Training, Certifications, Skills, Advancement: Tax Examiners, Collectors & Revenue Agents

Tax examiners, collectors, and revenue agents work with confidential financial and personal information; therefore, trustworthiness is crucial for maintaining the confidentiality of individuals and businesses. Applicants for Federal Government jobs must submit to a background investigation.

A degree in accounting is becoming the standard source of training for tax examiners, collectors, and revenue agents. A bachelorís degree generally is required for employment with the Federal Government. In State and local governments, prospective workers may be able to enter the occupation with an associateís degree in accounting or with a combination of related tax and accounting work experience and some college-level business classes. For more advanced entry-level positions, applicants must have a bachelorís degree; demonstrate specialized experience working with tax records, tax laws and regulations, documents, financial accounts, or similar records; or have some combination of postsecondary education and specialized experience.

Tax examiners must be able to understand fundamental tax regulations and procedures, pay attention to detail, and cope well with deadlines. After they are hired, tax examiners receive some formal training. In addition, annual employer-provided updates keep tax examiners current with changes in procedures and regulations.

Revenue agents need strong analytical, organizational, and time management skills. They also must be able to work independently, because they spend so much time away from their home office, and they must keep current with changes in the tax code and laws. 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.

Collectors need good interpersonal and communication skills because they deal directly with the public and because their reports are scrutinized when the IRS must legally justify attempts to seize assets. They also must be able to act independently and to exercise good judgment in deciding when and how to collect a debt. Applicants for collector jobs need experience demonstrating knowledge of business and financial practices or knowledge of credit operations and collection of delinquent accounts.

Entry-level collectors receive formal and on-the-job training under an instructorís guidance before working independently. Collectors usually complete initial training by the end of their second year of service, but may receive advanced technical instruction as they gain seniority and take on more difficult cases. Also, collectors are encouraged to continue their professional education by attending meetings to exchange information about how changes in tax laws affect collection methods.

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.

As revenue agents gain experience, they may specialize in an industry, work with larger corporations, and cover increasingly complex tax returns. Some revenue agents also specialize in assisting in criminal investigations, auditing the books of known or suspected criminals such as drug dealers or money launderers. Some agents work with grand juries to help secure indictments. Others become international agents, assessing taxes on companies with subsidiaries abroad.

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.