Many tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents have a bachelor’s degree. Field of study and work experience requirements vary by level of government.
Tax examiners need a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related discipline or a combination of relevant education and experience in accounting, auditing, or tax compliance work. Tax examiner candidates at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) must have a bachelor's degree or 1 year of full-time specialized experience, which could include work in accounting, bookkeeping, or tax analysis.
Revenue agents need a bachelor's degree in accounting, business administration, economics, or a related discipline, or a combination of relevant 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 work in accounting, bookkeeping, or tax analysis.
Collectors usually must have some combination of relevant college education and experience. The experience may be 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.
At the state and local level, a bachelor’s degree is not always required, although related work experience is desired.
After they are hired, tax examiners get some formal training, which can last up to a year. In addition, tax examiners 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. Also, collectors are encouraged to continue their professional education by attending meetings to exchange information about how modifications to tax laws affect collection methods.
Work experience may serve as a qualification for employment in place of education for these workers, particularly at the state and local levels. Employers may hire tax examiners and revenue agents who have previous work experience in accounting, bookkeeping, or tax analysis. Employers also may hire collectors who have work experience in related areas, such as collections, customer service, or credit checking.
Advancement potential in federal, state, and local agencies varies for tax examiners, revenue agents, and collectors. Tax examiners working on individual returns have the opportunity to advance to a revenue agent positions, working on more complex business returns. Advancement to a position supervising other examiners and revenue agents also is possible but generally requires previous experience in a supervisory or managerial position. 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 find questionable credits and deductions. Ultimately, they must be able to determine, on further review of financial documentation, if the credits or deductions are lawful.
Detail oriented. Tax examiners and revenue agents verify the accuracy of each entry on the tax returns they review. Therefore, it is crucial 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, they should be firm and composed.
Organizational skills. Tax examiners and revenue agents often work with multiple returns and a variety of financial documentation. Keeping the various pieces of information organized is essential.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition