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How to Become a Tax Agent in the US

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In the U.S., tax agents who have authorization to represent and advise taxpayers in dealings with the Internal Revenue Service are referred to as enrolled agents. There are two ways to become an enrolled agent, but both require you to demonstrate significant knowledge of federal tax law and IRS procedures.

Secure a PTIN

Apply for a Preparer Tax Identification Number. You will use this number, instead of your Social Security number, on the tax documents you prepare and in communications with the IRS. You will also need it as part of the application process to become an enrolled agent. You will have to provide your Social Security number and identifying information from past tax returns and pay a fee to obtain a PTIN. Likewise, you will have to explain any outstanding tax obligations and bills as part of your application.

Decide Which Path to Take

Consider the two paths to becoming an enrolled agent: taking the special enrollment examination, also called the SEE, or using your past experience to qualify without taking the exam. The SEE includes three different parts, each consisting of 100 multiple choice questions. Part 1 covers tax matters that relate to individuals, Part 2 covers businesses, and Part 3 covers Representation, Practices, and Procedures. However, according to Treasury Department Circular No. 230, you can qualify without taking the SEE if you've worked for the IRS continuously for five years and, during those years, applied and interpreted the Internal Revenue Code. Your experience must include the following tax areas: income, excise, estate, gift and employment.

Register for the SEE

Register the SEE if you do not have five years of applicable experience working for the IRS. A company called Prometric administers this test, so you must visit its website to register for the exam. Fill out Form 2587 on the Prometric website to register and create a username and password for the exam. Once you have completed the registration form, click on Schedule to choose when you will take the exam. Clicking the scheduling button completes the registration process.

Prepare for the SEE

Study for the SEE if you've chosen the exam path. Prometric recommends studying the Internal Revenue Code, Circular 230, IRS publications to prepare for the test. The IRS also provides the same materials in its IRS Tax Products DVD (Publication 1796). You can also visit the IRS website to review questions from previous SEEs. In addition, page 10 of the "Prometric: IRS Special Enrollment Examination Candidate Information Bulletin" provides a content outline for each part of the test.

Take the SEE

Complete the SEE on a computer at the Prometric test location of your choice. Each part lasts for 3.5 hours, but you can take the parts on separate days. You don't need any special computer or typing skills to take the test. To determine your score, the testing center evaluates how many questions you answered correctly out of the total number of questions and then converts that number to a scaled score. To pass, you need to score at least 105. You will receive a document at the testing center that states whether you passed or failed.

Complete Your Application

Complete IRS Form 23 to finish applying to become an enrolled agent. You will have to pass a background check as part of the application process. The IRS will review not only your criminal record but also your tax transcripts. If you have unpaid taxes, have failed to file past returns in a timely manner, or have a felony or tax crime record, this could interfere with your acceptance. Send the completed application to U.S. Treasury/Enrollment at the address listed on Form 23. You must complete this form and background check regardless of whether you take the SEE or use your experience to become an enrolled agent.


Jordan Meyers has been a writer for 13 years, specializing in businesses, educational and health topics. Meyers holds a Bachelor of Science in biology from the University of Maryland and once survived writing 500 health product descriptions in just 24 hours.

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