Career Path Options for a Tax Professional

The average value of the Bachelor degree needed to become a Tax examiners, collectors, and revenue agents is $916,728.00.

Points of Interest

Tax examiners, collectors and revenue agents are government employees with government benefits and schedules. Where the Internal Revenue Service may be the largest employer, these services are needed not only on the federal level, but also in state and local government offices. The greatest competition for jobs can be expected at the IRS.

Travel can be expected. Some revenue agents even spend all of their time at a particular corporate office. Agents and examiners often visit the homes or offices of taxpayers.

These government employees general work a 40-hour week. However, busy seasons can bring extra hours, most the month before April 15th for tax examiners.

A bachelor’s degree in accounting, finance or a related field is usually required, but relevant experience is also highly valued. For example, any tax preparation experience could qualify an applicant without a related degree.

Opportunities in the field are about average now and expected to grow as the economy grows. There may be a few extra jobs opening up over the next decade as current employees retire.

Nature of the Work

Tax examiners work at all levels of government – federal, state and local. Federal tax examiners receive citizens’ individual federal tax returns and analyze them for accuracy. They start by verifying the identity through social security records. They determine that income was properly reported and calculated by referencing employers, banks and other income sources. They analyze the applicability of declared deductions and credits. They conduct audits where questions arise. They collect tax amounts due. They pass on any changes to their counterparts in state tax departments.

An entry-level tax examiner starts out with the simplest individual returns. He might even be doing clerical work at first until familiarity is gained and training is completed. For instance, his job may consist mainly of entering hand-written returns from citizens into a computer for analysis, then contacting those filers for additional information to hopefully resolve small issues quickly.

Most tax examiners spend most of their time verifying deductions and credits. They use various forms of communication to seek documentation from taxpayers to assure the deduction is legitimate. They determine when taxes have been underpaid and assess the underpayment plus interest and penalties.

Tax Collection

Collectors work with taxpayers to collect delinquent taxes. Their work begins after the tax examiners or revenue agents have done theirs, determined the correct amount due and the taxpayer is not submitted the payment by the due date. In other instances taxpayers fail to file a return. Collectors submit a request to the IRS to prepare the return on behalf of the taxpayer. They also investigate claims by taxpayers of inability to pay. They may also be the ones to decide when wage garnishment should occur or even tax liens against property.

A tax revenue agent can also be employed at any level of government. These employees deal in the more complex income, sales and excise tax returns of corporations. They perform the same type of analytical functions on these returns as tax examiners perform on the simpler individual returns.

New revenue agents can expect to be assigned the review of small businesses all in the same industry. In this way the new agent gains familiarity and eventually expertise in an industry and can be assigned larger and more complex companies to review. In this way they often gain specialties in their work. One of the most challenging aspects of being a revenue agent is the vast amount of tax law, new rulings and updates they must read.

Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement

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Young men and women can prepare for government tax employment in high school by choosing the right courses. A good foundation in math is essential, including calculus. Where possible enroll in business, economics and accounting classes. Get to know computers, especially spreadsheet applications and various accounting software packages. Do things that will build communication skills. This could range from debate clubs to dramatics and speech.

A bachelor’s degree is usually required for any of these positions. However exceptions are often made for tax examiner applicants with experience in a related discipline like accounting, auditing, or tax preparation, especially if they have a college degree in some unrelated field. Collector and revenue agent jobs are usually stricter with the college degree requirement.

After hiring on-going education is a primary element of a tax examiner, collector and revenue agent’s job. Employees are trained on tax updates, changes in procedures and regulations. Collectors usual receive on-the-job training for their first couple years. Then they may get further advanced instruction as they become ready to deal with more difficult cases.

In addition to the proper education and experience, tax examiners, collectors and revenue agents must maintain the confidentiality of the taxpayer information they work with every day. Therefore it’s common to give permission to submit to a background investigation. The best collectors have above-average communications skills, as their work may require them to deal effectively with confrontational situations. Their work must be detailed enough stand up analysis to justify the seizure of assets. Revenue agents spend a lot of time away from the office on their own so must be able to work independently.

There is advancement potential in the federal level of government for tax examiners and revenue agents who often take the licensing exam to become certified representatives for taxpayers before the IRS. Collectors advance within the collections department to supervisory or managerial positions. Here they work on the most complex situations that require more serious actions against taxpaying individuals or companies.

Employment

In May of 2009 there were just over 69 thousand tax examiner, collector and revenue jobs in the U.S. In the federal government the majority of these were tax examiners and revenue agents. This is because tax actions against delinquent taxpayers rarely need collection intervention. Collectors are hired more often at the state and local government levels.

Job Outlook

Taxes will continue to be collected in the United States long beyond our working lifetimes. Without good tax examiners, collectors and revenue agents government couldn’t collect the funding it needs to survive. These jobs will continue to grow and fade with the economy, but will probably never disappear altogether. Near term outlook is good, as the number of businesses is expected to grow in the next decade. Also the federal government will be using technology and information sharing with other taxing authorities to aggressively find delinquencies and tax avoiders. Tax examiners, collectors and revenue agents will play a large part in resolving these new issues.

On the other hand, tax examiner work is subject to more and more automation. This trend is expected to continue as governments look to cut costs. This may decrease the overall numbers of these jobs available at all levels of government. Although IRS collectors were starting to also lose jobs through international outsourcing, these efforts have been ceased in order to keep the collector jobs in America.

Projections

Large numbers of retirement over the next ten year will create openings for tax examiners, collectors and revenue agents at all levels of government. The federal government is expected to target high wage-earners and large corporations heavily, so professional with corporate experience may be preferred. State and local taxing authorities will follow suit, as they get a large percentage of their information from the federal government. However they are more likely to fluctuate in hiring activity with the economy. All in all, expect a 13 percent increase in the number of these jobs by 2018.

Earnings

The mean salary for tax examiners, collectors and revenue agents in May of 2009 was $53,800 annually, with notably higher salaries at the federal level.

Related Occupations

There are many related jobs in both the public and private sectors. Any of these would be a good basis of experience with which to move into a tax examiner, collector or revenue agent job. Accountants and auditors, for example, are excellent training occupations for government tax work. Accountants have been serving business, government and non-profit organization since their origins, and accountants will continue to find viable work in all industries for the foreseeable future.

Other related occupations are budget analysts, financial analysts, cost estimators, financial advisors and loan officers. Their daily dealings with business, cash flow and lending activities are what they have in common with tax examiners, collectors and revenue agents. Insurance adjusters and examiners have very similar jobs to this, as to real estate appraisers and credit analysts.

Sources of Additional Information

The federal government has an online system for applying for job opportunities including tax examiners, collectors and revenue agents. It can be accessed at http://www.usajobs.opm.gov or by phone at 703-724-1850 or TDD 978-461-8404. Internal Revenue Service jobs can be found at http://www.jobs.irs.gov or by writing them at 1111 Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, D.C. 20224. Individual state and local government offices should be contacted for opportunities at those levels.

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