Tax Examiner

Job Description

Tax returns at Internal Revenue Service
© Roger Ressmeyer/Corbis/VCG / 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.

Quick Facts

  • Tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents* earned a median annual salary of $52,060 in 2016.
  • Nearly 68,000 people worked in these occupations in 2014.
  • 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.
  • The job outlook for this occupation is poor. The IRS has been subject to budgetary reductions over recent years, leading to declines in hiring. Employment is a bit better in state and local governments.

* The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) combines employment data for tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents.

Roles and Responsibilities

Are you looking for more details about job duties? Here are some that employers listed in online ads on Indeed.com and IRS.gov:

  • "Evaluate all available information and take corrective actions"
  • "Recognize indications of tax fraud"
  • "Provide assistance on inquiries initiated by taxpayers by determining information needed to resolve them"
  • "Re-compute tax, and/or penalty and interest"
  • "Obtain information from taxpayers by personal interview and correspondence"
  • "Refer possible violations of tax law or cases requiring examination determinations or legal determinations of the tax code"

How to Become a Tax Examiner

You will need a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related discipline to get a job.

Instead of that, 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. It is imperative that you stay organized.
  • Interpersonal Skills: You will have to remain calm but firm when communicating with people who are upset with you.

What Will 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 interestspersonality 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

    Related Occupations

     DescriptionMedian Annual Wage (2016)Minimum Required Education/Training
    AuditorLooks for clues that a firm's funds have been mismanaged

    $68,150

    Bachelor's Degree in Accounting
    Tax Preparer

    Prepares individuals' or businesses' tax returns

    $36,550HS or Equivalency Diploma
    Financial ExaminerMakes sure banks and financial institutions comply with the laws that govern them$79,280Bachelor's Degree (including courses in accounting, finance, and economics)
    Loan OfficerAssists individuals who want to obtain funds from banks and other lenders$63,650Bachelor's Degree in Business, Finance, or a Related Field

    Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,  Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016–17; Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor,  O*NET Online (visited November 6, 2017).