What They Do: Tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents determine how much is owed in taxes and collect tax from individuals and businesses on behalf of the government.
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 One: 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 with the position and employer.
Salary: The median annual wage for tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents is $55,640.
Job Outlook: Employment of tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents is projected to decline 4 percent over the next ten years.
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Tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents determine how much is owed in taxes and collect tax from individuals and businesses on behalf of federal, state, and local governments. They review tax returns, conduct audits, identify taxes owed, and collect overdue tax payments.
Tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents typically do the following:
Tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents are responsible for ensuring that individuals and businesses pay the appropriate amount of taxes they owe, as prescribed by laws and regulations. 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 on the basis of 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 the state taxpayer liability.
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. 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 the 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.
Tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents hold about 56,900 jobs. The largest employers of tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents are as follows:
|State government, excluding education and hospitals||38%|
|Local government, excluding education and hospitals||18%|
Tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents work primarily in an office environment; others spend most of their time conducting field audits in taxpayers' homes or places of business.
Most tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents work full time.
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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 with the 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 a 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. Employers desire degrees in business, finance, accounting, and criminal justice.
Although a bachelor's degree is not always required at the state and local levels, 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 in 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 as accountants or bookkeepers. Employers may also hire tax collectors who have work experience in related occupations, such as bill and account collectors, customer service representatives, and credit checkers.
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, on further review of financial documentation, they must be able to determine 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.
The median annual wage for tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents is $55,640. 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 $33,180, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $105,430.
The median annual wages for tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents in the top industries in which they work are as follows:
|State government, excluding education and hospitals||$54,300|
|Local government, excluding education and hospitals||$46,980|
Most tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents work full time.
Employment of tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents is projected to decline 4 percent over the next ten years.
Despite declining employment, about 4,400 openings for tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents are projected each year, on average, over the decade. All of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.
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Employment of these workers 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.
|Occupational Title||Employment, 2020||Projected Employment, 2030||Change, 2020-30|
|Tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents||56,900||54,800||-4||-2,100|
A portion of the information on this page is used by permission of the U.S. Department of Labor.