Tax accounting programs are available at the associate's, bachelor's, and master's levels. Degrees are typically earned in accounting or business administration, with taxation offered as an area of concentration. In 2-year associate's degree programs, students will learn the basics about bookkeeping, income taxation and cost accounting. More advanced studies at the bachelor's and master's levels explore topics in managerial accounting, auditing, and taxation processes for corporations, individuals, and state and local entities. Some programs might offer online coursework.
Associate Degree in Accounting with a Tax Specialist Concentration
These are typically 2-year programs that train students in basic accounting principles, bookkeeping, information systems, auditing and federal and state tax laws. Students learn to manage payroll systems, conduct audits and offer tax preparation to individuals and businesses. Some programs prepare students for voluntary accounting credential exams, such as the Accredited Tax Advisor, Accredited Tax Preparer or Accredited Business Accountant, offered by the Accreditation Council for Accountancy and Taxation.
Associate's degree programs in accounting and tax specialization are primarily offered by community colleges, and they require students to hold a high school diploma or GED. Many programs test students' abilities in math, reading and English and may require that they complete remedial courses prior to enrollment. Students enrolled in an associate's degree program in accounting with a tax specialization take foundational accounting and business courses, as well as specific courses in tax law and tax accounting. The following courses are common to most programs:
- Payroll and cost accounting
- Accounting information systems and bookkeeping
- Business management
- Federal and state income taxes
- Business taxation
- Individual income taxation
Bachelor's Degree in Accounting
While there aren't any bachelor degree programs specifically in tax accounting, programs leading to degrees in accounting or business administration with an accounting major typically include tax accounting training. Students in both types of programs learn business concepts and management skills, as well as advanced accounting theory and application.
Most programs offer tax accounting instruction in federal tax law, income tax, property tax and tax deductions. Through these courses, students develop the skills needed to analyze and create tax plans for businesses, individuals, non-profits and government agencies. These degree programs can offer preparation for Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Certified Management Accountant or Certified Internal Auditor exams, though further training or credit hours may be required to sit for them.
The colleges and universities offering bachelor's degrees in accounting or business administration require applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores and to hold a GED or high school diploma for admission. Entrance into an accounting or business administration major often requires students to complete general education courses in writing, reading, math and economics.
Business administration and accounting degree programs have similar coursework, but an accounting degree generally requires more coursework in math, information systems and taxes, while business administration degrees include more coursework in organizational management, operations and marketing. The following topics are commonly covered:
- Income and federal tax accounting
- Business tax issues
- Auditing and financial accounting
- Accounting information systems
- Financial reporting
- Managerial accounting
Master's Degree in Accounting
Master's degree programs in accounting result in either a Master of Accountancy or a Master of Science in Accounting. These programs are very similar, offering students essentially the same combination of business and accounting management training in addition to specialized accounting instruction.
Students typically choose to concentrate in a particular area of accounting, such as financial reporting and auditing, taxation, managerial accounting or accounting information systems. A specialization in tax accounting prepares students to navigate federal, state and international taxation laws as well as to conduct tax research and manage tax strategies for business entities. Most programs are specifically designed to provide students with the 150 hours of required training for the CPA exams.
To qualify for any master's degree program in accounting, applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university. Many programs admit applicants with an undergraduate degree in subjects other than business or accounting. Nearly all master's degree programs ask candidates to submit GMAT or GRE scores for admissions consideration.
Depending on students' previous academic coursework, the curriculum of a master's degree in accounting may require one or two years to complete. Students generally take a core selection of business, accounting and financial management courses. The topics below are typically incorporated in an accounting master's program with a tax specialization:
- Auditing systems and financial accounting
- Operations management
- Tax research
- Advanced entity taxation
- Federal income and corporate taxation
- Local and state taxation
Master's Degree in Taxation
A master's degree in taxation offers comprehensive analysis and in-depth study of state and federal taxation laws and procedures, policy issues and business entities. Programs typically culminate in a Master of Taxation or Master of Science in Taxation, and they are commonly earned by professional accountants or students with an undergraduate degree in accounting.
The length of each program varies, but can generally be completed in one year and may include an internship. A taxation master's degree program provides students with an understanding of theoretical taxation theory, current tax issues in business and politics as well as the skills to create tax-planning strategies.
Admission to a master's degree program in taxation requires applicants to submit GRE or GMAT scores and to hold a bachelor's degree. Typically, taxation programs are open to students from various academic backgrounds, but often prefer applicants with undergraduate degrees in business and accounting or professional experience.
The majority of taxation master's degree programs require 30 credits of coursework, which cover general taxation, tax research and specialty taxation electives. Some programs may allow students to complete accounting coursework so that they qualify to sit for the CPA exams. The following coursework is commonly included:
- Tax accounting procedure
- Partnership and corporate taxation
- Corporate taxation
- Partnership and property taxation
- Tax research methods
- Federal and economic tax policy issues
Popular Career Options
Graduates with an associate's degree in accounting with a tax concentration are qualified for entry-level accounting positions in banks, business, industry, government agencies or non-profits.
- Tax return preparer
- Tax advisor or consultant
- Auditing clerk
- Accounts payable and receivable clerk
- Payroll and bookkeeping clerk
While some upper-level tax accounting positions may require professional certification, there are many career opportunities for graduates with a bachelor's degree in accounting or business administration.
- Tax planner
- Tax examiner
- Tax auditor
- Managerial accountant
- Financial analyst
Graduates with a master's degree in taxation are qualified to provide tax planning, analysis and management services in corporations, accounting firms, government agencies and not-for-profit organizations.
- Tax analyst
- Tax examiner
- Tax strategist and planner
- Financial analyst
- External or internal auditor
Continuing Education Information
Many students who earn associate's degrees in accounting with a tax concentration go on to earn bachelor's degrees in business or accounting. However, many programs that culminate in an Associate of Applied Science are not intended to prepare students for further study, but rather for entry into an accounting or tax career.
Many degree programs in accounting and business administration offer tracks that specifically prepare students for professional accounting careers or graduate study. It's common for students interested in earning professional accounting certification to go on to earn a master's degree. Master's degree programs also allow students to focus their accounting studies in specialized areas, such as tax accounting.
A master's degree in accounting is the highest degree level that prepares students for professional positions in tax accounting. While doctoral programs in accounting are available, they generally prepare students for research careers in academia and focus on economic accounting issues rather than tax accounting.
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov) reports that the average annual salary for accountants and auditors in 2015 was $75,280. Also according to the BLS, job opportunities in accounting are projected to grow by 11% between the years 2014 and 2024.
Increased employment is expected due to expected growth in business, as well as heightened emphasis on accounting responsibility in government and corporations. Particularly in tax accounting, the development of more sophisticated technology and the expansion of both government and business are projected to create complex tax accounting work that will require experienced accountants.
Students in an associate degree in accounting with a tax specialist concentration program learn about business, accounting, tax law, and tax accounting that will help if they are looking for entry-level accounting positions. Bachelor's and master's in accounting or taxation programs focus on advanced accounting and taxation laws which will prepare students for CPA exams and careers in upper-level tax accounting positions like tax auditor, tax analyst, and tax examiner.