Tax Advisor Careers: Salary and Job Facts

Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue in tax advising. Read on to learn more about career options along with salary and licensure information. Schools offering Accounting - Taxation degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What is a Tax Advisor?

Tax advisors work for both individuals and companies, helping them sort through often-confusing tax codes and advising them on strategies to manage their tax exposure. They make sure tax documents are filed correctly and payments are made to the government accordingly. They make suggestions on how to improve situations, and manage finances. They may look into investments, and opportunities for tax credits and deductions. The following chart gives you an overview of what you need to know about entering this field.

Personal Financial Advisor Certified Public Accountant Tax Attorney
Degree Required Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree Doctoral or professional degree
Licensure/Certification Required Licensure/certifications required Licensure required Licensure required
Job Outlook (2014-2024) 30%* for personal financial advisors 11%* for all accountants and auditors 6%* for all lawyers
Median Salary (2015) $89,160* for personal financial advisors $67,190* for all accountants and auditors $115,820* for all lawyers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What Do Tax Advisors Do?

Tax advisors review information about financial plans and advise clients or companies about the tax ramifications of those plans. You may help revise business plans to lessen or limit tax exposure and you could prepare partial or entire tax returns. Depending on your credentials, you may be present at client audits to advise them and possibly represent them before the IRS.

Tax advisors work in offices, whether for themselves or for others. There may be some travel involved to meet with clients or review paperwork. Client schedules, tax filing deadlines and involvement in court cases may require overtime.

What Qualifications Do I Need?

Most tax advisors have a bachelor's degree in finance or accounting. You will need to take continuing professional education credits (CPEs) to keep up-to-date on changes in the tax codes.

If you choose to seek credentialing or certification, you will need to meet additional qualifications. Generally, tax advisors who are credentialed or certified fall into one of the following professional categories:

Certified Financial Planner (CFP)

This requires a bachelor's degree related to finance or accounting, passing the CFP exam, gaining experience and completing yearly CPEs. CFPs help people in all areas of financial planning, but can specialize in tax planning.

Certified Public Accountant or Personal Financial Specialist (CPA/PFS)

In most states, you will need to receive an accounting degree, pass the CPA exam and work in the field for a set number of years. After completing the CPA requirements, you can apply for the PFS portion, which requires another exam, along with experience and CPEs.

Enrolled Agent (EA)

To get licensed to appear before the IRS on behalf of clients and advise clients in all areas of taxes, you will need to pass a background check, either work for the IRS for five years or pass an exam and complete significant CPEs.

Tax Attorney

This requires an undergraduate degree, three years of law school and passage of the bar exam. Depending upon how you structure your undergraduate and law school coursework, you could also take an exam and qualify to be a CPA.

Will I Need A License?

While there is no specific licensing requirement, the Internal Revenue Service has guidelines found in its Circular 230, which cover best practices for tax advisors (www.irs.gov). To be in compliance, you need to:

  • Clearly communicate with your client about any and all expectations.
  • Maintain current knowledge of the tax codes.
  • Give accurate and concise information.
  • Make sure the client fully understands the tax impacts of their decisions.
  • Behave in an ethical manner.

What Do Tax Advisors Earn?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the field of personal financial advising, of which tax advising is a part, was expected to grow much faster than average over the ten-year period between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). Accounting, auditing and law were expected to grow as faster than average. While it is difficult to give an exact salary figure for tax advisors, given the differing qualifying backgrounds, in 2015, the median salary for personal financial advisers was $89,160, while accountants and auditors made $67,190, and lawyers made $115,820.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Related careers include budget analysts, financial analysts and judges and hearing officers. Budget analysts organize the finances and records of institutions. Financial analysts give investment guidance. Judges and hearing officers oversee legal hearings to solve disputes and make binding decisions. Budget and financial analysts need a bachelor's degree. Judges and hearing officers must obtain a doctorate.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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