While the working world is home to professions that span both private and public industry, the career path of a tax agent is purely governmental. Tax agents are solely employed by one of three areas of the government -- the federal, state or local level. But not all government categories pay the same. Tax agents employed in different levels of the government receive salaries that vary significantly, and agent income is also impacted by location within the country.
The nation's tax agents numbered approximately 68,530 as of May 2010, earning median countrywide salaries of $49,360 at the time of the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Employment and Wages report. The BLS noted the salary range for tax agents included $29,540 in earnings at the 10th percentile and $92,250 at the 90th percentile.
Although tax agents are primarily employed by the government, their choice of branch and location can make an immense impact on their salaries. The federal executive branch topped the BLS list of both the highest-paying branch for tax agent salaries, with annual mean wages of $63,480, and the largest employer of tax agents. State government took second place in both categories, with salaries for the profession at just over the median at $49,380. Local government employed the least tax agents and also paid significantly below the norm, with wages of $43,440.
Tax agents in Connecticut earned the highest salaries in the country at the time of the BLS study, with annual mean wages of $74,460. Employers in New Jersey paid the second highest salaries, at $71,830, followed by those in Alaska, at $70,390. Illinois' tax agents were the fourth highest paid, receiving $68,810, while agents in North Dakota took fifth place, earning an above-average $67,040. The lowest-paid tax agents were in Puerto Rico, earning $23,710 annually, followed by those in West Virginia, taking home $37,550. Also on the low end of the scale were tax agents in Missouri, with wages of $43,530, tax agents in Arkansas, who earned $43,620 in annual mean wages, as well as Mainers, receiving $43,530.
States with the largest contingents of tax agents didn't always pay the highest salaries or, in some cases, salaries even with the national median. California was home to the biggest number of tax agents and paid a higher than average $61,740, as did second largest per-capita state New York, paying $62,430. Although Pennsylvania was home to the third biggest group of tax agents, it paid below-average salaries of $47,170. Florida, with the fourth-largest number of tax agents, paid even lower, with wages of $45,520. Texas, in fifth place, paid a higher-than-average $53,030.
Prospective tax agents should expect a fairly steady increase in employment in their field. The BLS reports a projected rise of 13 percent between 2008 and 2018, adding 9,500 jobs countrywide. The BLS considers this growth average and attributes the request for more tax agents to the government's heightened enforcement of tax policy as well as the crackdown on tax offenders. A large portion of the tax worker industry is also expected to retire within the BLS time period, creating vacancies.