The Internal Revenue Service is also known as the IRS. This name and its initials aren’t very fondly thought of, unless you have a bachelor’s degree in accounting and want to work there. As long as you have your degree or it’s in progress, you’re likely to find a job with the IRS. But, you’ll also need your certified public accountant certificate if you want to work as an accountant.
Within the mission of the IRS, it works to help taxpayers who comply with the law, answering their questions and taking care of any issues they may have. The agency also targets those taxpayers who try to cheat on their taxes owed, ensuring that they will eventually pay what they owe.
What is the IRS?
The IRS is the Internal Revenue Service, a government bureau contained within the federal Department of the Treasury. This is the agency that collects your federal taxes. Three divisions inside the IRS take care of three different populations of taxpayers. The first is the Small Business and Self-Employed Division, or SB/SE. It’s pretty self-explanatory. This division is responsible for accepting the tax returns from the self-employed and small-business owners.
The second division is the Tax-Exempt and Government Entities Division, or the TE/GE. This area ensures that every tax-exempt organization and government entity is following current tax laws. The work is exacting.
Finally, the third division is the Large Business and International Division or LB&I. Here, the accountants and clerks are solely responsible for the tax documents sent in by large businesses and businesses with an international presence.
Internal revenue agents are essentially auditors. They go through each taxpayer’s tax return with a virtual magnifying glass. When these auditors are auditing anyone’s tax return, they will go to that person’s state, city, business or home. They’re looking for additional documentation that proves the taxpayer’s submitted return. Sometimes, they are looking for evidence that shows the taxpayer was less than honest in completing their returns. This is the point at which most IRS agents begin their careers. They can opt to work as a generalist within the agency Or they can choose to work as a tax specialist, focusing on one aspect of tax law.
Because the IRS is contained within the Treasury Department, it’s vitally important that the work the IRS does is accurate. The Treasury and the entire government rely heavily on every tax dollar that is collected. And that’s why, as taxpayers, we are expected to honestly report every source of income.
IRS Jobs Explained
Working for the IRS as a professional requires that you hold a bachelor’s degree in accounting, at the least. If you want to move into a management role, then earning an advanced (graduate) degree will improve your chances.
College graduates with accounting and legal degrees can apply for a position as an appeals officer or an artificial intelligence analyst attorney. For those applicants with a degree in computer science, openings for computer specialists or information technology specialists may be available.
There’s also the expected positions for internal revenue agents, internal revenue officer and mathematical statisticians. Every one of these requires a related college degree.
Analyst positions allow you to dig deep into the data handed to you. Whether you’re applying for a position as a program evaluation and risk analyst, a program analyst, operations research analyst or policy analyst, the work you do requires that you look for the tiniest, but most important details. You’ll write and submit highly detailed reports that your supervisor will use in determining any changes to be made to tax policy.
Compliance officers and tax examiners go through those returns that may have been selected for audit. They will have to have at least one of a few certifications in hand before the IRS hires them. During the application phase, applicants will have to prove that they have the mettle and knowledge necessary to carry out their job duties. After all, they are responsible for calculating every tax return sent in by taxpayers. If they find errors, omissions or even attempts to hide income, they will have to act on everything they find, even if the taxpayer may have made an honest mistake.
If a taxpayer has experienced an event that has made it impossible to earn an income (natural disaster), they can ask for (temporary) relief from filing their taxes. They will have to show proof that the disaster has seriously impacted their life.
The work environment for revenue agents, tax collectors and tax examiners takes place inside the offices of federal, state and local governments. If they are working on a tax audit, they will be working in the field, often in a different state. Otherwise, they will be working inside their offices.
The IRS has established basic requirements for internal revenue agents. This includes educational requirements. Every revenue agent is required to complete an accounting degree at a four-year university. These courses are supposed to include upper-level classwork that every junior and senior takes before graduating.
The coursework has to include principles of accounting, cost accounting, auditing and both intermediate and advanced accounting.
Completed introductory courses should include introduction to accounting 1 and II, introduction to financial accounting, principles of accounting 1 and II, introduction to managerial accounting and principles of financial accounting.
Examples of intermediate accounting include financial accounting, intermediate accounting 1, II and III and introduction to financial reporting.
Don’t forget about cost accounting courses. You should have taken cost accounting, managerial/cost accounting, managerial accounting and principles of managerial accounting.
Advanced accounting requires the most effort. This includes courses in government and non-profit accounting, accounting for international environments, advanced accounting, accounting/non-profit organizations, advanced accounting problems, advanced accounting theory, advanced financial accounting, advanced financial reporting principles, advanced and non-profit accounting, consolidations and mergers, consolidations and equity issues, financial accounting III, consolidation and partnership, government accounting, financial accounting III, governmental accounting, government entities, governmental and institutional accounting, international accounting and government and non-profit accounting.
If you apply to work as an auditor, you should have taken classes in introduction to auditing, auditing and control, auditing theory and practice, assurance services and auditing.
Remember, all of this is for an entry level revenue agent. If you want to advance within the IRS, you’re going to have to have a master’s degree or the equivalent in accounting experience. Plus, you’ll have to have your certificate as a CPA. Working at the IRS is a mentally demanding job and you’ll have to have the educational background to succeed.
Before you first apply for a position at the IRS, take the certification exams for the accounting role you’re most interested in or qualified for.
Certified Public Accountants (CPA) should pass the Uniform CPA Exam and obtain their certificate, as well as keep up with any necessary continuing education.
Enrolled agents are licensed by the IRS. Before beginning to work, they are supposed to take a three-part Special Enrollment exam that allows them to show their knowledge about individual and business tax return preparation, financial planning and representation. Every three years, they have to submit proof that they have completed 72 hours of continuing education.
Tax Attorney Certification
Tax attorneys have to pass the state bar in their state or be licensed by their state’s courts. They should hold their law degree and keep up with continuing education hours. They should have a high level of personal and professional character.
Certified public accountants, enrolled agents and tax attorneys should remember that they have unlimited representation rights. This means they can represent clients on any tax matters that involve tax payment and collection issues, audits and appeals of IRS decisions. As long as they have an IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN), they are legally able to prepare federal tax returns. These individuals do not have the authority to represent tax clients before the IRS, as of January 1, 2016.
To help taxpayers who are looking for the credentials of tax professionals at the IRS, a directory of federal tax return preparers with required credentials and specific qualifications is available. This directory allows taxpayers to search for specific tax professionals by name, city, state and ZIP code. Enrolled agents, CPAs, enrolled retirement plan agents and enrolled actuaries who hold their PTINs are included in this directory. The directory also contains the Annual Filing Season Program Record of Completion recipients. These individuals aren’t enrolled agents, tax attorneys or CPAs. Individuals in this program are required to complete continuing education hours if they plan to complete tax returns for their clients in an upcoming tax year.
Salary and Career Outlook
As of 2016, the job outlook for revenue agents, tax examiners and collectors should show insignificant change between 2016 and 2026. Any effect on their employment prospects is affected only by any future changes to local, state or federal government budgets.
The median annual wages for tax examiners, revenue agents and tax collectors was $53,130, or about $25.54 per hour, as of May, 2017.