IRS Special Agent and Criminal Investigator

IRS special agents investigate financial crimes and tax evasion for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), a division of the Treasury Department. These agents are also known as Criminal investigator (CI) agents. CI agents are assigned to investigate suspected IRS tax code violations. CI agents uncover crimes by tracking financial transactions. All CI agents specialize as investigative accountants. They utilize forensic accounting techniques to investigate IRS code violations and other types of financial fraud.

CI agents also investigate violations of the Bank Secrecy Act, money laundering, counterfeiting, and accounting fraud. CI agents are experts in one or more of the following specialties: drug trafficking, tax evasion, terrorism, or other financial crimes. CI agents have law enforcement and accounting duties.

Technology has transformed modern commerce and how financial crime is investigated. Most CI agents utilize forensic software to retrieve evidence deleted from computers. Agents still rely on traditional investigative techniques to investigate financial fraud conducted without computers.

Be A Part of a "Bigger" Law Enforcement Team
IRS criminal investigators work closely with municipal, state, and federal law enforcement organizations. They frequently collaborate with the US Marshals Service, Postal Inspection Service, DEA, FBI, ATF, US Attorney's Office, and the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security. Federal law enforcement agencies frequently contact the IRS to solve crimes by uncovering money trails through advanced accounting procedures. These criminal investigations often uncover tax code violations and other types of fraud. When investigating financial crimes, CI investigators often discover other serious crimes, such as murder, extortion, drug trafficking, and embezzlement.

Special Assignments
CI agents are typically assigned various projects and responsibilities during their careers. They may be assigned short or long-term projects working with other agencies, such as the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement and Telemarketing Fraud Task Forces. Some CI agents are given undercover assignments or assigned to investigate sophisticated computer fraud.

Basic Training Required to Become a Criminal Investigation (CI) Special Agent
People accepted into the CI agent program are required to complete rigorous training at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Glynco, Georgia. Before training at the FLETC, CI agents are required to attend an orientation at the National Criminal Investigation Training Academy. Trainees are then sent to a 9 week Criminal Investigation Training Program (CITP) where they'll learn about investigative methods, the IRS tax code and other federal laws, courtroom procedures, and various other concepts. Since they're classified as law enforcement personnel, CI agents also complete basic firearms training.

Agents from the Secret Service, ATF, Department of Homeland Security, and other agencies participate in the 9 week criminal investigation portion of the training. Once this portion of the training is finished, CI trainees begin 16 weeks of training in tax law, tax evasion, money laundering, accounting fraud, and other types of financial crimes. Additionally, trainees learn about forensic science, undercover procedures, trial preparation, electronic surveillance, and other essential components of the CI agent position.

CI training is designed to teach agents essential technical and behavioral skills. Training is highly interactive and modern to thoroughly prepare trainees for their careers. Trainees complete hands-on training to prepare for field work.

Specialized CI Special Agent Training
Since most financial records are stored digitally, CI agents are trained in forensics to retrieve deleted digital data. Computer technology used in financial crimes often contain password protected, deleted, hidden, or encrypted data. CI agents rely on their specialized forensic accounting training to identify and retrieve data before relaying it to attorneys prosecuting people suspected of tax evasion and money laundering.

IRS computer investigative specialists (CIS) are equipped with a laptop, 2 desktops, specialized accounting software, and other types of sophisticated technology to conduct criminal investigations. CI agents complete specialized and rigorous training to ensure they're premier investigators.

CI agents aspiring to work as a CIS must complete intensive computer classroom training to learn the skills, techniques, and knowledge needed to conduct forensic accounting and retrieve hidden, deleted, or encrypted digital data.

CIS training begins with a preliminary 2 week class. Once this phase of the training is done, CI agents complete an intensive 3 week evidence retrieval class. All CIS training is completed in Glynco, GA at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC). Once CI agents finish these classes, they complete a 3 week course to learn how to analyze computer evidence. The University of North Texas sponsors this class. A year after this training is completed, computer investigative specialists are required to complete a two and half week class in digital data recovery to acquire additional skills and knowledge in advanced data retrieval and computer networking.

Where Do IRS/CI Special Agents Work?
CI agents work in various field offices nationwide. The Criminal Investigation Unit of the IRS is headquartered in the District of Columbia. IRS special agents work in large cities, rural areas, and Puerto Rico.

Since money can be transferred electronically worldwide, a large amount of financial fraud and money laundering occurs outside the U.S. As a result, some IRS special agents are stationed overseas in Canada, Mexico, Columbia, Barbados, Iraq, London, Hong Kong, and Germany. Stationing IRS special agents around the world is one way the federal government uncovers international financial crime.

IRS Special Agent Requirements
Qualifications to become a CI special agent:

  • GS-4: An associate's degree or 2 years of vocational training
  • GS-5: A bachelor's degree or 4 years of pre-professional education
  • GS-7: Completion of a year of graduate education, bachelor's degrees with superior academic achievement, or 5 years of pre-professional education
  • GS-9: Master's degree or 2 years of graduate-level training

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