What Tax Examiners and Collectors, and Revenue Agents Do
Tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents determine how much is owed in taxes and collect tax from individuals and businesses on behalf of the government.
Tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents work for federal, state, and local governments. Many work primarily in an office environment; others spend most of their time doing field audits in taxpayers’ homes or places of business.
How to Become a Tax Examiner or Collector, or Revenue Agent
Most tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents need a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field. However, the level of education and experience required varies with the position and employer.
The median annual wage for tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents was $54,890 in May 2019.
Employment of tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents is projected to decline 4 percent from 2019 to 2029. Employment of these workers will depend primarily on future changes to federal, state, and local government budgets.
Tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents determine how much is owed in taxes and collect tax from individuals and businesses on behalf of federal, state, and local governments. They review tax returns, conduct audits, identify taxes owed, and collect overdue tax payments.
Tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents typically do the following:
- Review filed tax returns to determine whether credits and deductions claimed are allowed by law
- Contact taxpayers 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 additional payment
Tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents are responsible for ensuring that individuals and businesses pay the appropriate amount of taxes they owe, as prescribed by laws and regulations. In addition to verifying that tax returns are filed properly, they follow up with taxpayers whose returns are questionable or who owe more money.
Different levels of government collect different types of taxes. The federal government deals primarily with personal and business income taxes. State governments collect income and sales taxes. Local governments collect sales and property taxes.
Because many states assess individual income taxes on the basis of the taxpayer’s reported federal income, tax examiners working for the federal government report to the states any adjustments or corrections they make. State tax examiners then determine whether the adjustments affect the state taxpayer liability.
Tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents have different duties and responsibilities:
Tax examiners usually deal with the simplest tax returns: those filed by individual taxpayers who claim few deductions and those filed by small businesses. Tax examiners also may contact individual taxpayers in order to resolve any outstanding problems with their returns.
Much of a tax examiner’s job involves making sure that tax credits and deductions claimed by taxpayers are lawful. If a taxpayer owes additional taxes, tax examiners adjust the total amount by assessing fees, interest, and penalties and then notify the taxpayer of the total amount owed.
Revenue agents specialize in tax-related accounting for the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and for equivalent agencies in state and local governments. Like tax examiners, they review returns for accuracy. However, revenue agents handle complicated tax returns of large businesses and corporations.
Many experienced revenue agents specialize in a particular area. 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.
Collectors, also called revenue officers in the IRS, deal with overdue accounts. The process of collecting an overdue payment starts with the revenue agent or tax examiner sending a report to the taxpayer. If the taxpayer makes no effort to pay, the case is assigned to a collector.
When a collector takes a case, he or she first sends a notice to the taxpayer. The collector then works with the taxpayer to settle the debt. Settlement may involve setting up a plan in which the amount owed is paid back in small amounts over time.
When delinquent taxpayers claim that they cannot pay their taxes, collectors investigate and verify the claims. Collectors research information on taxpayer mortgages or financial statements and locate taxpayer-owned items of value through third parties, such as neighbors or local departments of motor vehicles. Ultimately, collectors must decide whether the IRS should take a lien—a claim on an asset such as a bank account, real estate, or an automobile—to settle a debt. Collectors also have the authority to garnish wages—that is, take a portion of earned wages—to collect taxes owed.
Tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents held about 57,600 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents were as follows:
|State government, excluding education and hospitals||39|
|Local government, excluding education and hospitals||19|
Tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents work primarily in an office environment; others spend most of their time conducting field audits in taxpayers’ homes or places of business.
Most tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents work full time.
This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents.
For more information about careers as tax examiners and collectors, and revenue agents at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), visit
For more information about requirements for federal government positions as an internal revenue officer or an internal revenue agent, visit
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Tax Examiners and Collectors, and Revenue Agents,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/tax-examiners-and-collectors-and-revenue-agents.htm (visited ).