What does a tax accountant do?

Attempting to make sense of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) without any sort of tax-related training is like trying to translate Virgil’s Aeneid, a classic work of Roman literature, without ever having taken a Latin course. In short, it is not an easy task. Luckily for the vast majority of people who have no tax-related training under their belts, tax accountants voluntarily study and apply the IRC’s numerous provisions day in and day out. Here is a brief description of what it takes to become a tax account and what a tax accountant actually does:

Educational Requirements

A bachelor’s or master’s degree in accounting is required to become a tax accountant. If you decide to go the master’s degree route, you may choose a non-accounting or even non-business undergraduate major. Keep in mind, though, that in addition to a bachelor’s degree, most graduate-level accounting programs require you to complete several prerequisites. This means it will take longer and cost more money to complete your accounting degree.

Entry-Level Tax Accountants

Entry-level tax accountants, like entry-level employees in other professions, are often assigned to do their superiors’ “grunt” work. At a public accounting firm, this often means filling out clients’ tax returns with whatever software the firm uses, manipulating a seemingly endless stream of Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, calculating the client’s earnings over a given period of time (quarter, year, etc.), researching a specific portion of the IRC for a superior’s project or any number of other tax-related tasks. Companies also hire in-house entry-level accountants, who are responsible for the company’s internal earnings calculations, tax return filings, long-term tax planning, dividend distribution, structuring the business and its transactions so as to minimize aggregate tax liability and much more.

Senior-Level Tax Accountants

Senior-level tax professionals do considerably less hands-on work than their entry-level counterparts, whom they supervise. These more seasoned accountants generally handle tax planning and avoidance for wealthy individuals or families and large businesses. This type of work requires more in-depth knowledge of the IRC than does entry-level work. Clients often want to implement multi-year plans and have a multitude of business and personal interests to consider. Needless to say, it is neither for the faint of heart nor the inexperienced. Senior tax accountants also perform analysis of their clients’ activities to ensure that they are in compliance with any sections of the IRC that may apply to them or any transactions into which they may have entered. This is another function that requires detailed knowledge of the applicable statutes and would likely be difficult for an entry-level accountant to perform without quite a bit of supervision.


Tax accountants make everyone’s life much easier. Even if you do not personally employ one, your employer undoubtedly does internally, externally or more likely both. This allows the entity to reduce its tax burden, saving itself money and allowing it to dedicate a larger percentage of its funds to employee salaries and benefit plans.