Tax Accountants


Education and Training Requirements

High School

A good foundation for tax accounting includes courses in math, business, economics, government, and computers. Tax accountants also need strong communication skills to effectively share and discuss information with clients, so be sure to take English, communications, and writing classes. Knowledge of a foreign language is also helpful for international work.

Postsecondary Training

A bachelor's degree is required for tax accountant positions. Many accountants have degrees in accounting, but other majors may be in business, economics, or finance. Many students participate in internship programs at accounting firms as part of their college education. Tax accountants who file tax reports with the Securities and Exchange Committee must have the Certified Public Accountant designation, and a bachelor's degree is required to become a CPA. Major public accounting firms often prefer to hire tax accountants with a master's degree in accounting or a related field.

Other Education or Training

Tax accountants must stay current with tax regulations, tax reports, and accounting and business practices. They continue their education throughout their careers by taking classes and attending educational events and conferences offered by professional associations such as the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the National Society of Accountants, and the National Association of Tax Professionals, among many others.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Tax accountants that file tax reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission must be CPAs (Certified Public Accountants). Other accountants get certified voluntarily to secure better jobs and advance their careers. Accountants must be certified in the state in which they practice accounting. To apply for the CPA exam, applicants must hold a bachelor's degree with a total of 150 semester hours of classwork, which is 30 hours more than the normal four years of college. Some schools offer five-year degree programs to meet this 150-hour requirement. In some states, practical work experience is allowed to substitute for the extra 30 hours of courses. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants administers the Uniform CPA Examination for all states. The AICPA and state accounting associations provide details on CPA exam requirements.

Tax accountants may also receive the Enrolled Agent credential from the Internal Revenue Service, which empowers them to represent taxpayers of all types before the IRS. To receive the EA designation, accountants must pass a three-part test.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Most employers prefer to hire tax accountants with a bachelor's degree, certification as public accountants, and two or more years of work experience. In addition to strong math skills, tax accountants must have good communication skills. They must listen closely to clients when gathering financial information and be able to share facts and figures with them in ways that they can understand. Tax accountants deal with massive amounts of information and must be organized and detail oriented to accurately review and report data for clients. Analytical skills are essential for reviewing documents, identifying issues, and coming up with solutions. The desire to continually learn is also important in this field as tax accounts must keep up with current federal and state laws and accounting practices and standards.