What Qualifications Does a Tax Accountant Need?

An image accompanying article on tax accountant education

Key Takeaways:

  • Tax accountants typically need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in accounting with a specialization or concentration in tax.
  • Professional certifications like the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) designation are essential for tax accountants in various roles.
  • Skills such as math aptitude, attention to detail, problem-solving, and communication are crucial for successful tax accountants.

While the qualifications of a tax accountant might vary from position to position, there are a number of standard requirements that a future professional in the field can fulfill in order to best prepare for a successful career.

From education to developing personal qualities to professional certifications, the right combination of skills and knowledge help to build the qualifications to become an accountant specializing in tax.

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Education Requirements

Most positions for a tax accountant will require a candidate to have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in accounting with a specialization or concentration in tax. An undergraduate degree with this specialization requires students to complete courses such as tax preparation, tax legislation, and ethical considerations of taxing. Other courses help to gain a solid well-rounded knowledge of the business field in general, often including courses in finance, management, and human resources.

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In many states and for many positions, a tax accountant will be required to complete a master’s degree. Graduate students pursuing this degree complete courses that include financial reporting, auditing, cost accounting, tax research, control of accounting, and federal income tax. Programs at the graduate level are also likely to incorporate classes that emphasize building management skills, such as financial management, management of accounting in multinational companies, and leadership techniques in financial operations.

Skills and Traits of a Tax Accountant

There are a number of skills that are helpful for anyone who is interested in pursuing a career in tax accounting to have. An interest in and aptitude for math is helpful, and paying close attention to detail, problem solving, analytical thinking, professional, written communication, and critical thinking are also skills that can be particularly useful. These skills are beneficial for preparing documents and reports, along with making recommendations and analyzing data.

Additionally, tax accountants often work with other accounting professionals as well as employees in other departments of a company. Many tax accountants work one-on-one with private clients, too. In each situation, having personal traits that include interpersonal communication, empathy, active listening capability, and the ability to explain and illustrate concepts to others are invaluable.

Professional Certifications

Professional certifications are an excellent way to qualify for positions in a field, and a future tax accountant will need to have the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) designation in all types of positions.

Additional professional certifications include the Certified Management Accountant, which is particularly helpful for pursuing careers in supervisory and executive level roles.

The CPA designation, in addition to an undergraduate or graduate degree in accounting with a specialization in taxes, builds the foundation for accountants to begin in a wide range of positions. These positions include everything from a corporate tax accountant who handles the year-round payroll, tax regulation, and other finance operations related to taxes of a large company to a tax accountant working with individuals preparing tax returns each year. Gaining the qualifications of a tax accountant opens up many rewarding doors in an in-demand profession.