Tax pros in demand
Tax accountants are highly sought after. They most commonly work for accounting firms and corporations.
Tax pros at public accounting firms often work with multiple clients over the course of the day. Unlike auditing, another accounting career path, tax accountants can take sides for their clients.
“You are their advocate,” Edwards says. “You’re actually saying ‘We’re going to pick the best choice for you within the bounds of the tax law and we’re going to support it and defend it.’”
On the corporate side, tax pros focus on a single business, mastering the tax issues that company and its industry faces. The scope of their responsibilities often depends on the size of the company’s tax department.
In a big multinational, individual tax accountants might focus on specific areas, such as state and local sales and use taxes, while working as part of a bigger tax team. In smaller companies, a handful of people, or even a single individual, might handle all state and federal taxes.
Tax accountants have plenty of career opportunities. Because they understand taxes, which factor in every business decision a company makes, they’re well positioned to advance senior ranks in a company, becoming CFO or leading mergers and acquisitions efforts, for example.
“Regardless of what you want to do, having some understanding and appreciation for tax is going to make you better for it,” Edwards says.
How do you know if tax is right for you?
Analyzing tax questions requires the ability to do research, understand how the law applies, and analyze the financial effects. Tax professionals need to know the client’s business and industry, so they understand how tax rules apply in that setting.
“Doing a tax return is like answering a research question — it’s a satisfying exercise for people who like to solve puzzles,” she says. “The work is intellectually challenging and stimulating.”
Solving a tax problem, Edwards says, provides the same kind of satisfaction that many people get from solving a tricky crossword puzzle or sudoku board. Tax professionals figure out how to apply the rules to benefit the client, within the bounds of the law.
Strong written and verbal communication skills are also important. “By definition you are working with people,” Edwards says. Tax pros collaborate other accountants, usually as part of a team, and regularly communicate with people throughout the company they’re working with.
Taking the next step
It takes serious skills and know-how to become a tax professional. Fortunately, you can get the necessary education and credentials to start a tax career in as little as one year through a Master of Accounting degree (MAC) program.
UNC’s MAC can be earned through a traditional, on-campus program or a flexible, online program that allows students to learn on their schedule. Many online MAC graduates stay with their current employer, but shift direction or shoot up the career ladder faster because of their new finance, accounting, and tax knowledge.
Regardless of the format you choose, you’ll earn the same top-ranked degree, join the powerful UNC alumni network, and access career services to tune-up your résumé, sharpen your interview skills, and put you in front of potential employers.
How to make smarter decisions. Interested in learning more about how taking accounting classes will make improve your business savvy and fiscal intelligence? Download this free learning guide about some of the other financial insights you’ll receive as you earn a MAC degree.