Become a Tax Specialist: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a tax specialist. Research the education and career requirements, licensure and experience required for starting a career as a tax specialist.

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Should I Become a Tax Specialist?

Tax specialists are responsible for ensuring that individuals and businesses pay their taxes to the government. Their duties may include reviewing tax returns, determining taxes owed, answering questions, and discussing returns. Tax specialists also ensure that all tax credits and deductions follow laws and regulations.

Many tax specialists work for government bodies; government employees generally earn competitive salaries, good benefits, and enjoy a measure of job security. Tax specialists work full-time during regular business hours, although some longer hours may be asked of them during tax season. They primarily work in office settings, though some light travel to individuals' homes or businesses may be needed. Tax specialists may work for companies or the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Name Accounting, business or related discipline
Experience About 1 or more years of experience
Registration Tax specialists who prepare federal returns must be registered with the IRS
Key Skills Analytical skills, detail-oriented, interpersonal skills, organization skills, knowledge of Microsoft Excel, automated tax system software, Intuit QuickBooks software, Microsoft Access, online databases
Salary $35,990 per year (Median salary from May, 2014 for tax preparers)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), O*Net Online, Job postings from October 2012

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the position of a tax specialist is ideal for college graduates with a bachelor's degree in accounting. Within accounting degree programs, students examine concepts in business management, business law, financial accounting, marketing and strategic management.

Success Tips

  • Complete a cooperative education experience. Students can gain knowledge of the tax field or accounting principles by completing cooperative education experiences, which allows students to work in the field with current professionals. Prospective tax specialists will become familiar with tax software and current techniques used in the field.
  • Develop strong people and communication skills. Since tax specialists are required to possess customer and personal service skills, students can ensure that their written and verbal exchanges are understood by taking advantage of communication courses.
  • Take advantage of accounting courses. Some tax specialist positions may require applicants to have taken a certain amount of accounting courses in their education. Business students can take additional accounting courses to meet this requirement.
  • Gain an understanding of tax laws and principles. Some programs may offer students the opportunity to complete additional coursework in tax law. Students can use these courses to gain a thorough understanding of the current regulations.

Step 2: Complete On-The-Job or Formal Training

Some tax specialists may need to complete on-the-job training or formal training, which may last up to a year. Formal training will familiarize new employees with the tax code, deductions and IRS policies. These learning and skills enhancement-training programs will provide individuals with on-the-job training through courses and on-site learning. Apprenticeship programs may also be available.

Step 3: Register With the IRS

Any tax specialist who helps prepare and submit federal tax returns needs to register for a preparer tax identification number with the IRS. A processing fee is required, and registration must be renewed each year.

Step 4: Keep Up-To-Date on Current Tax Laws

The IRS offers employment advancement programs for tax specialists that demonstrate knowledge of current and changing tax laws. Tax specialists will want to keep their skills and knowledge of the field sharp by completing additional training or skills development programs.

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