Enrolled Agents (EA) are required to obtain continuing education (CE) in order to renew their EA credential. The term CE is used interchangeably with CPE (continuing professional education).
Before you enroll in a CE course, is important to evaluate whether the course will be accepted for CE credit for your EA renewal. You might not find out that this course you took was invalid or inappropriate until you are contacted by the IRS, sometimes months or even years after you have taken the course.
There are six major factors that can affect whether the CE will be accepted and reported properly.
1) CPE provider is not authorized by the IRS
2) Courses are not for an approved subject area
3) Course format is not acceptable
4) CPE taken in wrong time period
5) Courses do not get reported to the IRS
6) Enrolled Agent fails to review PTIN account
Not surprisingly, we usually hear about problems AFTER they have occurred.
What can happen if you make mistakes in selecting your CE courses?
While any of these problems are not exactly life-threatening, they can affect your ability to practice as an EA. They can also be inconvenient and time-consuming to correct. And it could be embarrassing to explain to clients that you can't call yourself an EA until you get this resolved.
The most common result of taking incorrect courses is that you do not have the right number of CE hours when it comes time to renew your EA credential. If you realize this when you are renewing your EA in January, when your renewal is due, then you have already missed the December 31st deadline to complete your CE. So you might be able to take some last minute courses, but technically you have not taken the courses in the correct time period.
If you submit your renewal without the correct number of hours or the IRS later notifies you that some of your courses were not acceptable, you are immediately placed on inactive status. You are then usually given the opportunity to correct the CPE deficiencies, and provide the IRS proof of this in the form of certificates of completion for the courses. While on inactive status, you cannot practice as an EA, or hold out to be an EA, although you can still complete tax returns as a PTIN tax preparer.
Why worry about mistakes with your CE?
There is no good reason to make errors in selecting your CE courses--read the "6 Mistakes to Avoid" series and keep your EA in good standing. If you have additional questions after reading these articles, please feel free to contact our office. We have a dedicated staff member available to discuss Enrolled Agent CE requirements if you need further help.