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Tax Examiners, Collectors, and Revenue Agents - What They Do

How to Advance (Advancement)
Advancement potential within Federal, State, and local agencies varies for tax examiners, revenue agents, and collectors. For related jobs outside government, experienced workers can take a licensing exam administered by the Federal Government to become enrolled agents—nongovernment tax professionals authorized to represent taxpayers before the IRS.

Collectors who demonstrate leadership skills and a thorough knowledge of collection activities may advance to supervisory or managerial collector positions, in which they oversee the activities of other collectors. It is only these higher level supervisors and managers who may authorize the more serious actions against individuals and businesses. The more complex collection attempts which usually are directed at larger businesses are reserved for collectors at these higher levels.

Newly hired revenue agents expand their accounting knowledge and remain up to date by consulting auditing manuals and other sources for detailed information about individual industries. Employers also continually offer training in new auditing techniques and tax-related issues and court decisions. As revenue agents gain knowledge and experience, they may specialize in an industry, work with large corporations, and cover increasingly complex tax returns. Some revenue agent advancement specialties involve assisting in criminal investigations, auditing the books of suspected criminals, working with grand juries to help secure indictments, or becoming an international agent.

In 2008, tax examiners, revenue agents, and collectors held about 72,700 jobs. About 98 percent worked for government. About 2 percent were self employed. In the IRS, tax examiners and revenue agents predominate because of the role of the agency. Collectors make up a smaller proportion, because most disputed tax liabilities do not require enforced collection.

Job Outlook
Employment is expected to grow as fast as the average, while retirements over the next 10 years should create additional job openings at all levels of government.

Job Growth
Employment of tax examiners, collectors, and revenue agents is projected to grow 13 percent during the 2008-18 decade, which is considered as fast as the average. Demand for tax examiners, revenue agents, and tax collectors will stem from changes in government policy toward tax enforcement and from growth in the number of businesses.

Two factors should increase the demand for revenue agents and tax collectors—the Federal Government is expected to increase its tax enforcement efforts, and new technology and information sharing among tax agencies make it easier for agencies to pinpoint potential offenders, increasing the number of cases for audit and collection.

The work of tax examiners is especially well suited to automation, adversely affecting demand for these workers in particular. In addition, more than 40 States and many local tax agencies contract out part of their tax collection functions to private-sector collection agencies in order to reduce costs, and this trend is likely to continue. The IRS outsourced some tax collection activities, but the agency is ending this practice.

The large number of retirements expected over the next 10 years is expected to create many job openings at all levels of government. Both State and Federal tax agencies are continuing to focus enforcement on higher income taxpayers and businesses, which file more complicated tax returns. Because of this, workers with knowledge of accounting, tax laws, and experience working with complex tax issues will have the best opportunities.

Competition will be greatest for positions with the IRS. Opportunities at the Federal level will reflect the tightening or relaxation of budget constraints imposed on the IRS, the primary employer of these workers.

Employment at the State and local levels may fluctuate with the overall state of the economy. When the economy is contracting, State and local governments are likely to freeze hiring and lay off workers in response to budgetary constraints.

In May 2008, median annual wages for all tax examiners, collectors, and revenue agents were $48,100. The middle 50 percent earned between $36,590 and $66,730. The bottom 10 percent earned less than $28,390, and the top 10 percent earned more than $89,630. However, wages vary considerably, depending on the level of government and occupational specialty. For example, in March 2009, the Federal Government’s average annual salary was $42,035 for tax examiners, $91,507 for internal revenue agents, and $63,547 for tax specialists.

IRS employees receive family, vacation, and sick leave. Full-time permanent IRS employees are offered tax-deferred retirement savings and investment plans with employer matching contributions, health insurance, and life insurance.

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