Enrolled agents are required to complete CE hours as follows:
- 72 hours during their three year renewal cycle
- 16 hours minimum per year
Excess hours taken in a single year
This means that if you take more than 40 hours during any one year you cannot carry over the excess hours to the next year. Here’s an example of how that would work:
- 16 hours Year 1
- 50 hours Year 2
- 16 hours Year 3
Out of the 50 hours completed in Year 2 only 40 hours will count towards your CPE requirement, because your total hours exceed the 72 hour total required for the three-year period, after you complete the minimum of 16 hours in the other two years.
Hours taken in the wrong calendar year
EA CPE must be completed on a calendar year basis. In other words, Year 1, Year 2 and Year 3 of your CPE cycle are each from January 1 to December 31.
A common mistake is to look at your EA enrollment card, and see that the expiration date is March 31st. An EA may incorrectly conclude that they have until March 31 to complete their courses.
When you review the expiration date of your EA credential, your three-year cycle ends on the December 31 prior to the March 31 expiration date. Your renewal application is due January 31. This gives the IRS two months to process your renewal application and mail you a new card before your current card expires.
Initial enrollment period timing errors
The initial enrollment period is the time right after you get your EA card and before your have completed your first renewal application. This period can be anywhere from 2 months to 3 years and 2 months long.
Some new EAs think their renewal period is 3 years from the date the card is issued, but that is not the case. The initial enrollment period ends on December 31st of a year, and that year is determined by the last digit of your social security number. Your EA card will have an expiration date of March 31, 201X, and your first enrollment period ends on the December 31st prior to this March 31, 201X date.
The initial enrollment period is somewhat confusing and if you are a new Enrolled Agent, you should review the initial enrollment period CE guidelines here.