With salaries ranging from $80,000 to $160,000 it’s easy to see why many people are looking into careers as tax attorneys’.
A tax attorney specialists in federal state and municipal rules and policies affecting tax liability and the procedure of taxation as it relates to estate transfers, material and intellectual property acquisitions, income from all sources and business transactions of all kinds.
The majority of tax attorneys spend most of their time advising or consulting however, they can also be involved with litigation and can represent their clients in the courtroom. Tax attorneys normally work for law firms that offer tax services and get hired to represent clients.
Tax law can be difficult to understand and tax attorneys often assist clients with understanding the particulars of it. They also assist as advisors for personal wealth issues with regard to the tax obligation when they have inherited an estate, amending trusts and wills, overseeing distribution of assets among beneficiaries and they can also audit hearings to negotiate for their clients for reduction or exclusion of tax requirements and related fines.
Many tax attorneys’ also specialise in Internal Revenue Service (IRS) related matters. They can represent clients during IRS audits, organise and oversee the structuring of IRS settlements and work alongside other tax specialists like CPA’s to organise and prepare tax documents and can also represent clients if they have an IRS hearing.
Becoming a tax attorney
As tax attorneys and CPA’s are very similar in what they do, in order to become a tax attorney a lot of people will study law as well as an accounting degree. There are even some universities that offer joint programs for individuals who would like to become advanced in tax law and accounting r business. This type of combination programs allow students to get advance degrees in significantly less time.
First it is advisable to start with an undergraduate degree which can really be in any subject however, it would be an advantage (if you are aspiring to be a tax lawyer that is) to major in business, economics, finance or accounting.
Once you have a bachelor’s degree you will need to apply for law school which will normally last about 3 years. After an undergraduate degree the next step is a Law School Admission Test (LSAT) in order to be considered for acceptance into an American Bar Association accredited school. To get admitted into a school like this can be hard, particularly at a highly regarded law school. If you are 100% sure of pursuing a career in tax law finding a school with a strong law program would be a great advantage.
During your time at law school you will be required to take some foundational courses such as civil law, contracts, torts, property law and constitutional law. Lots of students who are interested in tax law are likely to take more specialised courses with topics such as business taxation and income taxation. If you are successfully finish law school you will earn a Juris Doctor (JD) degree.
Obtaining a licence
Obtaining a license
Once you have finished a law school program you are required to take and pass a state bar exam for whatever state/jurisdiction in which you wish to practice tax law. It may also be required for you to pass an ethics examination before you receive a license to practice. This is a 6 hour exam covering a wide variety of legal topics and is administered by the National Conference of Bar Examiners.
IRS enrolled agent program
Tax attorneys who represent clients regarding IRS matters must become enrolled agents (EA’s) through the IRS enrolled agent program. If you wish to become an EA first you have to pass a 3 part exam which covers individual and business tax returns as well as observing certain ethical standards and completing 72 hours of continuing education courses every 3 years. Once a tax attorney has become an EA they are given unlimited practice rights whilst representing clients before the IRS.
It is also possible to become a Master of Law through a post graduate degree which is a one year program after obtaining a JD degree. This would allow you to focus on a specific area of interest and gain valuable training in a specialised field of law. This is not required and does not mean you can start practising law. However, it shows employers that you have mastered a specific area of law.
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