• Career Center

    Do Any Millennials Want to Work at the IRS Non-ironically?

    By | April 6, 2015

    Hating the IRS is as American as baseball and capital punishment. This almost universal derision may be part of the reason the Service has such a hard time finding younger employees. Bloomberg reports that more than half of IRS employees are over 50 while only 3% are under 30, citing a recent speech by IRS Commish John Koskinen.  

    With this in mind, the Service is appealing to the altruistic nature of Millennials, hoping that their desire to make a difference will help them recruit a new generation of employees:

    Millennials do want to work for an organization that benefits society and to see how their work is tied to the bigger picture, says Dan Schawbel, founder of workplacetrends.com. The IRS is doing its best to market itself as such a place: “There’s an agency looking for new talent to enable growth for our entire nation,” reads the recruiting page for students and recent grads. “You’ll be part of a tax collection process that funds our nation’s most vital programs—from securing the nation and protecting social services, to maintaining parklands and forests, building libraries, opening museums, enhancing schools and much, much more.”  

    On the other hand, Americans for Tax Return Reform intern Alexander Henrie believes that only the most devoted hipster would entertain the idea of employment at the IRS:

    The only millennial that would like to work at the IRS would do it ironically, so that they could use a typewriter and snapchat about it every day.”

    Don't write it off! It could actually work. 

    The one ploy that isn't suggested in this piece is an idea from another Bloomberg article from last month, on David Foster Wallace's obsession with taxes and the IRS:

    The key is “to find the other side of the rote, the picayune, the meaningless, the repetitive, the pointlessly complex,” says a character in Wallace’s last novel, The Pale King. Don’t think of tax preparers as bland pencil pushers. They’re “cowboys of information,” Wallace wrote, who wade into minutiae and come out with useful answers.
     
    Another character, Chris, is a lazy “wastoid” stoner who, while watching a daytime soap, gets inspired to sign up for tax classes. He meets a passionate tax professor and eventually joins the IRS. In many ways, Chris was taking the advice in Wallace’s much-admired 2005 commencement address at Kenyon College: Don’t float through life just trying to entertain yourself, Wallace urged graduates. Instead, “choose what you pay attention to” and “choose how you construct meaning from experience.”
    This quite a trio of recruiting strategies: altruism, irony, embracing chaos.
     
    So, who's interested? If you're under 35 and any of these sound good to you, the IRS could use your help.
     
    • N.E.R.D.

      I can’t work at the IRS. I wouldn’t pass the drug test.

      I can work in public without being tested, therefore my choice has been made for me.

      Edit: I stand corrected. The IRS apparently doesn’t drug test. Still wouldn’t want to work there though.

      • A Turtle like Leon Uris

        They don’t drug test for employment.

        • N.E.R.D.

          ORLY?

          Is that a new development? I just assumed all branches of the gov’t drug tests.

          • A Turtle like Leon Uris

            Its not a condition of employment (I mean, their main submission processing center is in Fresno, California), though it can be ordered if there is a safety concern.

            • N.E.R.D.

              Well, TIL the IRS doesn’t drug test. Thanks @daniellatta:disqus

      • done with the rain

        No drug test, I quit smoking for no reason.

    • Big4Veteran

      I always love to see “patriots” like Americans for Tax Reform make fun of the IRS’s antiquated systems and processes while at the same time doing everything in their power to ensure that the IRS doesn’t receive a sustainable budget (much less funds to do necessary upgrades).

      It’s easier to be a Republican than a Democrat. Democrats are the only party trying to make the government work, and they receive the voters’ wrath when it doesn’t work. Republicans spend all their time and effort trying to undermine the efficiency and effectiveness of the government, and then point and say “See, I told you so!” when the government later fails.

      • drive_like_jehu

        Yes of course… Democrats and government bureaucrats have a brilliant, unimpeachable record of good governance and avoiding wasteful spending.

        The main difference between the parties is that Republicans believe the government should be funded by printing a huge amount of money, whereas Democrats believe it should be funded by printing an unlimited amount of money.

        • Big4Veteran

          ^ Case in point.

        • FartDude

          no, that’s quite wrong.

          Republican politicians believe in borrowing unlimited amounts of money to fund tax giveaways to the already extraordinarily rich. Republicans really don’t give a shit about managing government spending. As Dick Cheney said, “Deficits don’t matter”.
          Democratic politicians believe in … uhhhh… I really don’t know what Democrats believe in anymore, beyond just trying to be less republican-y than republicans. I think they mostly believe in finding ways besides tax giveaways to funnel money to the already extraordinarily rich.

          • guest

            Democratic politicians believe in finding ways to funnel to the ordinarily rich AND the extraordinarily rich. Or the very wealthy and extremely wealthy, as I like to call them.

            Democratic politicians also don’t seem to yearn quite so overtly for the 1950s (or 1850s). Back when women, brown people, poor people and/or teh gays knew their place, and didn’t demand rights and suchlike.

            • FartDude

              That works.
              Either way, our political class only cares for the wants of millionaires and billionaires.

              And yeah, Democrats are almost always socially progressive, which makes them a bit easier to stomach than the crazies on the right.

        • A Turtle like Leon Uris

          Lemme guess… you’re still stuck on that “toilet seat” thing from the 80s? You are aware that Reagan isn’t in office anymore, right?

          • drive_like_jehu

            Your thoughts are not overly coherent at the moment. #BusySeasonProblems?

      • NA

        Can you ever respond to an article that has the word Democrat or Republican in it, or even hints at politics, without bashing some group? Your responses tend to be as useful as Adrienne’s GC material…

      • Reasonable Assurance

        Oh look, B4v getting political again.

        Both parties suck, republicans suck less because they aren’t apologists. They are pretty good for “foot-in-mouth” moments though, giving crazy uncle Joe a run for his money.

    • RandomMan

      Applesauce!

    • David Spracklen

      Another thing “millennials”/Gen-Y want in their workplace: for management, and the entrenched old guard to be receptive to new ideas… the problem with a lot of these older-worker dominated public service agencies – large amounts of the mission critical workforce are currently eligible for retirement. They could retire and no-one would be left to complete the job. That is a huge risk! Another problem with the government agencies, in particular, is the “this is the way it’s done” thinking. Telling the new workers to stop bringing new ideas, because tradition!

    • FartDude

      If I had an interest in tax, which I don’t, I would be interested in working for the IRS.
      Betcha they have a great pension.

      • IndenturedServant

        not from what i’ve heard.

      • A Turtle like Leon Uris

        TSP plan.

      • done with the rain

        30% of top 3 years. The benefits were the same as I had at Moss Adams as well.

    • taxintern

      “Americans for Tax Return” -1 typo

      • Caleb Newquist

        Fixed, thanks. I blame my brain: http://www.wired.com/2014/08/wuwt-typos/

      • guest

        I propose a new rule: If you’re going to point out a typo, also contribute something of substance.

        • I propose a new rule: You can point out typos anytime you want.

    • Coxswain3

      Honestly I would love to work for the IRS. 40 hour weeks, a pension you just can’t beat, steady career growth, what part about that isn’t appealing? Problem is, they haven’t been hiring and the few jobs they have been hiring for make you jump through hoops just to apply and you’re not likely to hear back for 6+ months. I don’t have the time to go through a 6+ month hiring process or to try to figure out how to get my application through USAJobs (that’s if I can even find a job to apply to).

      • iamthelolrus

        The 6 month hiring process is (mostly) what kills it for me. Also the fact that the starting salary is in the $40,000 range, which just doesn’t cut it where I live (public salaries are $55 here).

        Wonder if there is a public>IRS path that lets you come in at a management level in the IRS. In any case it’s not worth being in tax anyway.

        • Shopisticated Investor 2015

          I say the majority of the reason for not getting a Job at the IRS is that it starts at the $40k range while at college studying accounting you realize that for a 3.4-3.5 gpa, you can easily get a $55k a year with much better salary increases after each year compare to the IRS which is set in stone.

          • iamthelolrus

            Well, honestly, I don’t know the pay increase rate at IRS but it’s pretty good at DCAA (another federal agency that hires accountants).

            You start at $42k but are at $75k within 5 years. Sure not as good as Big 4 but I could see that being better than your average local firm in Shithole, Kansas.

            • N.E.R.D.

              I work at a small firm and I make more money than my B4 peers because my firm knows they have to pay more in order to keep me from jumping. I’m happy with it because I do accounting for the money, not for the “prestige” of working on Fortune clients.

              Small firms generally pay OT (mine does) while B4 rides you until you burn out and replaces you like the widget you are in their machine.

              Obvs there’s more pros/cons to consider than just pay, but I figured since we’re talking compensation I’d throw my $.02 in.

            • iamthelolrus

              Yeah, I know some small firms are like that. Especially in larger metropolitan areas. I’m more describing the firm that hires kids from the shitty colleges with 2.8 GPAs in small towns. I have heard many many stories of them paying in the $40k range and having people be stuck at staff accountant for five years.

            • N.E.R.D.

              Oh, I don’t live in a small town. I’ve never heard of such stories. Sucks for them.

              But then again, maybe $40k in rural Kansas or Wisconsin or something is a good gig due to low cost of living?

            • iamthelolrus

              Not when B4 pays $46k and actually promotes

              I’m not going to tell you B4>Small firm in 100% of cases (especially since that’s clearly not the case in your situation), but at least with B4 you know exactly what you’re signing up for.

            • N.E.R.D.

              Do you though? When I went through recruiting during college, I had no idea what I was getting into. None. They hid everything behind the HR shield and doused everything in kool-aid. It was all fun and games.

              Only after my first busy season at a large national did I realize what was up. I think most staff get this kind of reality check at B4 and larger firms.

            • iamthelolrus

              I had two “advantages” here:

              1) I went to a shit school with no OCR from big 4 so I had to actually hustle to get my offer (no HR shield or kool aid in sight)
              2) I discovered GC and /r/accounting junior year so I got to see all the pros and cons (but let’s be serious, mostly cons- people only post on forums about the negatives) of big 4 vs regional before I started the process

              Sure, maybe b4 doesn’t tell you what’s up during the process but at least there are resources online. For small and even regional firms it’s a lot harder to feel out their specific flavor of bullshit before you start.

            • Coxswain3

              It would be on par as all government positions are on a level system (i.e. a level 7 makes $xx,xxx).

            • iamthelolrus

              The reason I said I don’t know is that DCAA salary structure skips GS8 and 10 (it goes 7>9>11>12 which is like 42>52>62>75). IRS might make you go through 8 and 10 as well which would slow down progression significantly.

      • A Turtle like Leon Uris

        40 hours a week, but a seasonal job, unless you spend a decade trying to go permanent. The pension sucks. Steady career growth, my ass.

        • Coxswain3

          This is a joke right? IRS jobs are not seasonal, they don’t hire a bunch of people in April for 3 months (unless you’re talking about some sort of clerical job). Audits happen year round. And the pension is something like 30% of the average of your highest 3 years of service. That’s incredible compared to public accounting or industry where you’re looking at something under 10% if anything.

          • A Turtle like Leon Uris

            Please do not respond to my comments unless you’ve read them. Also, please do not speak about things you know nothing about. If you wish to continue this discussion, I suggest you check out the careers page for the IRS, or perhaps USAjobs.gov, and note all of the seasonal job offerings listed for the IRS and the Treasury Department in general.

            • Coxswain3

              I have in fact read through your comments. I’m sorry that the ladies room is a too large but has too few stalls, btw. But it sounds like you’re a a grade 7 clerical worker, I’m talking about revenue agents. And yes I do know what I’m talking about, a lot of my family’s careers have been in the IRS and they’ve moved up through to grade 13-15 managers and analysts. Your testimony that the IRS is a terrible place to work is based on a job most here wouldn’t be taking. Most people would be expecting to start straight out on working on audits not data entry.

              It appears you are the one that has not read my posts as I had acknowledged the fact that the IRS has not been hiring (at least not for revenue agents).

      • PrivateIndustry

        Just for giggles, I just looked to see what is available at the IRS office out of Oakland, CA. Not a single one except for that volunteer Tax Advocate position. There are positions in Austin, TX and in Washington D.C.

    • Another exKPMGer

      What if they offered a discount program like Macy’s or something for their employees? “Work for us and save an additional 5% on your taxes annually!” Shit yeah, I’d do that.

      On a “sort of related note” I’d also like to see a tax rewards credit card. 2% cash back applied directly to your federal tax bill on every purchase, every day. They could steal Samuel Jackson from Capital One.

      • iamthelolrus

        I would use that hypothetical credit card over the ones I have now.

      • advisorynerd

        That’s what you get in the game of LIFE, that’s why I was always the accountant.

    • A Turtle like Leon Uris

      Typewriter? You seriously think we’re still using typewriters?

      • billbrasskey

        Yes.

        Yes we do.

        • A Turtle like Leon Uris

          For the record, we use the same shitty HP desktop computers everyone in the business world does. Windows 7 and everything. We even get optical mice.

          • billbrasskey

            Whaaaaaaaaat?!?!?!

      • FartDude

        so, you work for the Man?
        Tell us more about working for the IRS.

        • guest

          Agree. I’m totally curious about what working for the IRS is like. Not that I’m inclined to do it myself, but I feel like we send returns into this giant black box, and we only have a few tiny pinholes to see the inside.

        • A Turtle like Leon Uris

          I worked for the IRS as a data transcriber from 2002 to 2010 in at the submission processing center in Fresno, CA. For six months out of the year, I sat at a desk for 8-12 hours a day with a computer entering mostly handwritten tax forms into an IRS database. I had to pass a background check to qualify for Confidential clearance, so I will no be giving you any specific information on our procedures. It was a pretty low-rent operation. The building had both a mold AND a bat problem. I worked in a huge room filled with a few thousand other transcribers and their desks which we affectionately referred to as the “Bat Cave”, because at least once a year a maintenance worker would have to crawl up into the ceiling, inevitably unleashing a bat who would then fly around for hours, disoriented by the bright lights until he ran into a column and knocked himself out. We would then put a box over him and call Animal Control. The building was so old that the Ladies’ rooms had large private lounges but, as I was informed regularly by my female coworkers, for some reason still didn’t have enough stalls. Large meetings were regularly dropped on all of us, stopping production for close to a half hour so that our director could tell us we weren’t working fast enough. Sometimes those meetings ran even longer because we had to wait for the union rep who sometimes didn’t show. Some said she did that as a passive-aggressive protest, and others said management engineered events so she’d be in the bathroom or on the other side of the massive campus or out sick in order to make the union look bad. Either way, it was a giant pain in the ass. You can’t get into the IRS except as a seasonal worker, but once you’re in you can apply for better, permanent jobs — the competition is fierce(the IRS is the second biggest employer in one of the least educated cities in the US) and the application process is Byzantine in the extreme. The place was overly complicated, slow, and annoying, but they never cut corners, and there was so much oversight (we were randomly searched to see if we were stealing checks or private taxpayer information) that any attempt to break the law would have to involve too many people to be profitable. As obnoxious as it was, private industry would do a much worse job — our motivations were to serve the taxpayer, not stockholders.

          • FartDude

            Interesting. Thanks!!

          • Jennifer

            “The building was so old that the Ladies’ rooms had large private lounges
            but, as I was informed regularly by my female coworkers, for some
            reason still didn’t have enough stalls.”

            We need a lot of elbow-room whilst powdering our noses.

            • A Turtle like Leon Uris

              While waiting for a stall to open up?

    • JRoc24

      I’ve worked for the IRS for over three years now and I’m pretty pleased. I had no experience in tax before joining but had solid credentials in the area I specialize in. I make over $100K and deal with much less stress than the friends I have working for the Big 4.

      For those that are contemplating a career with the IRS but wouldn’t necessarily want to commit to a lifetime with the Feds think of it as a stepping stone to a better job in the private sector. Make the most of it while you’re at the IRS (network, network, network!) and then leverage those relationships when you leave.

      For now I’m content, and I’m probably a lifer.

      • guest

        Are you an attorney, and/or a specialist in something? I’m guessing you’re not one of the people that answers the phone when you call 1-800-TAX-1040.

        P.S. Do you have any idea about what it would take to get new goddamned hold music?

        • JRoc24

          I’m a specialist in the Large Business and International Division. We primarily work on multinational and large partnership returns.

          I would pay a significant portion of my salary to update the hold music and the elevator music in my building. My e-mails to the Commissioner on this subject have been ignored.

          • guest

            I would pay a significant portion of your salary to get new hold music, too. j/k

            Or I’d send emails to the Taxpayer Advocate, President Obama, or God, if I thought it’d work.

        • Spectrum

          Come on. How can you not love “Waltz of the Flowers?” It’s timeless….. Especially when you’re on hold and it repeats approximately 50 times.

          • Spectrum

            Even better. Can you imagine what your average CPA would do after 25 minutes on hold listening to “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies” on perpetual repeat?

          • guest

            The first 20-30 times it’s okay. After that, though…

            It’d be nice to stop with the interruptions telling me not to hang up. (Even better would be a call-back function, but I’m guessing that’s unlikely.)

      • PrivateIndustry

        If you do not mind my asking, where did your former colleagues go after life at the IRS?

        • JRoc24

          All went to the big four with the exception of one that joined a small consulting firm.

    • Jennifer

      The key is “to find the other side of the rote, the picayune, the meaningless, the repetitive, the pointlessly complex,”

      Please never let me be stuck in an elevator with this person.

    • PrivateIndustry
    • Account4This

      I actually did apply to two positions at the IRS, did that a couple years back as well. Never heard a thing the first time around. At about 8 months out on the more recent application I received an auto-acknowledgement of receipt and that my application would be moving forward in the review process or some such. That was this past November. Haven’t heard a thing since. I’m somewhere on the fringe of millennial-hood depending on the definition, working for the IRS doesn’t seem to be about willingness to work there. As I believe some others have mentioned, the hiring process is just ridiculous for an entity that actually needs help.