How to Become a Tax Accountant

How to Become a Tax Accountant: Career Path Guide

Are you interested in an office-based career that involves preparing complex reports and advising others? Do you have an interest in tax reporting, compliance and strategy? If so, a career as a tax accountant is worth considering. Here's a quick summary of what's involved in this profession:


• Excellent level of pay

• Long hours with very detail-oriented work

• Opportunity to work with numbers and with people

• Outstanding opportunities for career development


If you want to know more about the ins and outs of this career, then read on; we’ll fill you in on the details, including an overview of what these specialized accountants do, how much they can earn, and what you’ll need to qualify!



Education and Certification Needed

To become a tax accountant, you typically need at least an undergraduate degree in one of the following fields:


• Accounting

• Auditing

• Business Administration (with a focus in accounting)

• Finance (with a focus in accounting)

• Taxation


Having a degree in one of the above-mentioned fields may qualify you to work in some entry-level tax accounting jobs. However, qualifying for most mid-level and senior-level jobs (and a lot of entry-level jobs too), you will need have earned, or be working towards, a professional accounting designation, such as CA or CPA.




What is a Tax Accountant?

As a tax accountant is an accountant who specializes in preparing regional and federal taxes on behalf of an individual or an organization.



Tax Accountant: General Job Description

As a tax accountant, your primary responsibility would be to help clients prepare their federal, state/provincial and local tax returns. Your clients may be businesses, non-profit and other organizations, or individuals.


You would also have to ensure the returns you prepare are complaint with the ever-changing laws and guidelines of taxation. This means your knowledge of taxation would have to remain up-to-date at all times.


You would use your taxation savvy to not only help clients complete their tax returns in a compliant manner, but also to advise them as to what actions they can take to minimize their tax liabilities (such as moving money into certain investment vehicles and tax shelters).  



General Job Duties

Although your specific duties can vary from one job to the next, you could expect to perform the following duties as a tax accountant:


• Deal with tax authorities on tax audits and appeals

• Effectively communicate with clients, government agencies, as well as colleagues and staff

• Develop and implement strategies for clients to capitalize on business opportunities

• Participate in tax planning and reorganization projects for clients

• Identify and document tax filing positions, including risk analysis

• Examine tax accounts and records in order to determine how much tax a client owes

• Prepare tax returns for an individual or a business

• Maintain current knowledge of regional and federal taxation law and regulations

• May be involved in organizing paperwork surrounding business license taxes, property tax and sales tax

• May prepare monthly, quarterly and annual financial reports

• Ensure tax regulations and reporting guidelines have been followed



Skills Needed to Become a Tax Accountant

While being able to work with numbers is important, you don't need advanced skills in mathematics to become a tax accountant. You will however, have a much better chance of succeeding in this field if you have the following abilities:


Analytical Skills: You must be able to review many pages of documentation and identify issues, as well as provide recommendations as to how to fix those issues.


Communication Skills: Being able to listen carefully to facts and concerns from clients, managers, and other stakeholders is very important. You must also be able to communicate the results of your work and recommendations in meetings and in written reports.


Close Attention to Detail: Being able to pay attention to detail when compiling and examining documentation, as well as when preparing reports, is crucial for being accurate in your work. You must also be able to do so with stamina, as you may have several documents and reports to work with during a given day.


Math and Logic Skills: You do not need complex math skills if you want to become a tax accountant. You do however, need the ability to analyze, compare, and interpret facts and figures, as well as spot discrepancies.


Organizational Skills: You will need exceptional organizational skills, as you will  work with a wide range of financial documents for a variety of clients. If not properly organized, your work can quickly become very inefficient, resulting in mistakes, duplicate work, and ultimately a loss of clientele.


Technical Skills: Being familiar with various forms of accounting and tax preparation software will help you hit the ground running when you’re hired, as will your extensive knowledge of accounting principles and taxation. Don't have technical skills? Worry not, these skills will be acquired while you’re pursuing your accounting degree and designation.  




Is Tax Accounting Right for You?

In order to survive the ups and downs of working in this field, you’ll need to have certain core competencies, personal traits, as well as professional interests, including:


• You have high ethical standards

• You’re willing to work long hours

• You enjoy having clear rules and organized methods to guide work activities

• You enjoy working with and completing complex reports

• You enjoy working with data and numbers

• You enjoy the idea of helping others navigate through the murky waters of taxation

• You enjoy advising others in an area in which you are knowledgeable



Who Employs Tax Accountants?

As a tax accountant, you could find work as an in-house salaried employee of an organization, or you could work on a fee-for-service basis for individuals or organizations (as a self-employed practitioner, or as a contractor for an accounting firm or related business).


Organizations that may enlist your services (either as an in-house employee or as a contractor) may include:


• Businesses of all sorts

• Governmental agencies

• Non-profit organizations

• Educational institutions

• Corporate and personal tax preparation offices

• Accounting consultancies

• Full-service accounting practices

• Self-employment

• Tax preparation service organizations

• Government agencies 



Tax Accountant Average Salary Level

The salary level you could earn as a tax accountant can vary, depending on the following factors:


• Your level of education

• Your level of experience

• The designations you’ve earned

• The size and type of your employer

• The region in which you work


Tax Accountant Salary - Alberta: According to the 2013 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working in the Financial Auditors and Accountants occupational group earn an average salary of $71,802 per year.


Tax Accountant Salary - Canada: According to Service Canada, the average salary level of Canadians working in the Financial Auditors and Accountants occupational group is $67,000 per year.


Tax Accountant Salary - United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of Americans working in the Accountants and Auditors occupational group is $65,940 per year.



Work Environment

Work Setting: Your work would take place in an office setting. If self-employed, you would have the option to work out of a home office. Depending on the needs of your employers or clients, you may be required to travel from time to time.


Working Hours: You would likely work normal, weekday working hours, except around tax season when your hours would increase significantly. You may have to work evenings and weekends occasionally, in order to meet deadlines, or to meet with clients.


Working Conditions: As a tax accountant, your time would be split between communicating with clients and colleagues (by phone, email, or in person) and working alone in front of a computer. Your work would often be quite demanding, especially during tax season. However, your work can be incredibly satisfying at times also, as you may provide appropriate financial advice and help your clients solve difficult tax problems.




Get Your Degree!

Find schools and get information on the program that’s right for you.

Powered by Campus Explorer



Career Advancement for Tax Accountants

Having career mobility is important to many people; a career in accounting offers plenty of it. Typically, those who work hard and show competence and dedication in their work will put themselves in a great position to advance to a position of greater responsibility, and higher pay.


Common career advancement routes you could pursue include:


• Taking on larger accounts, and getting a boost in pay

• Moving into roles such as Controller, Finance Director, or Chief Financial Officer (CFO)

• Becoming a partner in your accounting firm

• Growing your client base, if self-employed

• Opening your own accounting practice or consultancy

• Taking on a similar role in another company, or moving to a smaller company that has better opportunities for advancement or ownership



Careers Similar to Tax Accountant

Listed below are occupations in our database that have similar responsibilities, and/or require similar skills, or be in the same sector of industry, as Tax Accountant:


• Bookkeeper

• Chief Financial Officer (CFO)

• Controller


• Payroll Supervisor

• Treasury Manager




The salary information for this career guide was retrieved from the reputable, government administrated websites listed below. All other information has been compiled from actual job postings from various organizations.


Occupations in Alberta:Accountant.” (March 4, 2016). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved January 14, 2020.

Business & Financial: Network and Computer Systems Administrators.” (September 4, 2019). Bureau of Labor Statistics - United States Government website. Retrieved January 14, 2020.

Career Options:getting started as a tax consultant.” (October 18, 2019.). The Independent website. Retrieved January 14, 2020.


Please Note: Some of the information for this career guide was gathered from actual job postings, which due to the brief nature of their online presence, are not listed here as sources.



Scholarships for Becoming a Tax Accountant

The Applicable Majors section below shows fields of study relevant to a career as a tax accountant. You can search for scholarships matched to those fields of study on our Accounting Scholarships and Business Administration Scholarships pages.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Becoming a Tax Accountant: Applicable Majors

Studying one of the college/university majors listed below can be helpful (or are necessary) for becoming a tax accountant. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!• 


Top Banner Image: