What Is An IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent?

IRS Criminal InvestigatorIf you thought all IRS agents spent their days crunching numbers and processing tax returns, then you have probably never heard of an IRS Criminal Investigation special agent. While most people find the thought of tangling with a regular IRS agent intimidating enough, there are some who try to cheat the system. To protect the American public from those people, IRS Criminal Investigation special agents are federal law enforcement officers ready to step in and investigate financial crimes related to violations of the tax code.

What Does an IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent Do?

IRS Criminal Investigation special agents combine forensic accounting with more traditional law enforcement investigation methods to build legal cases against those who commit financial crimes. While they do devote resources to investigating tax evasion, their inquiries often lead them after more dangerous criminals involved in terrorism, drug trafficking and other illegal activities. By analyzing financial records for indications of money laundering, fraud and other financial wrongdoing, they follow the money trail to track down both criminals and their locations. Some of the most notorious mobsters, including Al Capone, were finally brought down by their tax crimes.

What Kind of Law Enforcement Training is Required?

As full-fledged federal law enforcement agents, IRS Criminal Investigation special agents are expected to carry guns and protect the public when the situation calls for it. To prepare for that, they must complete the National Criminal Investigation Training Academy’s Criminal Investigation Training Program. Studying with new members of other federal agencies like the Secret Service, the ATF and the Department of Homeland Security, they learn about criminal law, interviewing, investigation techniques, operation procedures, courtroom processes and firearms training. Once they have successfully completed that phase of training, they begin an intense four-month training program especially for the IRS Criminal Investigation Division. Here, they study tax law and assorted financial fraud schemes. Special agents also receive training on interviewing, electronic surveillance, forensics and undercover operations. To familiarize them with the court system, they also learn about court procedures, trial preparation and techniques for testifying effectively.

What Kind of Accounting Qualifications are Required?

According to IRS, Criminal Investigation special agents must at least hold a bachelor degree and have earned at least 15 credit hours in accounting and nine credit hours in a related subject like tax law, business law, finance or economics. Professional experience is also counted.

What Other Qualifications Are Necessary?

All IRS Criminal Investigation special agents must be American citizens and have a valid driver’s license. Because the nature of the job includes the possibility for hazardous situations, all special agents must be in superb physical condition. Generally, they must be adults under the age of 37, although exceptions may be made for veterans and federal agents already working for other agencies. To ensure the IRS Criminal Investigation Division is able to maintain an appropriate distribution of manpower, special agents must also be willing to relocate anywhere within the United States.

Related Resource: Forensic Accounting

IRS Criminal Investigation special agents are armed with more than just calculators. As federal law enforcement agents, they carry firearms. Utilizing both their forensic accounting skills and traditional law enforcement investigation techniques, they follow financial trails to unmask criminals and build legal cases against them. For people who enjoy working with numbers, but thought an accounting career would be boring, the idea of becoming an IRS Criminal Investigation special agent presents an intriguing challenge.