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What Tax Examiners and Collectors, and Revenue Agents Do About this section

Tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents
Tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents are responsible for ensuring that individuals and businesses pay the taxes they owe.

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.

Duties

Tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents typically do the following:

  • Review filed tax returns to determine whether credits and deductions claimed are allowed by law
  • Contact taxpayers to address problems and to request supporting documentation
  • Conduct field audits and investigations of income tax returns to verify information or to update tax liabilities
  • Evaluate financial information, using their understanding of accounting procedures and knowledge of changes to tax laws and regulations
  • Keep records on each active case including telephone numbers and actions taken
  • Notify taxpayers of overpayment or underpayment and issue a refund or request additional payment

Tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents ensure that individuals and businesses pay the appropriate amount of taxes owed, as prescribed by laws and regulations. In addition to verifying that tax returns are filed correctly, 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's Internal Revenue Service (IRS) deals primarily with business and personal income taxes. State governments collect income and sales taxes. Local governments collect property and sales taxes.

Because some states base income taxes on taxpayers’ 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 typically deal with simple tax returns filed by individual taxpayers who claim few deductions and by small businesses. Tax examiners also may contact individual taxpayers in order to resolve 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, called internal revenue agents in the IRS, specialize in tax-related accounting. Like tax examiners, they review returns for accuracy. However, revenue agents handle the complex tax returns of large businesses and corporations.

Some experienced revenue agents focus exclusively on a particular area, such as multinational business. Regardless of their specialty, revenue agents must keep up to date with changes in tax laws and regulations.

Tax collectors, also called internal 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 tax collector.

When a tax collector takes a case, he or she first sends a notice to the taxpayer. The tax 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. Tax collectors research information on taxpayer financial statements or mortgages and locate taxpayer-owned items of value through third parties, such as local departments of motor vehicles. Ultimately, they must decide whether the IRS should place a lien—a claim on an asset such as a bank account, real estate, or an automobile—to settle a debt. Tax collectors also have the authority to garnish wages—that is, take a portion of earned wages—to collect taxes owed.

Work Environment About this section

Tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents
Tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents work for federal, state, and local governments.

Tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents held about 56,900 jobs in 2020. The largest employers of tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents were as follows:

Federal government 44%
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 setting; others spend most of their time conducting field audits in taxpayers’ homes or places of business.

Work Schedules

Most tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents work full time.

How to Become a Tax Examiner or Collector, or Revenue Agent About this section

Tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents
Most tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents need a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field.

Tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents typically 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.

Education

Tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents typically need a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field, such as business. For some jobs, work experience may substitute for a degree.

Candidates for tax examiner and collector positions at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) may qualify with a bachelor’s degree in any field of study or with specialized experience, or with a combination of education and experience. Internal revenue agents at the IRS generally need a bachelor’s degree in accounting; a combination of education and experience equivalent to a major in accounting; or a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) certificate.

Training

Newly hired tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents typically receive on-the-job training that lasts between 1 month and 1 year. These workers also must keep current with changes to the tax code and in enforcement and collection procedures.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Some employers accept work experience as a substitute for education. For example, employers may hire tax examiners and revenue agents who have experience as accountants or bookkeepers, or they may hire tax collectors who have experience working as bill and account collectors, customer service representatives, or credit checkers.

Advancement

Tax examiners who review individual tax returns may advance to revenue agent positions, working on more complex business returns.

Tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents who demonstrate leadership skills and a thorough knowledge of tax collection activities may advance to supervisory or managerial positions.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Tax examiners and revenue agents must be able to identify questionable claims for credits and deductions and determine if claims are lawful.

Communication skills. Tax collectors must be able to clearly explain complex details, especially about sensitive information, in their work with the public.

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. Tax collectors must be comfortable interacting with people. When pursuing overdue accounts, tax collectors should be firm and composed.

Math skills. Tax collectors and revenue agents deal with numbers daily and must be comfortable with arithmetic. They also need to analyze, compare, and interpret facts and figures.

Organizational skills. Tax examiners and revenue agents may work with multiple returns and a variety of financial documents. Keeping the various pieces of information organized is essential.

Pay About this section

Tax Examiners and Collectors, and Revenue Agents

Median annual wages, May 2021

Financial specialists

$77,300

Tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents

$56,780

Total, all occupations

$45,760

 

The median annual wage for tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents was $56,780 in May 2021. 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 $35,260, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $102,840.

In May 2021, the median annual wages for tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Federal government $58,760
State government, excluding education and hospitals 58,670
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 47,740

Most tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents work full time.

Job Outlook About this section

Tax Examiners and Collectors, and Revenue Agents

Percent change in employment, projected 2020-30

Total, all occupations

8%

Financial specialists

5%

Tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents

-4%

 

Employment of tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents is projected to decline 4 percent from 2020 to 2030.

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.

Employment

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.

Employment projections data for tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents, 2020-30
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2020 Projected Employment, 2030 Change, 2020-30 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents

13-2081 56,900 54,800 -4 -2,100 Get data

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about careers with your state or local government, contact the appropriate office of taxation.

For more information about careers at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), visit

IRS Careers

For more information about Office of Personnel Management (OPM) requirements for the federal accounting and budget occupational series, which includes tax-related occupations, visit

U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM)

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Tax Examiners and Collectors, and Revenue Agents

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