How to become a Tax Accountant: Your 2023 Guide

Tax accountants are professionals who specialise in preparing tax returns and advising individuals, businesses, and organisations on tax-related matters. 

To become a tax accountant, you must have a strong accounting, taxation, and finance background. 

Additionally, you must obtain specific certifications and licenses to practice as a tax accountant. 

This guide will provide a step-by-step process for becoming a tax accountant in 2023.

The steps to becoming a Tax Accountant are listed below:

Steps to becoming a Tax Accountant

Step 1: Obtain a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting

The first step towards becoming a tax accountant is to obtain a bachelor’s degree in accounting. Many colleges offer accounting degrees, and universities nationwide offer accounting degrees that typically take four years to complete. You will learn accounting basics during your degree, including financial statement preparation, auditing, taxation, and business law.

When choosing a school for your accounting degree, it’s essential to consider factors such as accreditation, curriculum, and faculty. Look for accredited schools accredited by a recognised accrediting agency, such as the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) or the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP). Also, check the curriculum to ensure it covers all the necessary accounting topics, including taxation. Finally, research the faculty to ensure that they have experience in the accounting field and can provide you with valuable insights and advice.

Step 2: Obtain Relevant Work Experience

After completing your bachelor’s degree, obtaining relevant work experience in accounting is essential. This can be accomplished through internships, part-time jobs, or entry-level accounting positions. Look for opportunities that allow you to gain experience in tax preparation and planning, as this will be a crucial skill as a tax accountant.

Networking is also an essential part of obtaining work experience in accounting. Attend career fairs and join professional organisations such as the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and the National Association of Tax Professionals (NATP). These organisations can provide valuable networking opportunities and access to training and educational resources.

Step 3: Obtain Professional Certifications

To practice as a tax accountant, you must obtain specific professional certifications. The most common certification for tax accountants is the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) certification. This certification is offered by the AICPA and requires candidates to pass a four-part exam covering topics such as auditing and attestation, business environment and concepts, financial accounting and reporting, and regulation.

To be eligible to take the CPA exam, candidates must typically have a minimum of 150 credit hours of college education, which is usually more than required for a bachelor’s degree. Some states also require candidates to have a certain amount of work experience before they can take the exam.

In addition to the CPA certification, other certifications may be relevant to tax accountants, such as the Enrolled Agent (EA) certification offered by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This certification allows individuals to represent taxpayers before the IRS in matters such as audits, collections, and appeals.

Step 4: Stay Up-to-Date with Tax Laws and Regulations

Tax laws and regulations are constantly changing, so tax accountants must stay up-to-date with the latest developments in the field. This can be accomplished through continuing education courses, professional development programs, and industry publications.

Many professional organisations offer continuing education courses and can provide information on the latest tax laws and regulations. Professional development programs can also be beneficial, as they can provide you with valuable insights from experienced professionals in the field. Finally, industry publications such as the Journal of Accountancy and Tax Notes can provide you with the latest news and analysis on tax-related topics.

Step 5: Build Your Professional Network

Building a professional network is essential to any career, including tax accounting. Your professional network can include colleagues, mentors, industry experts, and other professionals in the accounting field. Networking can provide valuable insights, advice, and opportunities for career advancement.

There are many ways to build your professional network, including attending industry events and conferences, joining professional organisations, and participating in online forums and discussion groups. Take advantage of any networking opportunities, and always be open to meeting new people and building new connections.

Step 6: Consider Specializing in a Niche Area

As a tax accountant, consider specialising in a niche area of the field. This can help you stand out from other tax accountants and provide you with a unique skill set that can be valuable to clients.

Some areas of specialisation in tax accounting include international taxation, estate planning, and small business taxation. Consider your interests and strengths when choosing a niche area to specialise in, and obtain any necessary certifications or training.

Step 7: Consider Advanced Education

While a bachelor’s degree and professional certifications may be sufficient to practice as a tax accountant, some professionals may want to consider advanced education to further their careers. Advanced degrees such as a Master of Science in Taxation (MST) or a Master of Business Administration (MBA) can provide advanced knowledge and skills in tax accounting and business management.

Advanced education can also open up opportunities for career advancement, such as management positions or leadership roles within organisations. Consider your career goals and determine whether advanced schooling may be necessary to achieve them.

Becoming a tax accountant requires education, work experience, certifications, and ongoing professional development. 

By following these steps and continuously investing in your education and professional network, you can build a successful career as a tax accountant in 2023 and beyond.

Tax Accountant: Career and Job Scope

The job scope of a tax accountant typically includes the following:

  • Preparing tax returns: Tax accountants prepare tax returns for individuals, businesses, and organisations.
  • Tax planning: They help clients to plan their finances and minimise their tax liability by suggesting ways to invest, deduct expenses, and take advantage of tax incentives.
  • Compliance: Tax accountants ensure that their clients comply with tax laws and regulations and help them avoid penalties.
  • Research: Tax accountants research changes in tax laws and regulations to ensure that their clients are up to date with any new requirements.
  • Client communication: They communicate with clients to explain complex tax laws and regulations and answer any questions.

The salary of a tax accountant varies depending on factors such as experience, qualifications, location, and employer. 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for accountants and auditors (which includes tax accountants) was $73,560 in May 2020. However, experienced tax accountants in larger cities may earn significantly more than this.

Tax accounting is a specialised field that offers a range of career opportunities. Some tax accountants work in public accounting firms, while others work in corporate tax departments or government agencies. 

Tax accountants may also specialise in areas such as international tax or estate planning.

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