A Look at a Career in Tax Accounting

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A Master of Science in Taxation degree can prepare students for a number of career opportunities in and outside of the accounting field. Depending upon the track that students choose, they can specialize in the taxation of entities, or of individuals, and pursue employment that matches their interests.

One of the opportunities students can consider is tax accounting. After earning a degree from an accredited institution like Northeastern University’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business, graduates will be prepared to work as entry-level tax accountants. Demand for professionals with these skills is growing, providing professionals with the opportunity to work in a tax agency, or internally in enterprises across an array of different industries.

 

Close up view of a tax accountant typing into a calculator with books, paper graphs and glasses on the desk.

 

We’ll take a closer look at this profession and learn more about:

  • What it takes to become a tax accountant
  • The typical responsibilities and job environment for these professionals
  • The average tax accountant salary, and how this might change depending on experience
  • How a degree from Northeastern University can put individuals on the fast track to positions

Tax accountant job description

Tax accountants are responsible for a host of key financial processes and documentation. This is true not only near the end of the fiscal year and at tax time but throughout the year. While tax accountants’ duties may overlap a bit with those of tax preparers, the latter typically work in a more seasonal fashion, whereas tax accountants take care of financial records and other accounting processes continuously.

Some of the responsibilities that tax accountants encounter in entry-level positions (as well as more advanced roles) include:

  • Computing taxes owed by an individual or organization, preparing the proper tax return documentation, and making sure the person or entity responsible pays on time
  • Preparing and examining financial records according to current tax law, and other financial regulations for compliance
  • Organizing and maintaining financial records, either for individual clients or internally for a business
  • Reviewing written accountant books and digital accounting systems to ensure accuracy, timeliness, and efficiency, as well as compliance with current, industry-accepted financial procedures
  • Examining and analyzing financial/accounting operations and processes to ensure efficiency and compliance. Tax accountants may also make recommendations to management about these processes, especially when improvement is required.
  • Identify and recommend financial workflow changes to support cost reductions, increased revenues, and boosted profits

As the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics noted, tax accountants have the above responsibilities but may also be required to hold meetings with individual clients or management. These face-to-face interactions enable accountants to explain their findings and recommendations, and also mean that accountants with superior communication and interpersonal skills excel in this area.

Under the umbrella of tax accountant employees

Currently, there are a few different specializations that accounting professionals can consider within the role of tax accountant, including:

  • Public accountants, who focus their efforts on accounting, auditing, and consulting, and mainly work with individual clients, businesses, and government entities
  • Management accountants, also known as private accountants, corporate accountants, or cost accountants. These individuals work with enterprise businesses and with the management teams of these companies directly.
  • Government accountants, who work exclusively to oversee, maintain, and organize the accounting and financial processes of local, state, and federal government organizations

Average pay: Accountant salaries

As with nearly every profession today, the salary range for tax accountants can vary according to a wide array of factors. Elements like the number of years of experience candidates have, the industry in which they work, and whether candidates pursue midpoint or entry-level positions can all have an impact on pay.

The BLS found that the average tax accountant salary was $70,500 as of May 2018. Overall, the top 10% of highest-earning tax accountants took home $122,840 in average annual salary in 2018, whereas the lowest earners in this category made $43,650 or less.

Pay also differs according to the industry. BLS data shows that tax accountants working for government industries were on the lower end of the earning scale, with a median annual wage of $68,420. Professionals in the accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping, and payroll services industries earned a bit more, with the average standing at $70,640 annually in 2018. Tax accountants operating within the enterprise sector were near the top earners, with an average wage of $73,180. Finally, accountants in the finance and insurance industry made the most, on average, with a yearly wage of $74,690 in 2018.

The amount of experience a tax accountant has can also impact his or her annual salary. Currently, entry-level positions, including those for accountants who have one year of experience or less in the field, offer an average salary of $52,500, according to research from staffing and recruitment agency Robert Half. The midpoint projected salary for tax accountants with one to three years of experience is considerably higher at an average of $71,000 in 2019.

Manager-level tax accountants—those that have worked in the field for three to five years or more and can handle the responsibilities of supervising the employees underneath them— earn even more. The midpoint average salary for these advanced candidates sits at $108,000, and can be even higher for those with more experience and/or highly specialized skills.

How to become a tax accountant

Most employers advertising tax accountant roles require at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting, business, or a similar field. However, as the BLS pointed out, many employers prioritize candidates who have master’s degrees over those who do not.

In addition, tax accountants must also be prepared for and earn their Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license ahead of operating professionally in the field.

Northeastern University’s Online Master of Science in Taxation from the D’Amore-McKim School of Business can prepare students for a well-paying career in the field of tax accounting. Visit our website and connect with one of our enrollment advisors to learn more.

 

Recommended Readings

Taxation or Accounting: Which Master’s Degree is Right for You?

Becoming a CPA: What You Need to Know

Northeastern University Online MST Program

 

Sources

Bureau of Labor Statistics – Accountants and Auditors

Robert Half – Take a Closer Look at Today’s Tax Accountant Salary