their tax related matters.  Both CPA’s and EA’s have to demonstrate their proficiency and are either licensed at the state or national level.

Enrolled Agents

An EA is an individual who is licensed and can act as an agent on behalf of individuals or corporations before the IRS.  In order to become an EA, all you must do is pass the Special Enrollment Examination (SEE), which is a three part exam that covers many individual and corporate tax questions.  While it is generally recommend that you have some accounting or finance related education or work experience, the fact of the matter is there are no formal requirements necessary to obtain your EA certification.

Generally speaking, individuals who pass the EA exam can expect to either work for a tax advising company or run their own individual practice and work on behalf of a number of clients.  Not only is obtaining an EA certification a lot easier than earning a CPA license, but it’s also a great way to get some formal experience in the accounting field, before deciding whether to obtain your CPA license.

Enrolled Agent Work From Home

One question some accounting professionals have, is whether there is more opportunity to get work from home jobs or consulting work, if they obtain their Enrolled Agent or CPA license.  Of course it is going to vary between each job seeker, but overall there is more opportunity for enrolled agents to find consulting and work from home opportunities, since they are able to practice on a national basis.  Whereas, while there are indeed telecommuting or work from home job opportunities that Certified Public Accountants can find, generally since they are licensed on a state by state basis, there isn’t going to be as many opportunities available.

Also there are a lot of advantages working for a CPA or tax advising firm and going to work at an office everyday, especially if you are just starting out.  For starters, you will be able to interact with colleagues more readily and if you need help with a particular matter, you can easily ask your fellow coworkers.

Do CPA Firms Hire Enrolled Agents

One question many people have is if they can still get a job at a CPA firm, if they only have their enrolled agent certification.  In general most CPA firms will not hire you directly if you only have your enrolled agent certification.  Of course there is always exceptions to this rule, but generally CPA firms will want you to either have your CPA license or be working towards getting your license.  That said, if you are looking to get an internship at a CPA firm while you are still in school, then obtaining your enrolled agent certification can certainly help your chances of obtaining an internship.  Also, if you already have your CPA license, also obtaining your enrolled agent certification or similar professional certification is a great way to set yourself apart from other candidates.

Certified Public Accountant’s – CPA’s

CPA’s on the other hand, are individuals who have at a minimum an undergraduate degree, will have over a dozen hours of formal classroom accounting experience and will have passed the grueling CPA exam.  Not only that, but they will have to demonstrate their ability, under the direct supervision of an active, licensed CPA in order to work on their own.

Certified Public Accountants, generally will work at corporations or for accounting firms, providing audits and record keeping for companies.  Many individuals who obtain their CPA license, will work full time for a company as a CFO or part of a companies finance department and work on a variety of accounting and finance areas, and general operational reports necessary for the business.

Due to the additional educational requirements, and experience CPA’s can expect to earn a fair amount more than EA’s.  However, that said, there are certainly enrolled agents out there that keep incredibly busy and do make more than some CPA’s.

Salary Expectations

The average salary EA’s can expect to make is between $40,000 – $55,000 a year once they have obtained their certification.  On the other hand, CPA’s can expect to earn between $70,000 – $120,000 a year, depending on their experience and type of work they perform.  Additionally, if a CPA is employed by a larger corporate as their CFO, with stock options and salary and other bonuses, CPA’s can earn significantly more than $120,000.

It is also important to consider the recognition of earning your CPA license vs EA certification. Overall, individuals and corporations all know and recognize CPA’s, it is one of the leading ways to demonstrate your familiarity with accounting principles, auditing and tax preparation.  Whereas, less individuals and even fewer employers recognize the value and experience of enrolled agents, and many companies will favor a CPA over an EA.  So, when you are trying to evaluate the differences between ea vs cpa salary, you not only want to consider entry level salary expectations, but also how much more you may make over your career by obtaining your CPA license.

Summary

To wrap things up, you maybe wondering if you should obtain your EA certification or CPA license.  If you already have a CPA license, then most definitely you should take the EA exam, it’s not that difficult and there are a number of EA review training programs on the market, that will help you prepare, such as the Gleim EA Review or Fast Forward Academy EA Review courses.

If you don’t have your CPA license or EA certification, and are wondering which to obtain, it will depend on your circumstances. If you have a four year undergraduate degree in an accounting or finance field, and only require a few more additional hours of accounting credits, then preparing and obtaining your CPA license can open more doors.  Of course, if you only want to handle tax prep matters and don’t see yourself doing audits and compiling general accounting and financial reports, then the enrolled agent exam would be better suited for you.  Also consider the type of job or career expectations you may have, for instance if you want to work for an accounting firm, chances are they will require you have your CPA license or require you obtain one within at least one year of working for them.  While some EA’s do work at accounting firms, it’s fairly rare and they generally have decades of experience and come highly recommended in the field.

Enrolled Agent Salary

If you enjoy preparing your own taxes or have worked preparing other people’s or corporations taxes, then you may want to consider obtaining your enrolled agent or (EA) certification.  While many individuals who obtain their CPA license, go onto obtain their EA certification, the great thing about becoming an enrolled agent, is you do not have to have a CPA license.

As an enrolled agent, you are authorized to represent taxpayers (whether it be individuals or corporations) before the IRS.  Not only can you start in a lucrative field, but you have a recession proof occupation and plenty of job prospects once you become certified.  Also, unlike traditional tax preparation work, where you may only work a few months out of the year, there is year-round demand for EA’s.

CPA vs Enrolled Agent – What’s The Difference?

EA-Tax-PrepYou maybe wonder what the difference is between a certified public accountant and an enrolled agent and which type of certification or license is right for you.  CPA’s are licensed accountants, who can legally sign an audit report, have extensive accounting or financial experience and generally provide tax or auditing services to corporations or high net worth individuals.  In order to become a licensed CPA, you have to meet the individual licensing requirements; have an undergraduate degree and have a number of accounting hours, in addition to passing the CPA exam.

While many CPA’s do end up earning their EA or enrolled agent certification, many individuals who are interested in tax preparation or accounting, overlook or are not aware of enrolled agent certification.  So, if you are looking for a fast track way to gain the knowledge and certification you need to represent individuals before the IRS, then you should most definitely consider obtaining your EA certification.

Enrolled Agent Salaries

As an Enrolled Agent you can expect to make between $30,000 to $75,000 a year, based upon your experience and types of clients you represent.  Traditionally speaking, EA’s will work for themselves or a tax advising office and generally have a flexible work schedule.  Additionally, during the tax seasons EA’s can expect to make additional money, preparing taxes for individuals and corporations and verifying tax documents.

This is a little different than the role of most CPA’s who either will work for an accounting firm or as a full time CFO at a corporation and maintaining their books.  Generally speaking CPA’s can earn more money than someone with just a EA certification, however the educational expenses and time commitments are much more extensive for CPA’s.

I am Already A CPA – Should I Get My EA Certification?

This can be a difficult question to answer and it will depend on a number of factors.  For instance, is your company or employer paying for your enrolled agent course and exam fee’s? Will the additional certification lead to a promotion or increase in your salary?  All these factors are important to consider when thinking about getting your EA certification – that said, many CPA’s do obtain their EA certification, regardless of the costs and time commitments.  It most certainly can help boost your resume and make you more attractive to employers and can demonstrate your commitment to the accounting and tax preparation fields.

How To Obtain Your EA Certification

The steps to becoming an enrolled agent are very easy and if you are already a CPA or CFA (certified Financial Adviser), you will find the test and information fairly straight forward.  The main steps to obtaining your Enrolled Agent certification are:

  1. Enroll in a EA exam prep course – this is fairly important and will help you pass the exam on your first try
  2. Take and pass the Special Enrollment Examination (SEE) – You will get your official score and know if you passed each of the three sections on the day of your examination.
  3.  Pay the fee and submit your certification information to the IRS by mail
  4.  Wait for your certification – they will make sure that you have filed all your tax returns and have no outstanding tax liabilities, successfully passed your certification and are qualified to obtain the certification.

So as you can see, becoming an enrolled agent is a relatively easy process and if you spend the time preparing and using one of the many EA review courses to help you study and prepare for the exam, you should have no problems passing on your first try.

Conclusion

As you can see, obtaining your EA certification can provide lucrative job opportunities and be much easier to obtain than a CPA license.  Additionally, while CPA’s are licensed on a state-by-state basis, enrolled agents are able to provide tax preparation and act as an agent for filers across the nation.  Overall, while Enrolled Agent’s are less widely known than CPA’s, they provide a valuable service for tax payers and corporations and are highly in demand.  Additionally, compared to tax attorneys who often will interact with the IRS, enrolled agents can often perform many of the same services, more affordably than a tax attorney could.