In the Federal Government, workers must have a bachelor?s degree or a combination of some college education and related experience. But in State and local governments, workers often have an associate degree, some college-level business classes and specialized experience, or a high school diploma and specialized experience.
For more advanced entry-level positions, applicants often must have a bachelor?s degree. Candidates may sometimes qualify without a bachelor?s degree, however, if they can demonstrate experience working with tax records, tax laws and regulations, documents, financial accounts, or similar records.
Specific education and training requirements vary by occupational specialty.
Tax examiners usually must have a bachelor?s degree in accounting or a related discipline or a combination of education and full-time accounting, auditing, or tax compliance work. Tax examiner candidates at the IRS must have a bachelor?s degree or 1 year of full-time specialized experience, which could include full-time work in accounting, bookkeeping, or tax analysis. After they are hired, tax examiners receive some formal training. In addition, annual employer-provided updates keep tax examiners current with changes in procedures and regulations.
Collectors usually must have some combination of college education and experience in collections, management, customer service, or tax compliance, or as a loan officer or credit manager. A bachelor?s degree is required 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 good backgrounds.
Entry-level collectors receive formal and on-the-job training under an instructor?s guidance before working independently. Collectors usually complete initial training by the end of their second year of service, but may receive advanced technical instruction as they gain seniority and take on more difficult cases. Also, collectors are encouraged to continue their professional education by attending meetings to exchange information about how changes in tax laws affect collection methods.
Revenue agents usually must have a bachelor?s degree in accounting, business administration, economics, or a related discipline or a combination of education and full-time business administration, accounting, or auditing work. 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 full-time work in accounting, bookkeeping, or tax analysis.
Other qualifications. Tax examiners, collectors, and revenue agents work with confidential financial and personal information; therefore, trustworthiness is crucial for maintaining the confidentiality of individuals and businesses. Applicants for Federal Government jobs must submit to a background investigation.
Collectors need good interpersonal and communication skills because they deal directly with the public and because their reports are scrutinized when the tax agency must legally justify attempts to seize assets. They must be able to negotiate well and deal effectively with others in potentially confrontational situations.
Revenue agents need strong analytical, organizational, and time management skills. They also must be able to work independently, because they spend so much time away from their home office, and they must keep current with changes in the tax code and laws.
Advancement. Advancement potential within Federal, State, and local agencies varies for tax examiners, revenue agents, and collectors. For related jobs outside government, experienced workers can take a licensing exam administered by the Federal Government to become enrolled agentsnongovernment tax professionals authorized to represent taxpayers before the IRS.
Collectors who demonstrate leadership skills and a thorough knowledge of collection activities may advance to supervisory or managerial collector positions, in which they oversee the activities of other collectors. It is only these higher level supervisors and managers who may authorize the more serious actions against individuals and businesses. The more complex collection attempts which usually are directed at larger businesses are reserved for collectors at these higher levels.
Newly hired revenue agents expand their accounting knowledge and remain up to date by consulting auditing manuals and other sources for detailed information about individual industries. Employers also continually offer training in new auditing techniques and tax-related issues and court decisions. As revenue agents gain experience, they may specialize in an industry, work with larger corporations, and cover increasingly complex tax returns. Some revenue agents also specialize in assisting in criminal investigations, auditing the books of known or suspected criminals such as drug dealers or money launderers. Some agents work with grand juries to help secure indictments. Others become international agents, assessing taxes on companies with subsidiaries abroad.
In 2006, tax examiners, revenue agents, and collectors held about 81,000 jobs at all levels of government.
About 44 percent worked for the Federal Government, 37 percent for State governments, and the remainder for local governments. In the IRS, tax examiners and revenue agents predominate because of the need to examine or audit tax returns. Collectors make up a smaller proportion, because most disputed tax liabilities do not require enforced collection.
Job Outlook / Job Forecast
Little or no change in employment is expected, but the large number of retirements expected over the next 10 years should create many job openings at all levels of government.
Employment change. Employment of tax examiners, collectors, and revenue agents is projected to grow 2 percent during the 2006-16 decade, which is considered little or no change. Demand for tax examiners, revenue agents, and tax collectors will stem from changes in government policy toward tax enforcement and from growth in the number of businesses.
The Federal Government is expected to increase its tax enforcement efforts. Also, new technology and information sharing among tax agencies make it easier for agencies to pinpoint potential offenders, increasing the number of cases for audit and collection. These two factors should increase the demand for revenue agents and tax collectors.
The work of tax examiners is especially well suited to automation, adversely affecting demand for these workers in particular. In addition, more than 40 States and many local tax agencies contract out their tax collection functions to private-sector collection agencies in order to reduce costs, and this trend is likely to continue. The IRS has begun outsourcing some tax collection, but it is unclear whether the agency will continue or expand this practice. If IRS outsourcing continues, it will dampen growth in employment of revenue officers but is not expected to affect employment of revenue agents.
Job prospects. The large number of retirements expected over the next 10 years is expected to create many job openings at all levels of government. Both State and Federal tax agencies are turning their enforcement focus to higher income taxpayers and businesses, which file more complicated tax returns. Because of this, workers with knowledge of tax laws and experience working with complex tax issues will have the best opportunities.
Competition will be greatest for positions with the IRS. Opportunities at the Federal level will reflect the tightening or relaxation of budget constraints imposed on the IRS, the primary employer of these workers.
Employment at the State and local levels may fluctuate with the overall state of the economy. When the economy is contracting, State and local governments are likely to freeze hiring and lay off workers in response to budgetary constraints.
Job Demand Forecast
Earnings / Compensation
In May 2006, median annual earnings for all tax examiners, collectors, and revenue agents were $45,620. The middle 50 percent earned between $34,840 and $62,530. The bottom 10 percent earned less than $27,290, and the top 10 percent earned more than $81,890. However, median earnings vary considerably, depending on the level of government. At the Federal level, May 2006 median annual earnings for tax examiners were $52,630; at the State level, they were $44,110; and at the local level, they were $33,120.
Earnings also vary by occupational specialty. For example, in the Federal Government in 2006, tax examiners earned an average of $38,290, revenue agents earned $82,204, and tax specialists earned $55,100.
IRS employees receive family, vacation, and sick leave. Full-time permanent IRS employees are offered tax deferred retirement savings and investment plans with employer matching contributions, health insurance, and life insurance.
Tax examiners, collectors, and revenue agents analyze and interpret financial data. Occupations with similar responsibilities include accountants and auditors, budget analysts, cost estimators, financial analysts and personal financial advisors, financial managers, and loan officers.
Information on obtaining positions as tax examiners, collectors, or revenue agents with the Federal Government is available from the Office of Personnel Management through USAJOBS, the Federal Government?s official employment information system. This resource for locating and applying for job opportunities can be accessed through the Internet at http://www.usajobs.opm.gov or through an interactive voice response telephone system at (703) 724-1850 or TDD (978) 461-8404. These numbers are not toll free, and charges may result.
State or local government personnel offices can provide information about tax examiner, collector, or revenue agent jobs at those levels of government.
For information about careers at the Internal Revenue Service, contact:
Jobs and Job Outlook for Tax Examiners, Collectors, and Revenue Agents
ONET Codes: 13-2081.00