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How do I Become a Revenue Agent?

By J. Mendes
Updated May 17, 2024
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Revenue agents are basically tax accountants for federal, state and municipal revenue agencies. Unlike tax examiners who audit individual income tax returns, revenue agents audit the various returns filed by businesses and corporations. For students looking to become a revenue agent, the position typically requires a college degree, obtaining accounting experience, taking specialized training and meeting government hiring requirements.

Business and corporations annually file a variety of tax-related returns that can include income, sales and employee withholding tax. These returns are monitored by revenue agents that work for agencies that collect tax revenue for various government bodies. These returns can be filed by a large variety of business-entities that range from self-employed individuals to global corporations.

Agents who work for municipalities often audit small and large business, while those working at larger government levels usually specialize in specific business types. Due to the varied nature of this job, agents normally need to enter the profession with a strong background in accounting and an understanding of business procedures. Hiring requirements vary by agency, but almost always include an educational background in accounting and professional work experience.

The minimum educational requirement to become a revenue agent typically is a bachelor’s degree. Most employers prefer candidates with degrees in economics, auditing or business administration. Recommended college coursework often includes advanced courses in accounting principles and practices, financial accounting, cost accounting and auditing. Study in other business-related areas, such as global business and business management, is also recommended.

Candidates who want to become a revenue agent often need to possess prior work experience in accounting or business administration before they can qualify for the agent exam. Many recent graduates work as entry-level accountants and auditors in business before becoming revenue agents. Some agencies will accept a combination of work experience and education, while others may require 2-5 years of professional work experience.

Most government agencies require applicants who are attempting to become a revenue agent to undergo an extensive background investigation due to the highly sensitive nature of their work. Agents commonly will have access to the private financial records of major businesses and corporations whose security must be protected. Background investigations usually include looking into an applicant’s criminal, financial and medical history. The IRS and many state agencies also may investigate applicants’ personal income tax returns and other related filings.

After meeting hiring requirements and passing a background investigation, revenue agent candidates normally must take an exam or a series of exams, depending on the agency. The exams typically cover a broad range of tax-related material, tax codes and regulations, auditing practices, investigation procedures and taxpayer rights. After passing the exams, agents generally have a period of on-the-job training that can include coursework and supervised auditing.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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