One of the great things about working in accounting and finance is that there are a myriad of career options to pursue. And while it doesn’t always get a ton of attention at career fairs and job events, becoming an Enrolled Agent may be something for you to consider.
What is an Enrolled Agent?
The status of Enrolled Agent is one of the highest credentials you can receive as a tax professional in the United States. As an Enrolled Agent, you have no restrictions placed on you regarding which taxpayers you can represent or what tax matters you can handle.
Enrolled Agents typically spend most of their time representing clients during IRS hearings, but they also handle other tasks as well. For example, they often help clients address IRS letters by providing the proper documentation and/or filing amendments. Some even do tax prep services for their clients during tax season.
From the financial side of things, Enrolled Agents make more than the average tax professional and have plenty of opportunities to increase their salaries by representing taxpayers before the IRS.
Because the Enrolled Agent status is the highest credential awarded by the IRS, individuals who obtain this title are bound by strict ethical standards and must complete a demanding 72 hours of continuing education during every three-year period.
4 Tips for Passing the SEE Exam
There are two tracks to becoming an Enrolled Agent. The first involves working for the IRS and using that experience to qualify for enrollment. This track requires that you possess at least four years of past service and technical experience. You must fill out the proper enrollment forms and undergo a strict background check that includes a firm review of your tax transcript. If you have any history of filing or paying taxes late, this can be grounds for denial of enrollment.
The second track requires you to pass the Special Enrollment Examination (SEE) and undergo background check requirements (which require a history of responsible and timely tax payments). This track is far more common than the first, but is extremely challenging.
If you’re thinking about taking the SEE so that you can pursue a career as an Enrolled Agent, it’s important that you take the process seriously. Your preparation and exam day execution will make a huge difference in your ability to pass. Here are a few suggestions:
- Take the Right Exam Prep Course
As soon as you think about taking the SEE, you’ll quickly realize there are dozens of prep courses available online. Unfortunately, most of these courses are inadequate and ineffective. They either use outdated test formats, or they take a generalized approach that fails to account for individual needs.
When choosing an exam prep course, do some research. Look for a course that offers a pass guarantee and has up-to-date IRS publications built into the platform. It’s these sort of prep courses that prepare students for the real thing.
- Put in the Hours
You can’t fake your way through the SEE. If you want to pass, you need to put in some serious study time. This means at least 50 hours for each part of the exam. (A pace of 10 to 15 hours per week is considered reasonable for those who are working a full-time job.)
- Practice the Electronic Exam Format
If you’ve never taken an electronic exam, the format can take a while to learn. Instead of figuring it out on the day of your test, practice the exam format in advance. It’s recommended that you take at least two practice exams before the actual exam.
- Stay Current With Your Certification
After passing and receiving your Enrolled Agent certification, go ahead and put some dates in your calendar to ensure you stay up to date with the required continuing education. You must complete 72 hours within the first three years, with two hours of ethics being completed annually.
Adding It All Up
There’s nothing easy about becoming an Enrolled Agent. You either have to put in the time serving the IRS, or you have to study for and pass the SEE. Regardless of which route you pursue, this can be an exciting and rewarding career with plenty of options.
Make sure you take your exam preparation seriously, as well as your continuing education after becoming an Enrolled Agent.
Author: Oliver Curtis
Hi there. I’m Oliver. I’m just a young boy from the outskirts of… Okay, that’s a lie, I’m not a young boy anymore, although I certainly feel that way at heart.