What is a Revenue Agent?

Revenue agents ensure that governments get their tax money from businesses and citizens. They review tax returns, conduct audits, identify taxes owed, and collect overdue tax payments. They work for federal, regional, and local governments. Many work primarily in an office. Others spend most of their time doing field audits in taxpayers’ homes or places of business.

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What does a Revenue Agent do?

Revenue agents typically do the following:

  • Review filed tax returns to determine whether tax credits and deductions claimed are allowed by law
  • Contact taxpayers by mail or telephone to address problems and to request supporting documentation
  • Conduct field audits and investigations of income tax returns to verify information or to update tax liabilities
  • Evaluate financial information, using their familiarity with accounting procedures and knowledge of changes to tax laws and regulations
  • Keep records on each case they deal with, including contacts, telephone numbers, and actions taken
  • Notify taxpayers of any overpayment or underpayment, and either issue a refund or request further payment.

Revenue agents are responsible for ensuring that individuals and businesses pay the taxes they owe. They ensure that tax returns are filed properly, and they follow up with taxpayers whose returns are questionable or who owe more than they have paid. Different levels of government collect different types of taxes. The federal government deals primarily with personal and business income taxes. Regional governments collect income and sales taxes. Local governments collect sales and property taxes. Because many jurisdictions assess individual income taxes based on the taxpayer's reported federal adjusted gross income, tax examiners working for the federal government report any adjustments or corrections they make. Regional tax examiners then determine whether the adjustments affect how much the taxpayer owes that particular jurisdiction.

Revenue agents specialize in tax-related accounting for federal agencies and for equivalent agencies in regional and local governments. Like tax examiners, they review returns for accuracy. However, revenue agents handle complicated tax returns of businesses and large corporations. Many experienced revenue agents specialize in specific areas. For example, they may focus exclusively on multinational businesses. Regardless of their specialty, revenue agents must keep up to date with changes in the lengthy and complex tax laws and regulations.

What does it take to be a Revenue Agent?

Revenue agents need a bachelor's degree in accounting, business administration, economics, or a related discipline, or a combination of relevant education and full-time business administration, accounting, or auditing work. Revenue agents with federal agencies must have either a bachelor's degree or 30 semester hours of accounting coursework, along with specialized experience. Specialized experience includes work in accounting, bookkeeping, or tax analysis.

At the regional and local level, a bachelor’s degree is not always required, although related work experience is desired. Work experience may serve as a qualification for employment in place of education for these workers, particularly at the regional and local levels. Employers may hire revenue agents who have previous work experience in accounting, bookkeeping, or tax analysis. Employers also may hire collectors who have work experience in related areas, such as collections, customer service, or credit checking.

What is the workplace of a Revenue Agent like?

Revenue agents work for federal, regional, and local governments. Many work primarily in an office; others spend most of their time conducting field audits by visiting taxpayers in their home or business. Some agents may be permanently stationed in offices of large corporations that have complicated tax structures, such as those that do business internationally.

How much does a Revenue Agent earn?

The median annual wage of revenue agents was $49,360 in May 2010. (The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less.) The lowest 10% earned less than $29,540, and the top 10% earned more than $92,250. Revenue agents generally work full time, although some overtime might be needed during tax season.

Learn more about being a Revenue Agent