Sales tax is a niche area of accounting and finance, but that doesn’t mean career options are limited! The sales tax industry offers a whole realm of possibilities!
Any type of organization that makes sales must consider the sales tax implications – from the corporate world to nonprofit to government and beyond. Sales tax pros are needed to help guide all types of organizations through tricky tax laws and keep them compliant.
We’ve gathered a list of career avenues available to those with sales tax expertise. With such varied options, you can find something that truly ignites you!
An indirect tax manager wears many hats and plays a critical role in the corporate tax department and the company as a whole. You have the opportunity to mentor and lead a team and shape the compliance strategy for the company.
Day-to-day work will vary as you guide your team through new product taxability, automation issues, and more. Each day will bring something new as you manage compliance and ultimately audits for many different states.
As a leader in the tax department, you’ll be involved in company expansion/growth projects and initiatives such as mergers and acquisitions. These projects give you an opportunity to shine as the technical leader for tax systems and planning. You will be seen as the go-to person that can suggest things like tax credits and incentives to save the company money.
Consultants have the expertise to guide companies through complex sales tax situations and evaluate risk levels. If the nitty gritty of tax law doesn’t faze you and strategy development excites you, sales tax consulting may be a good fit.
Consultants work with clients across the tax lifecycle – from compliance to audits to voluntary disclosures. Every project comes with its own set of industry issues and compliance obstacles and will contribute to your in-depth tax education. No day may look the same as a consultant!
You may even find a sub-niche within sales tax consulting to specialize in such as technology implementation service or an industry specialty such as manufacturing. Specialization allows you to consider part-time consulting or starting your own practice.
State and local tax (SALT) is perhaps a lesser known area of law in which to specialize. Some law firms have SALT attorneys or tax groups that advise companies on complex multistate tax issues.
SALT attorneys help their clients limit state and local tax exposure, maintain compliance, reduce audit issues, and develop litigation strategies. Attorneys work with predominantly large companies across a variety of industries from retail to manufacturing to financial services.
Litigation can be an exciting aspect of the job. SALT attorneys craft legal arguments to clarify tax laws on behalf of a client – which can ultimately impact legal precedent and make things more straightforward for future taxpayers.
If you have an interest in the intersection of politics and tax, public policy work could be a good landing place. Broadly, public policy professionals help shape how states address tax policy in a way that is equitable for all types of businesses.
Public policy work requires a variety of skill sets and gives professionals the opportunity to play to their strengths or follow a passion. You could be involved in policy research, education of public officials, advocacy, or lobbying on behalf of taxpayers.
You could work for a national tax policy organization like the Council on State Taxation or the Tax Foundation or a state-focused advocacy organization like the Taxpayers’ Federation of Illinois.
Most sales tax pros have experience working with state Departments of Revenue and know how critical it is for states to supply clear information and guidance to taxpayers.
States need professionals with tax experience to fill a variety of roles to ease the worries and confusion of hundreds of taxpayers a year. Some state employees work directly with taxpayers to interpret their questions and then advise and instruct them based on tax laws, rules, and regulations. Others work in audit and revenue collection, data analysis, audit process efficiency, or business processes across the Department.
More senior opportunities for state employment could include the actual writing of tax law regulations and rules and setting tax policy. Your work could set an important precedent for fair and efficient tax administration in your state.
Organizations like the Mulitstate Tax Commission or Streamlined Sales Tax Governing Board support similar missions but work on a multistate level to reduce complexities in state sales tax systems for multi-state businesses. These organizations need savvy sales tax pros to guide their efforts in staff roles and as part of their governing committees.
Auditors are state employees, of course, but it’s a position worth highlighting. Several Sales Tax Institute faculty members and alums got their start in the field as sales tax auditors. It’s a unique job that can put you on a fast-track to understanding sales tax laws and how they apply to real-life scenarios.
As an auditor, you’ll take a deep dive into the books, records, and processes of all different types of companies across multiple industries. You might audit a multinational manufacturer one day and a boutique clothing retailer the next! Auditors have the opportunity to educate and engage taxpayers in constructive way, helping them to straighten things out move forward in compliance.
Effective auditors possess a balance of research skills, analytical skills, and people skills. It’s the auditor’s job to clearly and diplomatically explain the audit scope, adjustments, and tax laws and policy as well as resolve any misunderstandings or confusion.
Tax technology has seen a lot of recent growth and investment – as impacted by new emerging technologies and an ever-changing legislative and regulatory landscape. There is a breadth of opportunities to work with tax technology for those with a deep understanding of sales tax – its challenges and processes.
Companies of all types need people that are excited about the efficiencies that data analytics and automation can bring to tax processes. You could work in consulting to assist in software implementations that meet the specific needs of the client company. You could work in-house to help a company in industry mitigate the burden of big data and leverage technology to make the tax department more efficient.
You could also work for a tax software company to explore how technologies like blockchain, RPA, AI, and cloud solutions can integrate with the tax function as well as be on the forefront of shaping future technologies.
Passion for educating others about sales tax – from law changes to how it impacts business to best practices for compliance – can translate into broader teaching opportunities. A great first step towards this career path is to get practical experience. One way to do this is to volunteer to lead trainings in your company; you can offer to get new hires up to speed, train your department on new tax technology, educate customers, or update other departments about sales tax developments.
As your confidence and knowledge of specific areas in sales tax grow, there are opportunities to present to industry groups concerning sales and use tax issues or at tax technology user conferences.
This list of career paths is by no means comprehensive. So many sales tax pros land in sales tax through unconventional means and stay because of the interesting work and career growth the field offers. Jennifer Zimmerman, a Sales Tax Institute faculty member was an English and French major in college who started her career as an estate attorney before finding her way into State and Local Tax.
If you come to love working in sales tax and develop a strong skill set, you can couple it with another passion to find your next opportunity. Love fashion? Target major clothing retailers and work in their corporate tax department. Passionate about social causes? Seek out a nonprofit that needs help managing their tax and accounting responsibilities.
There is no one “right” path to a fruitful career in sales tax. If you’re up for a challenge, there are so many opportunities to find your niche in sales tax. Where will you jump in?