What does a Revenue Officer do?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A revenue officer works for a government agency that collects taxes and other revenue on behalf of the government. The term is commonly used in reference to agents of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in the United States, but most tax agencies have similar employees. They are like the ground troops of the government agencies they work for, working to enforce the tax code and to collect on delinquent accounts.

It is important to fill out tax forms correctly and honestly to avoid being audited by a revenue officer.
It is important to fill out tax forms correctly and honestly to avoid being audited by a revenue officer.

The duties of a revenue officer can vary, depending on where he or she works. Officers may inspect accounts and tax returns, looking for signs of noncompliance and concern. They also look for issues such as late payments or delinquent accounts. Usually, the goal is to act quickly, before an account becomes any more delinquent, as the ability to recover funds can recline dramatically once an account starts to fall into arrears.

Revenue officers are sometimes accompanied by law enforcement officials since business owners and individuals can become threatening when they are being audited.
Revenue officers are sometimes accompanied by law enforcement officials since business owners and individuals can become threatening when they are being audited.

Many spend time in the field, meeting directly with taxpayers in addition to conducting third party interviews. When accounts are delinquent, they try to collect on them by arranging a payment plan or taking payment in full. They also have the power to seize assets and funds to satisfy account delinquencies, and they can place liens and holds on assets to ensure that people with delinquencies cannot sell property or other assets before the government has a chance to collect its share.

Working as a revenue officer can be challenging. Most citizens are not thrilled to see people in this profession, especially if they are in arrears or struggling to make payments to the government, and they can sometimes be very hostile. Officers are not armed, and they may seek the support and assistance of police if they feel that they are entering dangerous situations. They must also endure verbal abuse from angry taxpayers, and they have to be skilled communicators and interviewers so that they can get to the bottom of a taxpayer's issues.

To get a job in this field, people can file an application at the government agency they are interested in. Many revenue officers have accounting experience, although this may not always be required. Candidates will typically need to take a civil service exam and pass a background test. Background tests are used to determine whether or not individuals are trustworthy enough to handle government funds, and to find out if candidates have conflicts of interest or sources of financial stress that could make them vulnerable to bribery.

Revenue officers can be particularly vulnerable to bribery.
Revenue officers can be particularly vulnerable to bribery.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


I've been a Revenue Officer for two years. It is not a miserable job. In fact, there are a lot of rewarding moments. I work for the Minnesota Dept. of Revenue.

Many of the calls that I take are from people who receive letters that they owe on their taxes. These people are aware that they owe and most just want to set up payment agreements because they cannot pay in full. When I leave the office, the job stays at the office. It does not affect my personal life one bit. There are the times when you get an escalated call, but that is very rare. People are willing to work with us.


I have had many jobs through the years, I am sure more than most people, including owning my own small business. Most jobs I have done were not 'fun.' Actually, I cannot think of any that were, although some were better than others. Being an RO for several years now, I can say it is the best job I have ever had. It has its challenges and stress, like most other jobs that are serious enough to support a family with, but overall, is not bad.

I do not get yelled at, most people are nervous at first but are almost always relieved when the case is completed because it is resolved one way or another and is no longer hanging over their head. I am thanked all the time by taxpayers at the resolution of their cases.

People who hide assets or income or trying to cheat are the ones who hate the IRS the most, just like you would imagine a criminal hates the cops.

I am happy to see on this blog that most of the posts show the common sense that if everyone paid what they owe, then we would all pay less, in theory, and that most people will never meet an RO if they pay their taxes and are otherwise responsible adults with their taxes, i.e., filing and paying.

Remember, congress makes the laws (big picture), the IRS just administers them. If you want to pay less in taxes, demand fewer services from the government because everything has to be paid for and government is the least cost effective way to do almost everything.


Revenue officers are one of the most important employees in the US government when it comes to collecting unpaid, seriously delinquent taxes. They should be seen as heroes to the average American who pays their taxes yet has to subsidize the cost of others who do not pay their fair share.

All they do is level the playing field so you don't have to pay for someone else's free lunch while they're off driving a luxury automobile instead. Hope this clarifies it.


@emtbasic - You're right about them not bothering the average guy. You have to be pretty far behind before you would run into one of these guys. You'd get letters, phone calls, and run-of-the mill collection attempts before anyone like this came into your life.

I had an issue with a small amount of overdue taxes a few years ago, and I was completely surprised to find the IRS fairly easy to deal with in getting it resolved. As long as you keep in contact with them and have the intention of paying, they aren't so bad in a lot of cases.


Another thing to think about is that even though these people may not be on anyone's Christmas card list, they save the rest of us money every year. There are billions and billions of uncollected tax dollars out there, and these are the guys who go and find them.

One thing about the government, they are going to get their money from somewhere. I would rather they get it from the people who owe them in the first place, rather than raising taxes on the rest of us who already paid what we owe.

Besides, it's not like the average citizen has to worry about an IRS revenue officer suddenly appearing at their door. They only go after people who owe money and didn't pay.


@Veruca10 - I agree with you, but at the same time it would probably be a pretty steady job, and you would obviously never run out of work.

At least in the United States, you would likely either work for your state revenue department or the IRS. Either way you have good pay, benefits, and a pretty solid pension. For that, I would put up with a few people yelling at me from time to time, especially in this economy.


Talk about a miserable job! I don't know why anyone would do this for a living. Pretty much everyone you encounter over the course of your entire career does not like you. And I would bet that they have a lot of issues at home with relationships and things, too. Stressful jobs always do. I'm sure it's a decent job, but it just does not sound like much fun.

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