International tax professionals play a vital role in global business, helping companies navigate the complex tax policies that regulate businesses. This specialized field offers unique career opportunities with competitive salaries. PayScale reports that international tax managers earn an annual average salary of $114,287.
This page offers an overview of international tax programs, including guiding principles, common courses, and career paths. You'll also find information on professional organizations for international tax specialists, and answers to frequently asked questions.
What Is an International Tax Concentration?
An international tax concentration focuses on the financial regulations that dictate companies' international operations. International taxation breaks down broadly into "inbound" and "outbound" taxation. Inbound taxation refers to the operations of foreign companies within the United States, while outbound taxation refers to the operations of domestic companies abroad.
While related to accounting, international taxation stresses a different body of knowledge. A general accounting degree focuses on methods of financial record management and analysis, with a strong emphasis on tax regulations. An international tax program takes a more specialized approach, focusing specifically on international tax regulations that affect businesses operating internationally.
Concentrations in international taxation are offered almost exclusively at the master's level. Some doctoral programs in international taxation exist, but these are typically offered by universities outside of the United States.
The international tax concentration is available primarily at the master's level. These programs typically focus on corporate and federal tax regulations, along with specialized courses in international taxation. They feature a stronger emphasis on tax policy and international business regulations than a general accounting program.
Most schools offer the international tax degree as a master of law with a concentration in international taxation, though some may offer a master of science in taxation.
Earning an international taxation degree offers many benefits for tax professionals, such as increased pay and expanded job opportunities. This list outlines five notable benefits of completing an international tax program.
Increased Job Opportunities
Earning an advanced tax degree presents graduates with a variety of job opportunities. Graduates can also pursue job opportunities outside the United States, further increasing their career prospects.
Leadership and Management Opportunities
A master's degree or certificate builds advanced knowledge and skills that prepare graduates for highly specialized career paths, including many management and leadership roles.
Along with increased responsibilities and leadership roles, advanced tax management careers often come with increases in pay.
The nature of the international tax profession can lead to career opportunities both inside and outside of the United States.
Professional Networking Opportunities
Pursuing a degree in international taxation puts students in the company of other serious tax professionals, and these programs offer significant networking opportunities.
When Is an International Tax Concentration Better Than a General Accounting Degree?
An international tax concentration provides some notable advantages over a general accounting or tax degree. Compared to other accounting majors, International tax graduates are generally more prepared to advise organizations on matters of international tax policy and business regulations. This knowledge prepares them for management roles with global businesses.
When Might a General Accounting Degree Be Better Than an International Tax Concentration?
As a highly specialized concentration, international taxation sets graduates up for a very specific career path. While this level of specialization can lead to increased career opportunities, they occur almost uniformly within the realm of international tax management, meaning graduates may have difficulty entering other fields. Students who desire more flexibility in their career may opt for a less specialized degree.
What About Other Concentrations?
An international tax concentration prepares graduates for a unique selection of career paths, but it's just one of many available accounting concentrations. Explore other specialized accounting concentrations to learn more about the variety of career paths available in this diverse field.
Courses to Expect With an International Tax Concentration
International taxation programs typically focus on broad taxation principles and practices, along with specialized courses covering international tax regulations. Students may also choose from elective courses that explore taxation practices for specific global regions.
The five courses below represent a common selection of topics covered in international taxation programs. While specific course titles may vary, general course content should remain the same.
Tax Aspects of International Business
Most programs feature a course that broadly introduces the major principles of international business and taxation, including key concepts of inbound and outbound taxation. This course may also introduce topics such as fiscal jurisdiction, foreign tax credits, and anti-abuse measures aimed at tax haven operations.
Inbound International Taxation
Inbound taxation refers to the taxation of foreign persons and organizations operating in the United States. All programs introduce the major principles of inbound taxation, including residence and entity classification, sales of imported goods, source of income rules, U.S. withholding tax rules, and pre-immigration tax planning.
Outbound International Taxation
Outbound taxation refers to the taxation of domestically based entities' foreign investments, such as companies operating abroad. Outbound taxation courses typically cover topics such as foreign tax credits, controlled foreign corporations, allocations of deductions, foreign currency transactions, and passive foreign investment companies.
International Transactions in Europe
This course offers an overview of European Union tax regulations in relation to U.S. business interests. Common course topics include European tax law; E.U. taxation directives; and cross-border fact patterns such as acquisitions, reorganizations, and financing structures.
International Transactions in South America
Many South American countries impose tax treaties and significant taxes along with standard income taxes, creating additional challenges for international businesses. This course familiarizes students with the structure of U.S. investments in South America, covering topics such as sales and services operations and the repatriation of funds.
Careers for International Tax Degree Graduates
International tax graduates can pursue a wide assortment of careers in accounting and finance, with many opportunities to progress to mid- and upper-level management positions. Common positions for international tax graduates include tax consultant, tax manager, accounting manager, and international tax manager. Positions in this field generally center on ensuring compliance with relevant national and international tax regulations.
Salaries can vary widely depending on experience and education level, with upper-level tax managers commonly earning six-figure salaries. Jobs such as senior tax manager and senior international tax manager come with extensive leadership and management responsibilities, and candidates typically benefit from advanced education such as a master's in international tax or tax management. International tax professionals may also pursue related careers such as compliance officer or internal auditor.
Senior Tax Manager
Senior tax managers ensure corporate compliance with relevant tax regulations, developing and implementing organizations' internal tax policies. They often assume responsibility for performing internal audits, forecasting taxes, coordinating foreign tax filings, and researching new tax laws. They typically supervise lower-level tax managers.
These high-level managers oversee an organization's international tax and accounting needs, including ongoing planning, auditing, budgeting, internal assessments, and tax reports. They regularly communicate with different departments to ensure an organization's overall compliance with tax regulations and consistent internal policy.
Whereas managers typically work with one company, tax consultants may work with an assortment of organizations and individuals to help with tax-related issues. International tax majors may consult with clients to help ensure compliance with appropriate national and international tax standards.
Accounting managers develop and implement systems for collecting, analyzing, and reporting financial information. They may prepare annual budgets, evaluate financial data, and enforce company tax policy. International tax majors may work with foreign companies or U.S companies' international divisions.
Performing lower-level work similar to tax managers, compliance officers ensure organizations comply with various municipal, state, federal, and international regulations. They may oversee internal reviews and audits to ensure compliance with international tax regulations, direct investigations into compliance issues, and assess operational risks.
Selecting an Accounting Program With an International Tax Concentration
An international tax degree conveys highly specialized skills, and students should research programs carefully before committing to a school. This list outlines key considerations for students evaluating international taxation programs.
In a specialized field like international tax, it's particularly important for students to ensure that a program offers a strong reputation for providing adequate professional preparation.
Online Course Offerings
Fully online international taxation programs are rare. However, many schools offer online course options, enabling students to complete at least a portion of their courses remotely.
Students should ensure that a school holds regional accreditation from one of the six major regional accreditation agencies. A school that lacks proper accreditation may offer inadequate professional preparation and confer credits that won't transfer to other institutions.
Cost ranks as a top concern for most students, and tuition expenses among international tax programs can vary widely. Always research a school's total tuition costs along with its financial aid options.
Programs based in major cities may offer greater career opportunities after graduation, particularly global and financial hubs such as New York City.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I study international tax?
Learners can study international tax by pursuing a master's degree or certificate in international taxation.
How do you learn international taxation?
An international tax program familiarizes students with the major tax principles that regulate international business, including outbound and inbound transactions.
What is international tax law?
International tax law regulates the way companies operate internationally, primarily focusing on how foreign companies operate in the U.S. and how U.S. companies operate abroad.
Can you get an international tax degree online?
Several schools offer online concentrations or certificates in international taxation. Some programs may also offer hybrid options that combine on-campus and online courses.
Professional Organizations and Resources
Like many financial professionals, international tax specialists rely on professional organizations to network, share information, and develop professionally. These may organizations offer continuing education opportunities, career resources, and trade publications. This list highlights four popular professional organizations for international tax specialists.
Association of International Tax Consultants Founded in 2001, AITC brings together tax consultants from around the world. Members serve a global client base, advising on tax and legal matters related to international business.
National Association of Tax Professionals A major organization for U.S. tax professionals, NATP hosts continuing education opportunities, member events and conferences, and a comprehensive tax knowledge center. The organization also publishes weekly and monthly newsletters along with the TAXPRO trade journal.
National Society of Tax Professionals Offering education, tax research services, trade publications, and job resources, NSTP serves tax professionals around the United States. Members can attend special topic seminars and access a helpline for answers to specialized tax questions.
Association of Accountants and Financial Professionals in Business Known as IMA, this organization serves more than 125,000 finance and accounting professionals, offering networking and professional development opportunities, leadership training, and award-winning trade publications. IMA also provides several professional certifications, including certified management accountant.