Tax Accountant Jobs – Paperwork, Pressure and Rewards

When you think of tax accountant jobs, you probably think of positions within a public accounting firm working with clients to prepare tax returns.  Public accounting firms are the largest but not the only market for accountants looking for a tax related position.  Midsize and larger corporations are increasingly hiring tax accountants as a part of their Finance teams. 

Considering a career as a tax accountant?  Read on to find out more.

Paperwork and More Paperwork

As a tax accountant, your primary responsibility is preparing federal, state, and local tax returns.  Not just the returns themselves mind you, but all the supporting schedules and required documentation that goes with them.  Not just income tax returns either, although this is the bulk of the work.  You will potentially also prepare sales tax, property tax, and wage related tax returns and supporting schedules as well.

  • Tax accountants in public accounting firms work with dozens of clients to understand their tax liabilities and prepare all the related returns and paperwork.  You may find yourself sifting through unclear information looking for support for deductions or claims.  Many times you will need to question clients to get clarification on items in their general ledger or transactional journals.

  • Corporate tax accountants deal with nearly as much paperwork as those in public accounting.  Corporations large enough to require a tax department have multiple divisions and entities.  Tax accountants prepare returns and supporting schedules for each division or entity as required.  They also work with complex sales tax returns crossing multiple states and frequently prepare international tax documentation as well.

Accuracy and attention to detail are key requirements of tax accounting.  Even minor details can impact multiple schedules or returns.  Judgment is also required.  Tax law is subject to interpretation, and a good tax accountant knows how to interpret the law accurately but in a way that benefits their clients.

Pressure - Hours and Information

During tax season, typically January to April 15th, tax accountant jobs demand amazingly long work hours.  The push is on to complete returns during the season and before the deadline.  The pressure is highest in public accounting firms who serve multiple clients and charge by the billable hour.  A busy tax accountant may work 12 – 14 hour days seven days a week through March and early April.  It’s expected.

Time pressure is high for corporate tax accountants also.  They are subject to the same tax deadlines.  In addition, they work long hours at other times of the year.  Corporate tax accountants prepare for tax related audits and assist with them, often working long hours during the audit itself. They frequently prepare accruals during financial period close and assist with preparing the corporate annual report.

Long work hours are just the beginning.  Tax laws change frequently.  Tax accountants, both public and corporate, are expected to understand the current tax law and are often asked to determine the tax implications of a law change.  This expectation creates a kind of information pressure.

As a tax accountant, you can expect to spend hours learning about tax law changes and staying current.  

Positive Aspects of Tax Accountant Jobs

If you are interested in tax accountant jobs, don’t let the pressure discourage you.  There are several positive aspects of a tax accounting career.  Tax accountants provide a valuable and needed service.  Let’s look at some of the benefits of tax accounting.

  • Paperwork – While the volume of paperwork, especially during tax season, may be daunting some accountants enjoy creating neat and organized tax documents.  If you get a sense of accomplishment from compiling data and organizing it, tax accounting is for you!

  • Strategy – The best tax accountants analyze tax law and create strategies for minimizing the tax burden of the individuals and corporations they serve.  The analytical thought and intertwining complexities of applying tax law to unique situations can be fascinating and very rewarding.

  • Respect – Tax advisors are well respected partners in business.  Similar to a doctor or an attorney, their advice is sought out and highly valued.  Understanding and applying tax law is a specialized skill that sets you apart from other professionals. 

  • Variety – As a tax accountant you have a glimpse into a variety of businesses and personal situations.  In addition, the tax law changes frequently, requiring new applications and forms of documentation.  The new challenges make tax accounting far from boring.

So, we hope we've convinced you that tax accountant jobs are actually an exciting career path choice. Yes, it has downsides. But what job doesn't?