What Does an IRS Agent Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

This illustration includes a day in the life of an IRS agent including "Criminal and civil audits," "Information and intelligence gathering," "Reports," and "Search and arrest warrants."

 Chelsea Damraska © The Balance

The Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigative Division has grown from six investigators in 1919 to a 3,700-member law enforcement division made up of both sworn and non-sworn employees, including nearly 3,000 highly trained special agents.

The job of the IRS agent is vital to enforcing the tax laws of the United States. The role of the IRS and its investigators is important in ensuring the government maintains its civil and defense infrastructures for the protection, use, and enjoyment of all. If you are good with numbers and analysis, and you appreciate the importance of taxes and finance, then working as an IRS special agent may be the perfect criminology career for you.

IRS Agent Duties & Responsibilities

The daily duties of an IRS agent often include tasks and responsibilities such as:

  • Criminal and civil audits
  • Information and intelligence gathering
  • Forensic accounting and financial analysis
  • Reports
  • Search and arrest warrants
  • Courtroom testimony
  • Interviews and interrogation

The primary function of IRS agents is to enforce the tax laws of the United States. They conduct both civil and criminal investigations into cases involving tax fraud. IRS agents also assist other federal agencies in conducting investigations into various financial crimes, such as money laundering, financial fraud, and embezzlement.

Most federal law enforcement agencies have some sort of financial crimes unit. The IRS Criminal Investigations Division, though, is the only law enforcement body with the authority to investigate tax law violations.

IRS Agent Salary

An IRS agent's salary varies based on the area of expertise, level of experience, education, certifications, and other factors.

  • Median Annual Salary: $54,440 ($26.17/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: More than $101,120 ($48.62/hour)
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: Less than $32,500 ($15.63/hour)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018

Education, Training, & Certification

The IRS agent position involves fulfilling education and training requirements as follows:

  • Education: Potential agents must have a minimum of a bachelors' degree, with at least 15 semester hours dedicated to areas of study such as finance, economics, banking, business law, or tax law. IRS agents need to have excellent analytical skills and must be good with calculations. They must also have done well in school and graduated with a minimum of a 2.8 GPA.
  • Training: Once hired, agents attend law enforcement and special agent training at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Georgia. Upon completion of training, agents must be ready and willing to be assigned to any of the division's field offices across the country.
  • Other requirements: To meet the minimum requirements to be considered for a job as an IRS agent, an applicant must be a United States citizen under the age of 37 and have a valid driver license. Recent military retirees and those currently working in other federal law enforcement careers may be exempt from the maximum age requirement. The hiring process also includes a psychological exam, medical screening, and a drug test. Finally, potential IRS agents are required to submit to an extensive personal tax audit to ensure they are following the laws they intend to enforce.

IRS Agent Skills & Competencies

Successful candidates may be entry-level, while more senior applicants have gained previous experience in law enforcement or investigative jobs that focused on accounting, forensic auditing, and business or finance practices.

In addition to education and other requirements, candidates that possess the following skills may be able to perform more successfully in the job:

  • Analytical skills: Agents must identify potential criminal activity by conducting investigations and analyzing evidence.
  • Computer skills: Much of the data under investigation will be accessed from a computer.
  • Detail-oriented: Agents need to pay attention to detail to identify fraudulent transactions through forensic accounting, and track complex transactions such as those involved in money-laundering.
  • Interpersonal and organizational skills: IRS agents must interact with people across various departments and groups, and cases may involve large amounts of data, making interpersonal communications and an organized approach to work critical.

Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the outlook for tax collectors and revenue agents, a group which includes IRS agents, is a forecasted 10% job growth between 2016 and 2026. This is driven by a tightening federal budget that will result in reduced hiring. This growth rate compares to the projected 7% growth for all occupations.

Work Environment

IRS agents are law enforcement officers who work closely with financial information and calculations. Like other investigators and special agents, much of their work is conducted in an office setting, as well as in the field exploring leads and gathering information and interviews.

Agents may be assigned nearly anywhere in the United States or to one of several field offices around the world, including offices in the United Kingdom and Canada.

Work Schedule

Most IRS agents must work a full-time, 40-hour weekly schedule.

How to Get the Job


Most federal law enforcement careers are highly competitive because they tend to pay well and come with good benefits. As part of your job search, go to the IRS jobs website and read the description of the application and hiring process to learn what the IRS requires from applicants.

The IRS puts applicants through an extensive and rigorous hiring process that includes a battery of online tests and job simulations to determine a candidate's suitability for the job. There is also a written assessment to assess writing skills, as well as a structured oral interview.


Visit the IRS jobs website to search for IRS agent positions and start the application process. To stay up to date on the availability of IRS agent jobs or other federal criminology careers, create a profile and receive vacancy alerts from the federal government's job portal, USAjobs.gov.

Comparing Similar Jobs

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Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018