Tax Examiners and Collectors, and Revenue Agents

Summary

tax examiners and collectors and revenue agents image
Tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents review tax returns, conduct audits, identify taxes owed, and collect overdue tax payments.
Quick Facts: Tax Examiners and Collectors, and Revenue Agents
2012 Median Pay $50,440 per year
$24.25 per hour
Entry-Level Education Bachelor’s degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Moderate-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2012 69,500
Job Outlook, 2012-22 -4% (Decline)
Employment Change, 2012-22 -2,700

What Tax Examiners and Collectors, and Revenue Agents Do

Tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents ensure that federal, state, and local governments get their tax money from businesses and citizens. They review tax returns, conduct audits, identify taxes owed, and collect overdue tax payments.

Work Environment

Tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents work for federal, state, and local governments. Many work primarily in an office environment; others spend most of their time doing field audits in taxpayers’ homes or places of business.

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. However, the level of education and experience required varies by position and employer.

Pay

The median annual wage for tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents was $50,440 in May 2012.

Job Outlook

Employment of tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents is projected to decline 4 percent from 2012 to 2022. Employment change will depend primarily on future changes to federal, state, and local government budgets.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Tax Examiners and Collectors, and Revenue Agents Do About this section

Tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents
Tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents are responsible for ensuring that individuals and businesses pay the taxes they owe.

Tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents ensure that federal, state, and local governments get their tax money from businesses and citizens. They review tax returns, conduct audits, identify taxes owed, and collect overdue tax payments.

Duties

Tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents typically do the following:

  • Review filed tax returns to determine whether tax credits and deductions claimed are allowed by law
  • Contact taxpayers to address problems and to request supporting documentation
  • Conduct field audits and investigations of income tax returns to verify information or to update tax liabilities
  • Evaluate financial information, using their familiarity with accounting procedures and knowledge of changes to tax laws and regulations
  • Keep records on each case they deal with, including contacts, telephone numbers, and actions taken
  • Notify taxpayers of any overpayment or underpayment and either issue a refund or request additional payment

Tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents are responsible for ensuring that individuals and businesses pay the taxes they owe. In addition to verifying that tax returns are filed properly, they follow up with taxpayers whose returns are questionable or who owe more money.

Different levels of government collect different types of taxes. The federal government deals primarily with personal and business income taxes. State governments collect income and sales taxes. Local governments collect sales and property taxes.

Because many states assess individual income taxes based on the taxpayer's reported federal income, tax examiners working for the federal government report to the states any adjustments or corrections they make. State tax examiners then determine whether the adjustments affect how much the taxpayer owes the state.

Tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents have different duties and responsibilities:

Tax examiners usually deal with the simplest tax returns—those filed by individual taxpayers who claim few deductions and those filed by small businesses. At the entry level, many tax examiners do clerical tasks, such as reviewing tax returns and entering them into a computer system for processing. Tax examiners also may contact individual taxpayers in order to resolve any outstanding problems with their returns.

Much of a tax examiner's job involves making sure that tax credits and deductions claimed by taxpayers are lawful. If a taxpayer owes additional taxes, tax examiners adjust the total amount by assessing fees, interest, and penalties and then notify the taxpayer of the total amount owed.

Revenue agents specialize in tax-related accounting for the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and for equivalent agencies in state and local governments. Like tax examiners, they review returns for accuracy. However, revenue agents handle complicated tax returns of large businesses and corporations.

Many experienced revenue agents specialize in a particular area. For example, they may focus exclusively on multinational businesses. Regardless of their specialty, revenue agents must keep up to date with changes in the lengthy and complex tax laws and regulations.

Collectors, also called revenue officers in the IRS, deal with overdue accounts. The process of collecting an overdue payment starts with the revenue agent or tax examiner sending a report to the taxpayer. If the taxpayer makes no effort to pay, the case is assigned to a collector.

When a collector takes a case, he or she first sends a notice to the taxpayer. The collector then works with the taxpayer to settle the debt. Settlement may involve setting up a plan in which the amount owed is paid back in small amounts over time.

When delinquent taxpayers claim that they cannot pay their taxes, collectors investigate and verify these claims. Collectors research information on taxpayer mortgages or financial statements and locate taxpayer-owned items of value through third parties, such as neighbors or local departments of motor vehicles. Ultimately, collectors must decide whether the IRS should take a lien—a claim on an asset such as a bank account, real estate, or an automobile—to settle a debt. Collectors also have the authority to garnish wages—that is, take a portion of earned wages—to collect taxes owed.

Work Environment About this section

Tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents
Tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents work for federal, state, and local governments.

Tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents held about 69,500 jobs in 2012.

Tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents work for federal, state, and local governments. Many work primarily in an office environment; others spend most of their time conducting field audits in taxpayers’ homes or places of business.

The industries that employed the most tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents in 2012 were as follows:

Federal government, excluding postal service46%
State government, excluding education and hospitals35
Local government, excluding education and hospitals19

Work Schedules

Most tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents work full time.

How to Become a Tax Examiner or Collector, or Revenue Agent About this section

Tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents
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.

Education

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.

Training

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.

Other Experience

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.

Advancement

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.

Important Qualities

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.

Pay About this section

Tax Examiners and Collectors, and Revenue Agents

Median annual wages, May 2012

Business and financial operations occupations

$62,500

Tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents

$50,440

Total, all occupations

$34,750

 

The median annual wage for tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents was $50,440 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $30,350, and the top 10 percent earned more than $92,740.

In May 2012, the median annual wages for tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents in federal, state, and local governments in May 2012 were as follows:

Federal government, excluding postal service$59,310
State government, excluding education and hospitals46,790
Local government, excluding education and hospitals40,140

Most tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents work full time.

Job Outlook About this section

Tax Examiners and Collectors, and Revenue Agents

Percent change in employment, projected 2012-22

Business and financial operations occupations

13%

Total, all occupations

11%

Tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents

-4%

 

Employment of tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents is projected to decline 4 percent from 2012 to 2022. Employment change will depend primarily on future changes to federal, state, and local government budgets. Budget reductions in recent years have resulted in decreased hiring for the agencies that employ these workers. Overall employment in federal government, excluding postal service is projected to decline 11 percent. 

However, it is generally recognized that tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents improve government budgets by increasing revenue. Therefore, job cuts in this occupation will be less severe than those in many other occupations concentrated in government.

Employment projections data for tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents, 2012-22
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2012 Projected Employment, 2022 Change, 2012-22 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents

13-2081 69,500 66,800 -4 -2,700 [XLS]

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2012 MEDIAN PAY Help
Accountants and auditors

Accountants and Auditors

Accountants and auditors prepare and examine financial records. They ensure that financial records are accurate and that taxes are paid properly and on time. Accountants and auditors assess financial operations and work to help ensure that organizations run efficiently.

Bachelor’s degree $63,550
Budget analysts

Budget Analysts

Budget analysts help public and private institutions organize their finances. They prepare budget reports and monitor institutional spending.

Bachelor’s degree $69,280
Cost estimators

Cost Estimators

Cost estimators collect and analyze data in order to estimate the time, money, materials, and labor required to manufacture a product, construct a building, or provide a service. They generally specialize in a particular industry or type of product.

Bachelor’s degree $58,860
Financial analysts

Financial Analysts

Financial analysts provide guidance to businesses and individuals making investment decisions. They assess the performance of stocks, bonds, and other types of investments.

Bachelor’s degree $76,950
Financial managers

Financial Managers

Financial managers are responsible for the financial health of an organization. They produce financial reports, direct investment activities, and develop strategies and plans for the long-term financial goals of their organization.

Bachelor’s degree $109,740
Loan officers

Loan Officers

Loan officers evaluate, authorize, or recommend approval of loan applications for people and businesses.

Bachelor’s degree $59,820
Personal financial advisors

Personal Financial Advisors

Personal financial advisors give financial advice to people. They help with investments, taxes, and insurance decisions.

Bachelor’s degree $67,520
Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks

Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks

Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks produce financial records for organizations. They record financial transactions, update statements, and check financial records for accuracy.

High school diploma or equivalent $35,170

Contacts for More Information About this section

For information about tax examiner and collector, and revenue agent careers at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), visit

Internal Revenue Service

For more information on requirements for federal government positions as an internal revenue officer, visit 

U.S. Office of Personnel Management

For more information on requirements for federal government positions as a tax specialist, visit 

U.S. Office of Personnel Management

For more information on requirements for federal government positions as an internal revenue agent, visit 

U.S. Office of Personnel Management

O*NET

Tax Examiners and Collectors, and Revenue Agents

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Tax Examiners and Collectors, and Revenue Agents,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/tax-examiners-and-collectors-and-revenue-agents.htm (visited October 23, 2014).

Publish Date: Wednesday, January 8, 2014