Starting in February of 2016, the IRS has announced that the Enrolled Retirement Plan Agent program will no longer be offered. Current ERPAs will still be able to keep the title, but the program will no longer be available to newcomers.
The reason for the IRS dropping the program is a decline in people taking the ERPA-SEE test, making the cost no longer worth keeping the program active. Former ERPAs and people who have passed only part of the SEE will not be able to take the test, as the deadline for the final testing window has since passed. People who passed the test during the final window will be able to apply for enrollment for up to one year after passing both parts of the test, and will be required to pass a tax compliance check before they can enroll. Current ERPAs will not be affected by this change and will be able to renew their enrollment as usual.
The benefits of being an ERPA included being able to represent clients regarding Employee Plans Determination Letter program, Employee Plans Compliance Resolution System, and the Employee Plans Master and Prototype and Volume Submitter program. They could also represent clients before the IRS on any forms in the 5500 series and represent before Appeals, Collection, Counsel and other IRS offices for anything related to the above. All current ERPAs will retain these rights as long as they continue to re-enroll.
Don't worry, though, the IRS Enrolled Agent Program is still going strong and thousands of potential enrolled agents take the EA Exam every year. Becoming an enrolled agent will give you full practice rights before the IRS, so if you were thinking about becoming an ERPA, then becoming an enrolled agent will still allow you to prepare all types of retirement plan returns as well as represent your clients before the IRS.
For more information about the program ending, see the official IRS release on the matter.