Welcome to the when-do-the-blackouts-start edition of Accounting Career Emergencies. In today’s edition, an IRS revenue agent is thinking about the future and wonders if there is anything to look forward to after a stretch inside the House of Shulman. Will he be greeted with contempt or disdain by potential employers outside of the Treasury Department?
Trapped in your job? Not sure if you can bottle up your rage during your upcoming compensation discussion? Need ideas for your next team building event? Email us at [email protected] and we’ll come up with something to bring everyone closer together.
Back to the Shulman Soldier:
Dear Career Advice Brain Trust,
I am currently a freshly minted IRS revenue agent in the Northeast right out of school. I’m the guy that audits the tax returns of small business and the self-employed (Schedule C’s and 1120’s). I’ve been at the job for about 10 months, and lately I’ve been starting to wonder: if this whole IRS thing doesn’t pan out, what are my options? Do public accounting firms of any size see any value in the experience gained here? From what I’ve experienced, employment at the IRS is a one-way street, either attracting grads with the ink still wet from their degree, or mid-career public accountants who value personal and family time more than money. Since I’m a young grad with no family to speak of, I feel like a lot of the non-monetary benefits are lost on me.
This job has its pros and cons. It’s probably one of the safest jobs in the country for anyone with an accounting degree, and it’s borderline illegal to work more than 40 hours per week because we’re unionized. Supposedly once you’re in for a few years, you can do “anything you want” within the organization, but I find that hard to believe because due to our reduced FY 2012 budget, we’re the last class to be hired for a while, so who is going to keep doing my job when everyone goes to do “anything they want?” Also, after 3-4 years, the salaries plateau big time, and we definitely make less than our public accounting counterparts throughout our careers. Furthermore, it literally takes an act of Congress to get anything substantial changed.
So my bottom line question to you (and the readers) is this: if I wanted to jump ship and go somewhere that my title carries a little less universal hatred, as well as advance my career prospects, what could I expect for opportunities, particularly in the public accounting sector?
Dear Agent Curious,
I’m happy to say that you’re first IRS agent to come to us for advice. Whether that means you value what we have to say or you’re simply desperate isn’t clear but regardless, thanks for reaching out.
Now then. Your problem. Personally, I feel as though the stigma associated with working for the IRS is a little overblown. Just because some of your colleagues chase down loose change and politicians call you names, that doesn’t mean you don’t have skills that aren’t valuable for private employers. The knowledge you are curating about small businesses and their compliance issues are extremely valuable and many CPA firms would gladly talk to you about your experience and how it will work for them and their clients.
Furthermore, with your inside knowledge about the Service and how is picks and chooses returns for audit, you’ll be able to better serve your clients by saying, “I assure you this will result in a Young Buck-esque raid of your business.” This knowledge of the inner workings might even be more valuable than what you actually learn on the job.
Right now, your best opportunities would be with public accounting firms that specialize in tax compliance for small businesses. Just like any other job, if you are able to jump around inside the Service and see various types of returns (partnerships, larger businesses), your skill set will be even more valuable. A few more years doing Doug Shulman’s dirty work could pay big dividends down the road.
Any former/current IRS agents out there with insight? Drop your knowledge in the comments.