How to Become a Tax Examiner or Collector, or Revenue Agent
Most tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents need a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field.
Most tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents need a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field. However, the required level of education and experience varies by position and employer.
Tax examiners need a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field, or a combination of relevant education and specialized experience in accounting, auditing, or tax compliance work. Candidates for tax examiner positions at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) must have a bachelor's degree or 1 year of full-time specialized experience.
Revenue agents need a bachelor's degree in accounting, business administration, economics, or a related discipline. A combination of relevant education and full-time experience in business administration, accounting, or auditing is also qualifying. Revenue agents with the IRS must have either a bachelor's degree or 30 semester hours of accounting coursework, along with specialized experience. Specialized experience includes work in accounting, bookkeeping, or tax analysis.
Collectors usually must have some combination of relevant college education and specialized experience. Specialized experience may include previous work as a loan officer or credit manager, or background in collections, management, customer service, or tax compliance. A bachelor's degree is needed for employment as a collector with the IRS; no additional experience is required, and experience may not be substituted for the degree. Degrees in business, finance, accounting, and criminal justice are desired by employers.
At the state and local levels, a bachelor’s degree is not always required, although related work experience is desired.
Newly hired tax examiners get some formal training, which typically lasts between 1 month and 1 year. All tax examiners must keep current with changes in the tax code and enforcement procedures.
Entry-level collectors get both formal training and on-the-job training under an instructor's guidance before working independently. Collectors also are encouraged to continue their professional education by attending meetings to exchange information about how modifications to tax laws affect collection methods.
Some state and local governments accept work experience as a substitute for education. In these cases, employers may hire tax examiners and revenue agents who have work experience in accounting, bookkeeping, or tax analysis. Employers may also hire collectors who have work experience in related areas, such as collections, customer service, or credit checking.
Tax examiners, revenue agents, and collectors have different opportunities for career advancement. Tax examiners who review individual tax returns may advance to revenue agent positions, working on more complex business returns. Those with experience in supervisory or managerial roles may move to jobs that involve supervision of other examiners and revenue agents. Collectors who demonstrate leadership skills and a thorough knowledge of tax collection activities may advance to supervisory or managerial collector positions.
Analytical skills. Tax examiners and revenue agents must be able to identify questionable claims for credits and deductions. Ultimately, they must be able to determine, on further review of financial documentation, if the credits or deductions are lawful.
Computer skills. Tax examiners and revenue agents must be comfortable using a variety of computer programs. These programs include tax preparation and bookkeeping software used by individuals and businesses.
Detail oriented. Tax examiners and revenue agents verify the accuracy of each entry on the tax returns they review. Therefore, it is important that they pay attention to detail.
Interpersonal skills. Collectors must be comfortable dealing with people, including speaking with them during confrontational situations. When pursuing overdue accounts, collectors should be firm and composed.
Organizational skills. Tax examiners and revenue agents often work with multiple returns and a variety of financial documents. Keeping the various pieces of information organized is essential.