What Is a Revenue Agent?
A revenue agent is an accountant employed by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), or local or state governments to examine and audit tax returns and records. A revenue agent's job is to make sure that tax liabilities of individuals, small businesses, corporations, and other tax-paying entities have been met. Typically, revenue agents hold a bachelor's degree or, in some cases, an associate's degree in accounting.
- A revenue agent works with the IRS or a state or local government to examine and audit tax returns.
- Revenue agents for the IRS have certain education requirements, including having some accounting education.
- Revenue agents may perform a variety of tasks including reviewing filed tax returns for accuracy and conducting in-person audits outside of the office.
- Some revenue agents work exclusively on the records of suspected criminals, including drug dealers and money launderers.
- Meanwhile, revenue officers actually collect taxes, handling the most difficult tax cases.
Understanding Revenue Agents
Revenue agents may perform a variety of tasks including reviewing filed tax returns for accuracy and conducting in-person audits outside of the office. For a basic audit, revenue agents may contact a taxpayer by mail or phone to discuss a return or request supporting documents.
Revenue agents may have specialized backgrounds and training and may be employed in different tax enforcement of divisions. These specialists can have a variety of titles, such as financial products and transactions examiners (FPTE), international examiners (IE), employment tax specialists (ETS), and computer audit specialists (CAS).
Some revenue agents work exclusively on the records of suspected criminals, including drug dealers and money launderers. Those agents who specialize in this field may be required to provide testimony in a court of law. Senior revenue agents generally examine the most complicated tax returns involving individuals or businesses.
Requirements for Revenue Agents
Revenue agents for the IRS generally require a bachelor’s degree or higher in accounting. However, the IRS will consider applicants that have studied at least four straight years at a university, including 30 semester hours of accounting. The above can be waived if the applicant is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or has a combination of experience and education that includes at least 30 semester hours of accounting.
IRS revenue agents are not required to be Certified Public Accountants (CPAs).
Revenue Agent vs. Revenue Officer
Revenue agents handle tax audits. Meanwhile, a revenue officer actually collects taxes. Revenue officers cover the more difficult tax cases. When the IRS has not been able to collect via letters, phone calls, tax levies, or garnishments, they send revenue officers.
The role of a revenue agent is to determine tax liability via an audit. The audit agents conduct is also known as an examination. Meanwhile, revenue officers don’t generally have any accounting training. They do have discretion on seizing and selling assets to cover tax liabilities, as well as lien discharges. They can also approve or reject installment plans.