Tax Manager Career Overview

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Updated October 13, 2022

Tax managers provide important tax support to their clients. Learn what these accounting professionals do, their career outlook, and how to get into the tax management field.

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Tax managers are responsible for advising companies and clients on tax matters. One of their major functions is to accurately prepare and file tax documents. They help their clientele maximize their potential tax savings through available tax initiatives.

The career path offers a great deal of flexibility. Tax managers can work in various industries including tax consulting, corporate tax, and international tax. They may work remotely or in offices as full-time employees or self-employed professionals.

Like many accounting roles, tax managers are in demand. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 81,800 new accounting and auditing jobs from 2021- 2031, about as fast as average.

Find out more about what a tax manager does, including top skills and industries, and how to start this career.

Tax Management Responsibilities

Tax managers oversee their clients' tax planning, preparation, and filing. They build and maintain relationships with businesses and individuals to provide tax support or services. These professionals may also review company budgets and financial documents to provide tax advice.

  • Tax Preparation: Tax managers prepare required tax filings for their clients in compliance with applicable IRS guidelines.
  • Advising Clients: These professionals guide their clients on the possible tax implications of different business or financial decisions.
  • Audit Support: Another task is managing the tax audits of the company or client. Tax managers coordinate between the tax agency and their clients to gather all required documentation.
  • Supervising Staff: Tax managers often have supervisory responsibilities over more junior tax employees. They must oversee others' work and provide ongoing support and mentorship.
  • Document Review: Tax professionals review many documents, such as letters or tax forms, created by other team members.

Read about other tax professions:

Key Hard Skills for Tax Managers

  • Technology Skills: Tax managers must know common accounting software tools such as QuickBooks.
  • Tax Knowledge: Tax managers must be knowledgeable about relevant tax regulations and deadlines.
  • Tax Research: Even with strong knowledge of tax code, tax managers need to be skilled at researching tax issues. This is because tax regulations change frequently and vary significantly across regions.
  • Accounting Standards: Tax managers should thoroughly understand public accounting standards and best practices.

Key Soft Skills for Tax Managers

  • Critical Thinking: Tax managers use critical thinking skills to analyze problems and find effective solutions. They may have to analyze different tax initiatives or options to find the best solution for the company or client.
  • Relationship-building: Building and maintaining strong relationships with clients is an important part of a tax manager's role.
  • Attention to Detail: Tax managers often review documents including tax forms and financial records. They should have a keen eye for detail and be able to notice any errors in the numbers.
  • Communication Skills: Tax managers need to be able to communicate clearly with clients and collaborators. They should have strong written and verbal communication skills.

Tax Manager Areas of Expertise

Tax managers can specialize in different industries or tax management areas to meet the needs of different clients. For example, a company that does business in several different countries may hire a tax manager specializing in international tax management.

International Tax Manager

International tax managers are responsible for advising clients or corporations on tax issues in different countries. International tax managers must stay up to date on international tax regulations and filing requirements.

They may guide organizations on the tax implications of using international labor or conducting business in different countries. They also frequently help clients understand the tax implications of importing or exporting goods internationally.

Common Job Titles

  • International Tax Manager
  • International Tax Planning Manager
  • International Income Tax Manager
  • Manager, International Tax
  • Senior International Tax Manager

Corporate Tax Manager

Corporations often have different tax needs and regulations. So, it makes sense for them to hire or work with a tax manager specializing in corporate tax.

Corporate tax managers prepare federal and state tax returns for corporations. They also participate in tax planning and other relevant forms of budget or financial planning.

Tax managers specializing in corporate law may work in-house at corporations or for one of the major accounting firms. They often have supervisory responsibilities over a team of tax associates or junior tax managers.

Common Job Titles

  • Corporate Tax Manager
  • Tax Manager
  • Business Tax Manager
  • Senior Corporate Tax Manager
  • International Corporate Tax Manager
  • Seasonal Corporate Tax Manager

Property Tax Manager

Property tax managers are responsible for advising clients on property tax costs and requirements. Property tax managers need a thorough understanding of the federal, state, and local tax codes that apply in their area.

Some common duties for property tax managers include managing property tax deadlines and payment requirements. They may also respond to tax notices sent by government agencies. Many property tax managers work with investors or other clients to advise them on the tax implications of real estate transactions.

Common Job Titles

Sustainability Tax Manager

One of the newest tax management specialties is sustainability and climate initiatives. Many companies are looking to help the planet and reduce emissions. The government often provides tax incentives or benefits for companies that invest in renewable energy or climate-friendly efforts.

Tax managers within this specialty help companies take advantage of the applicable tax credits. They typically work in large accounting and consulting firms like Deloitte.

Common Job Titles

  • Tax Manager — Sustainability, Climate & Equity
  • Senior Tax Manager, Sustainability
  • Renewable Energy Tax Manager
  • Renewable Energy Tax Associate

How to Become a Tax Manager

The first step toward becoming a tax manager is getting a bachelor’s degree. Common majors include accounting, business administration, and finance. Many tax managers spend an additional 1-2 years earning a master’s degree in accounting.

Work experience can also help aspiring tax managers. Completing an accounting or tax-related internship during school can help students increase their chances of obtaining a job as a tax manager after graduation.

The last step is to take and pass the certified public accountant (CPA) exam. While not all tax manager roles require applicants to be CPAs, some industries require it. Tax manager roles may also list CPA certification as a preferred qualification.

Tax Manager Jobs Outlook and Salary

The BLS groups tax managers into the accountants and auditors category. Careers in this field have a projected 6% growth rate between 2021-2031, which is as fast as average.

The average salary for a tax manager is $100,403 as of August 2020, according to Payscale. As such, a tax manager career is an attractive career option for those with an interest in the accounting field. Income potential can vary based on location, specialty, experience, and education level.

Career Spotlight: Justin Watkins

Can you explain the differences between a tax manager or analyst and other high-level financial roles, such as tax accountant or tax attorney?

A tax manager's main role is to ensure that a business's tax strategy complies with local, state, and federal laws. Tax managers ensure that their clients are protected from audits by developing tax strategies, reviewing tax returns, and ensuring they're up to date with new tax legislation.

Tax attorneys, by contrast, generally do not specialize in preparing or reviewing tax returns filed on behalf of taxpayers. They generally represent taxpayers in legal proceedings before the federal, state, or local tax authorities.

Typical matters in which a tax attorney might represent a taxpayer would include tax disputes. An audit of the taxpayer's tax returns or criminal proceedings, including tax evasion or fraud. Tax attorneys may also consult with corporations or high-net-worth individuals or be employed as in-house counsel.

Tax attorneys may specialize in corporate tax, executive compensation, exempt organizations, estate, gifts, trusts, international tax planning, municipal finance, and tax litigation.

What education did you need to pursue this job?

It varies by state or organization. However, you typically must have a bachelor's degree in accounting or tax to pursue a career as a tax manager. Most firms require their tax managers to be credentialed with a CPA license in their practice state.

Many states require additional post-graduate accounting credits or a master's degree in accounting or tax to be eligible to practice with a CPA license. Some firms also allow their tax managers to practice with an IRS-enrolled agent license if they do not have a CPA license.

What was the career path that led you to your current position? What do you think helped you most on your journey?

I began my career in tax at a small public accounting firm that mainly focused on tax services. During that time, I gained exposure to many different areas of tax and accounting. It also allowed me to learn how to serve a variety of different types of clients and learn about the industries they do business in.

In addition, I also learned how to manage and develop a team of people and help them grow as tax professionals. What aided me throughout my journey was working in the field while I was still in school. Getting the theoretical perspective and field experience was essential to my growth and development. I was able to develop my technical skills and my soft skills that are essential to the role of a tax manager.

“Nearly every person or business in the United States must file a tax return annually. There will always be a need for someone with the skill set a tax manager can offer.”
—Justin Watkins, Senior Tax Analyst

What did a typical day as a tax manager look like for you? How would you describe the management aspect of connecting your team with taxpayers?

A typical day would include several different tasks. Light preparation of tax returns, reviewing tax returns, taking meetings and calls with clients, taking internal meetings to discuss tracking the progress of the tax returns that needed to be filed, assigning work to interns and staff members, and handling administrative responsibilities.

Taxpayers often have various filing requirements with different deadlines throughout the year. As a result, I would assign tasks and projects to different team members to assist me in meeting the taxpayer's filing and other deadlines.

Additionally, I did encourage certain team members to communicate with the client if needed. I felt that approach would connect the staff member to the client, offer them a development opportunity, and allow them to take ownership of the engagement. I also tried to connect my team to the taxpayers by explaining the taxpayer's situation in depth so that the technical issues would be more easily understood.

What are some of the most rewarding aspects of working in tax management? Some of the most challenging aspects?

Some of the most rewarding aspects include technical expertise, adding value to clients by helping them save and grow their business, developing staff personnel, and growing the client list you serve. The most challenging aspects include work-life balance, managing client expectations, and constantly keeping up with the tax regulation changes.

What do you think is the most important skill a tax manager needs to succeed?

Critical thinking skills. Public accounting is a very challenging, fast-paced industry that constantly causes you to resolve client issues. Critical thinking skills are needed to help tax managers solve new challenges when they constantly arise.

All clients are different and have different needs. Many of them turn to their tax accountant for advice on business decisions they are considering that go beyond the scope of preparing and filing a tax return. Tax accountants' role in recent years has transformed into a business consulting role in addition to the tax compliance preparers provided.

What advice would you give to students considering your career?

It is an excellent career that will challenge you every day and allow you to grow into a valuable asset that any business in any industry can benefit from. Additionally, nearly every person or business in the United States must file a tax return annually. There will always be a need for someone with the skill set a tax manager can offer. As a result, there is an opportunity for students considering the career path to enjoy a lucrative and rewarding career.

Portrait of Justin Watkins

Justin Watkins

Justin Watkins is a senior tax analyst with Taxfyle, a Miami-based tech company that created an application that connects individuals and business taxpayers to contracted CPAs and EAs to prepare their income tax returns.

Justin is involved as a technical resource to the business-to-consumer and business-to-business service lines. He has nearly a decade of public accounting experience serving small and middle-market business clients at both small and large public accounting firms.

Justin has experience in various industries and tax specialties, such as international tax, state and local tax, corporate tax, small businesses, and individual tax. During the pandemic, Justin consulted with clients to assist them with PPP & EIDL loans, PPP loan forgiveness applications, and advised individuals and businesses of the tax implications as a result of the ongoing changes in tax legislation.

Questions About the Tax Manager Job Description

What is the role of a tax manager?

Tax managers help clients navigate tax compliance issues. They help plan, prepare, and file taxes on behalf of companies or individuals. Tax managers may also supervise other tax associates.

What are fundamental areas of tax management?

The fundamental areas of tax management are corporate tax management, international tax management, and property tax management.

Where does a tax manager work?

Tax managers can work at consulting or accounting firms, corporations, government agencies, or as self-employed professionals.

What are the job responsibilities of a tax manager?

The responsibilities of a tax manager will vary based on their specialty. However, they will typically always include applying knowledge of tax codes to assist with tax planning and decision-making.

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