The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has an established Criminal Investigation (CI) Division that is responsible for investigating criminal violations of the Internal Revenue Code, as well as related financial crimes within the tax system. The CI consists of 3,700 employees, which includes 2,600 special agents who are tasked with investigating crimes related to tax schemes, money laundering, and Bank Secrecy Act laws.
The strategic plan of the CI Division is organized within three, interdependent programs, which include:
- Legal Source Tax Crimes
- Illegal Source Financial Crimes
- Narcotics Related Financial Crimes
- Counterterrorism Financing
All of the programs operate under the grand jury process and utilize the same enforcement techniques to combat crimes related to tax, money laundering and currency crimes.
Although there are a number of other federal agencies that investigate financial crimes, such as money laundering and bank fraud, the IRS’s CI Division is the only federal agency that can investigate crimes involving the Internal Revenue Code. According to the IRS, the CI Division has one of the highest conviction rates in federal law enforcement.
Criminal Investigator Careers: Who are IRS Criminal Investigators?
Criminal investigator jobs (also called criminal investigation special agents) with the Internal Revenue Service demand highly skilled investigators responsible for understanding today’s sophisticated schemes involving federal tax laws. They are, in essence, a combination of investigative accountants and forensic accountants.
These professionals must be able to analyze computerized financial records and automated records and recover computer evidence regarding crimes against the IRS. Investigative careers with the IRS include a great deal of investigative work and the ability to utilize specialized forensic technology to recover financial data that may have been hidden or encrypted.
The investigative special agents of the IRS’ CI Division work closely with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, including the Department of Justice, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Attorneys, the DEA, the U.S. Marshals, and the Drug Enforcement Administration, among others.
These investigative professionals are often called upon to participate in both short- and long-term assignments within specific, multi-agency task forces, such as the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force.
As of fiscal year 2014, the criminal investigators of the IRS:
- Initiated 917 investigations
- Made 800 prosecution recommendations
- Achieved 733 indictments
- Achieved 793 convictions
- Sentenced 861 individuals
How to Become an IRS Investigator: Employment and Training Requirements
Individuals who want to learn how to become investigators with the IRS must be able to meet the minimum requirements for employment. As such, they must be United States citizens, and they must be under the age of 37, and they must meet specific education and experience requirements.
Individuals may be hired for investigative positions with the IRS at the Grade 5, Grade 7 or Grade 9 federal levels.
To qualify at Grade 5 level, individuals must possess one of the following:
- A four-year bachelor’s degree in any field of study that includes at least 15 semester hours in accounting, along with at least 9 semester hours in finance, economics, business law, tax law, money or banking; OR
- At least 3 years of accounting and business experience that shows the application of accounting and auditing principles and general business practices; OR
- A Certified Public Accountant (CPA) Certificate; OR
- A combination of experience and education
All candidates for IRS criminal investigator careers are evaluated on a number of factors, including their experience, education, and training. Based upon the evaluation, candidates are assigned to a Category Group (A, B or C), with A being the best qualified, B being highly qualified, and C being qualified.
The evaluation phases include:
- Phase I: Occupational Questionnaire
- Phase II: Online Assessments
- Phase III: Special Agent Test Battery (computerized competency-based assessment completed at a testing center)
- Phase IV: Skills Assessment Center (competency-based assessment taken at an in-person skills assessment center or at an IRS field office location)
Candidates who successfully complete all four phases of the evaluation process and are extended an offer of employment must complete the pre-employment process, which includes passing a drug test and successfully completing a pre-appointment tax audit.
All new IRS criminal investigators must complete a course of training at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Glynco, Georgia. This includes an orientation program that is sponsored by the National Criminal Investigation Training Academy, followed by a 9-week Criminal Investigation Training Program (CITP), which covers a criminal investigation techniques, criminal law, enforcement operations, courtroom procedures, and training common to all federal law enforcement agents.
Additional training requirements for CI special agents include computer investigative training for those interested in becoming Computer Investigative Specialists (CIS). This includes a pre-basic 2-week course, followed by a 3-week Computer Evidence Recovery Training Course at the FLETC. Following the successful completion of FLETC training, CIS trainees then attend a 3-week Computer Evidence Analysis Training course at the University of North Texas, followed by a 3-week Advanced Computer Evidence Recovery Training course one year after their initial training.