Tax Accountant: Explore careers and the value of an online accounting degree

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Students seeking an accounting degree online likely already have an established interest in the world of accountancy and finance. There are many distinct roles in this industry, offering students a variety of paths forward. One common role is that of the tax accountant, a professional who focuses on tax regulations, preparing tax returns, providing support during and completing work related to audits, and other similar tasks. Learn more about the tax accountant role, its educational requirements and related salary expectations, potential avenues for growth, and other pertinent information tied to this career path.

A tax accountant working in her office.

Understanding the tax accountant role

Tax accountants often operate in a relatively straightforward manner, at least from a high-level perspective. They advise, support, and perform work for clients who want or need help preparing tax returns and addressing tax audits. Although this description makes it easy to grasp the day-to-day activities of a tax accountant, they must have a deep understanding of relevant tax codes and a desire to learn more to answer questions that arise while preparing returns and addressing audits. In this context, a sense of curiosity and a tendency toward problem solving are both valuable assets. According to PayScale, creativity and resolving problems in the context of preparing tax returns are important as well. While the primary goal for tax accountants is to compile and submit an accurate, compliant, and complete return, there’s a significant amount of emphasis placed on minimizing financial considerations and saving money for clients. That means tax accountants have to consider a number of different approaches to completing a return, using both their strong knowledge of relevant tax codes and the various methods that can be used to fulfill the obligations of a tax return.

Tax accountants also need strong communication skills. Not only do they have to communicate with the individual or business they are working with, in many contexts they also have to share information and collaborate with other tax accountants as well as their managers and supervisors. In some cases, tax accountants may even have to discuss a tax return or audit with local, state, and federal officials.

Organization and information management are additional skills that frequently come into play for tax accountants. Whether they’re working on many projects at once or managing the preparation of one especially complicated and involved return, a combination of accuracy and fast access to relevant information is vital to complete work promptly and with a minimum of errors.

Technology skills are another important dimension for tax accountants. Like the majority of professional roles across the modern economy, tax accountants should have a high level of comfort using database and spreadsheet tools like Microsoft Excel. Tracking information efficiently, automating calculations to save time and minimize the chance for human error, calculating different approaches for finalizing returns, and other tasks depend on such tools for both speed and accuracy.

Robert Half, a leading talent recruitment agency in accountancy and a variety of other fields, points out that proficiency with enterprise resource planning software is also an important skill. ERP platforms, which help businesses oversee their operations in real time, track a number of important metrics that may be relevant to tax accountants, such as business spending, resource use, and allocation. Developing a familiarity with key digital tools is just as important as developing a strong understanding of accounting principles and specific tax codes.

Tax accountant salary expectations, job outlook, and education requirements

Tax accountants are categorized as part of the more general accountants and auditors group by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those professionals earned a yearly median salary of $69,350 in 2017, the latest year for which this figure is available, according to the BLS. PayScale’s specific projection for tax accountants was somewhat lower, at $55,822. However, PayScale also notes significant room for salary growth over time. A veteran tax accountant with more than 20 years of experience can see wages reach above $70,000. Wages are likely to rise for many tax accountants over time, assuming strong performance and a generally positive economy. In some cases, tax accountants may have to seek out an internal promotion or a similar position at a new employer to improve their salaries. In a related consideration, a tax accountant’s salary with an associate degree will likely be lower than what is earned with a bachelor’s degree.

PayScale’s lower projection for tax accountants may be due to differing educational requirements, a point that’s important for students seeking a Bachelor of Science in Accounting degree to remember. While a variety of more advanced accounting roles require some form of education past a bachelor’s degree, a professional certification, or both, many tax accountant jobs only require a bachelor’s degree. Such a role is an attractive prospect for students who want to enter the professional field before seeking additional education or professional certification, whether that’s in accounting, a related financial field, or something else entirely.

The job outlook for the general accountant and auditor category is strong, according to the BLS. Accounting degree jobs are expected to grow at a rate of 10% from 2016 to 2026, a pace that is faster than the average for the entire economy. While there may be some variation for the tax accountant field, the enduring need for accountants and lack of any type of comprehensive automated tool to handle this task on the horizon means tax accountants should look forward to strong employment opportunities for some time to come.

Earning an accounting degree online with the University of Alabama at Birmingham

The University of Alabama at Birmingham offers a convenient, flexible accounting degree online program staffed with top-flight professors that provides a well-rounded introduction into the world of accounting. To learn more, get in touch with an academic advisor today.

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Robert Half: Tax Accountant

BLS: Accountants and Auditors

PayScale: Average Tax Accountant Salary