How Do I Maintain My Enrolled Agent Credentials?

As an enrolled agent, you enjoy the clout that comes with having the highest level of tax credentials available in your field. Per the Department of Treasury's Circular 230 regulations, you get unlimited practice rights. Your enrolled agent status shows the world that you’re a tax specialist who’s up to date on the latest tax regulations. You’ve achieved the peak as far as IRS-issued credentials.

And you want to do what you can to maintain your enrolled agent status. That means completing quite a bit of continuing education each year and throughout each three-year enrollment cycle. Let’s take a look at the requirements to maintain your enrolled agent credential, including the continuing education you need.  

When to renew your enrolled agent status

Your enrolled agent credential stays active for three years. The year during which you need to renew depends on the last digit of your social security number. 

  • If your SSN ends in 7, 8, or 9 or you don’t have an SSN, your renewal window opens on November 1 this year and closes January 31, 2021. 

  • If your SSN ends in 0, 1, 2, or 3, your renewal window is November 1, 2021, to January 31, 2022.  

  • If your SSN ends in 4, 5, or 6,  your renewal window is November 1, 2022, to January 31, 2023. 

What you need to do before you can renew (i.e., completing continuing education)

In order to renew your status as an enrolled agent, you need to meet the IRS’s continuing education requirements. That means you need 72 hours of continuing education during each renewal cycle we outlined above.

Don’t assume you can wait until the last minute and knock out your hours. You need to take at least 16 hours of continuing education each year and two of those hours need to focus on ethics. 

If this is your first renewal cycle, the IRS scales your continuing education requirements based on the month and year you enrolled. You can use the chart at the bottom of this PDF from the IRS to figure out how many hours you need. You need at least two hours of ethics continuing education no matter when you first enrolled. 

With so many hours required each year and over the course of your renewal cycle, you want to be sure than any hours you complete count toward your enrolled agent status. To do that, make sure you take your continuing education from an IRS-approved provider

Fortunately, the IRS has approved a number of providers to offer the enrolled agent continuing education you need online. This way, you can complete the hours required each year and each enrollment period at your convenience. All you need is a device with an internet connection. 

Once you finish your hours, your provider should report your PTIN to the IRS, validating your completed hours so they can count toward your renewal. 

Submitting your enrolled agent renewal

Once you finish your continuing education and your renewal window opens, it’s time to send in your Form 8554. You can either submit the paper form or do this online

You’ll notice that you don’t need to attach your continuing education records. Assuming your provider properly reported your hours’ completion, the IRS already has the information they need there. But just in case, the IRS requires that you keep your course completion records for four years after your renewal. They can request those records from you at any time.

In short, to keep your enrolled agent status, take 16 continuing education hours each year — including two hours on ethics — and 72 hours of continuing education during your three-year enrollment period. Then, make sure you submit Form 8554 during your renewal window and you should have no trouble maintaining your enrolled agent credentials.