At the federal, state and local levels, taxation is an important part of government operations and of citizens’ and companies’ responsibilities. As the job title suggests, the business and finance professionals called tax examiners do the work of examining tax returns filed by individuals and organizations. This government job often comes with generous benefits packages, but to attain it, you will most likely need to earn a bachelor’s degree.

Life as a Tax Examiner

To say that the federal tax code, officially called the Internal Revenue Code, is complicated is an understatement. In filing their tax returns and determining how much they owe, individual taxpayers and corporations draw from a complex array of tax credits and deductions. Naturally, it’s in the payers’ best interests to lower their tax burden as much as possible – but some taxpayers go overboard, claiming deductions and credits they aren’t legally entitled to use. It’s a tax examiner’s job to review those tax returns and verify that the credits and deductions claimed are legitimate, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Tax examiner is among the more entry-level roles with federal and state taxation agencies. Tax examiners assess the accuracy of individuals’ and small businesses’ tax returns, which are simpler than those filed by large corporations, according to the BLS. When a tax examiner determines that the tax return is incorrect due to the improper use of deductions, he or she is responsible for calculating the penalties, interest and fees that the taxpayer must pay.

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Tax examiners may also need to communicate with taxpayers about any mistakes or missing information on their tax return forms, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) reported.

Accounting Degrees and Beyond

Accounting is the recommended major for aspiring tax examiners, according to the BLS. In an accounting degree program, students complete introductory through advanced coursework in different areas of accounting. Classes like Fundamentals of Accounting, Government and Nonprofit Accounting, Financial Accounting, Managerial Accounting, Auditing and Internal Controls, Intermediate Accounting and Advanced Financial Accounting are common in this program of study. Courses in federal taxation, small business taxation and individual taxation are particularly valuable for aspiring tax examiners. Accounting majors also complete coursework in other business fields, including economics, management and leadership, finance and financial planning, organizational communication, marketing and business law and ethics.

Other factors besides education, such as work experience, also play a part in determining your eligibility to work as a tax examiner. Some state entities will accept a combination of experience and education in lieu of a bachelor’s degree, although having this degree is certainly preferable. The IRS may consider candidates who don’t have a degree but do have a minimum of one year of full-time specialized work experience in tax compliance, auditing or accounting, the BLS reported. Even candidates with both a bachelor’s degree in accounting and work experience should expect to complete considerable formal job training, which the BLS reported can take one month to one year to complete. Because the tax code changes frequently, it’s important for tax examiners to stay abreast of changes to tax laws and regulations throughout their careers.

Other careers similar to tax examiner are revenue agent, which involves the review of more complicated tax returns, and tax collector. A bachelor’s degree will meet the education requirements for most revenue agent and tax collector roles, according to the BLS.

The Tax Examiner Occupation

Jobs with the federal government account for most opportunities within the tax examiner, tax collector and revenue agent occupation. The BLS reported that 43 percent of these professionals work for the federal government, with the state government following close behind, encompassing 39 percent of jobs. Another 18 percent of tax examiners and related professions work for the local government. Earning potential follows a similar distribution. Tax examiners working for the federal government earn the most money, with a median wage of $60,710. Next are those who work for the state government, with a median salary of $50,910. Local government tax examiners earn a median wage of $44,090, the BLS reported.

The job outlook for tax examiners isn’t promising. The BLS predicts a one percent decrease in opportunities in this occupation, whereas jobs for financial specialists are expected to grow by 10 percent and jobs in all industries should grow by seven percent.

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