All taxpayers, from individual citizens to massive corporations, are required by law to pay taxes on their earnings. To make sure individual and corporate taxpayers comply with the regulations and pay the correct amount of taxes they owe, the government hires workers with job titles such as “revenue agent.” Revenue agents are excellent analysts with great organizational and computer skills. To become a revenue agent, you will need an undergraduate college degree and work experience in accounting or a similar field.
The Work of a Revenue Agent
Revenue agents primarily handle the challenging job of reviewing the tax returns filed by large companies, as opposed to those filed by individuals and small businesses, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The reason revenue agents focus on this set of tax returns is because they are so complicated. Revenue agents may be generalists or may specialize in areas such as multinational corporations, government entities and tax-exempt organizations or small businesses and self-employed taxpayers.
When you hear the job title “revenue agent,” you probably think about those business and financial professionals who work at the federal level for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). While the federal government does employ the largest share of the occupational group that includes revenue agents, tax examiners and tax collectors – 43 percent – more than half of these workers are not federal employees. State taxation agencies account for 39 percent of these jobs, and local governments employ 18 percent of this workforce. Some revenue agents advance into supervisory and management roles within the government agency, taking on more senior-level responsibilities and commanding higher salaries.
About 62,100 Americans work in the revenue agent, tax examiner and tax collector occupation, according to the BLS.
Majors for Aspiring Revenue Agents
A college education is a requirement to work as a revenue agent in most instances. Generally, government employers look for candidates with a bachelor’s degree, but this isn’t always the case. The IRS may consider you for a revenue agent role even without a bachelor’s degree if you have a minimum of 30 semester hours of college coursework in accounting plus specialized experience in tax analysis, accounting or bookkeeping, the BLS reported. Having full-time work experience in an accounting, auditing or business administration role can also help, according to the BLS.
Due to the emphasis on accounting coursework, accounting is one of the best majors for aspiring revenue agents. In a bachelor’s degree program in accounting, you will take introductory, intermediate and advanced coursework in general accounting, tax accounting and cost accounting along with auditing and accounting information systems. These programs also include mandatory coursework in other business disciplines, including management, marketing, economics and business law and ethics.
Not all revenue agents go to school for accounting. Some choose a different major, like business administration or economics, for which the curriculum is supportive of acquiring those 30 semester hours of accounting courses. Business administration degrees are broader in scope than a Bachelor of Science in Accounting degree. The curriculum of a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) degree incorporates substantial coursework in many disciplines of business, including the foundations of business, economics, financial and managerial accounting, business analytics, professional communication, finance, marketing and organizational and operations management. Many BBA programs allow students to focus their studies by declaring a specialization. For aspiring revenue agents, a BBA program with a concentration in accounting is a great choice because it provides the chance to complete the required accounting coursework while developing broader business skills.
Economics refers to the study of resources, chiefly how they are used and allocated, and of scarcity. In economics degree programs, students take introductory through upper-level classes in macroeconomics and macroeconomics. They learn the calculus and statistical techniques needed for applied econometrics, or the quantitative and statistical analysis of economic data. Many economics programs include courses in the social sciences and humanities as well as electives that students can choose, some of which can be used to complete the accounting coursework required for revenue agents.
The related role of tax collector typically accepts a greater variety of degrees than that of revenue agent, according to the BLS. A job in tax collection may be a better option if you choose to major in finance or criminal justice.