Working as a Tax Examiner

Job Description

Tax examiner working at office desk using a calculator to verify numbers
••• seksan Mongkhonkhamsao / Getty Images

A tax examiner checks federal, state, and local tax returns filed by individuals and small businesses. They contact taxpayers to discuss problems on their returns and let them know if they have overpaid or underpaid. For this reason, many people dislike tax examiners.

Tax Examiner Earnings and Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents earned a median annual salary of $54,440 in 2018. They further show there were 58,200 people employed in the field. This number of employees is expected to drop by 2% between 2018 and 2028. The primary reason for the lowered job is that the IRS has been subject to budgetary reductions. Reductions in budget lead to declines in hiring. Employment is a bit better in state and local governments.

  • Most tax examiners work for the federal government, usually the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). State and local governments employ others.
  • Some work in offices and others visit taxpayers in their homes and businesses. 
  • Tax examiners work full time with overtime often required during tax season (January through April). 
  • Many jobs are temporary since a high number of workers are needed during tax season.

Roles and Responsibilities

Tax examiners must be good at communication as they will frequently need to talk to clients to gain additional information. They must be able to answer questions and help with future tax planning. "ONetOnline.org" also lists these other responsibilities:

  • Minimize taxes with adjustments, deductions, and credits
  • Review returns for the correctness of the data entered
  • Help complete complex tax forms
  • Determine tax due or overpaid by individual client
  • Give information on tax form use and how to complete these forms

How to Become a Tax Examiner

You will need a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related discipline to get a job. Some employers except a combination of education and a history of full-time employment in accounting, auditing, or tax compliance. For example, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) hires tax examiners who have a bachelor's degree or one year of full-time specialized experience in accounting, bookkeeping, or tax analysis.

After hiring you, your employer will probably provide formal training and on-the-job training. You will be expected to stay on top of changes to tax laws by attending workshops.

What Advancement Opportunities Are Available?

After getting experience as a tax examiner, you may feel you are ready to handle more complicated business and corporate returns. If so, you can become a revenue agent. Alternatively, you can take on a managerial position and be in charge of supervising junior examiners.

What Soft Skills Do You Need to Succeed in This Career?

Certain soft skills, in addition to experience and training, are essential to success in this field. They are:

  • Analytical Skills and Attention to Detail: These skills will allow you to find problems on returns and determine whether deductions are allowed.
  • Organizational Skills: As a tax examiner, you will have to deal with multiple returns at the same time. You must stay organized.
  • Interpersonal Skills: You will have to remain calm but firm when communicating with people who are upset with you.

What Employers Expect From You

Here are some requirements employers listed in actual job announcements on Indeed.com:

  • "Effectively follows written and oral instructions"
  • "Exercises sound judgment and discretion in handling confidential information"
  • "Must possess and maintain a valid state driver's license"

Is This Occupation a Good Fit for You?

Your interests, personality type, and work-related values influence whether a career is a good fit for you. Being a tax examiner is suitable for people who have the following traits:

  • Interests (Holland Code): CES (Conventional, Enterprising, Social)
  • Personality Type (Myers Briggs Personality Type Indicator [MBTI]): ISTJ, ESTJ, ESTP, ISTP
  • Work-Related Values: Achievement, Support, Relationships

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