Tax lawyers are in high demand throughout the country because they can help individuals, businesses and the government navigate the often complicated laws governing taxes. They typically work in law firms and accounting companies, as well as at the IRS or state tax departments.
They have to ensure that clients are filing accurately and on time, and that any discrepancies are resolving correctly. In addition to handling these duties, they may also design tax planning projects and work on preparing tax audits.
Getting into this career isn’t as easy as it sounds, but the rewards are worth the effort and a commitment to learning. The field requires a deep understanding of all relevant laws and statutes, as well as an ongoing willingness to stay abreast of changes in tax legislation.
A strong undergraduate degree is important, as is a law school that offers a juris doctorate (JD) in taxation. Many states require JD graduates to take the bar exam and earn licensure before practicing. In some cases, an optional LL.M in taxation is an alternative way to build a specialization in this practice area.
It’s not uncommon for tax attorneys to hold multiple positions in different settings, including law firms, accounting companies, large corporations and non-profit organizations. They can also become in-house counsel for these entities, working on a wide variety of complex tax issues, as well as advising management and finance staff.
In this career, you will spend a considerable amount of time on research and writing. You will also need to be able to explain the tax code and regulations in ways that others can understand.
You can gain experience while in school through extracurricular activities and internships. These can be a great way to get your feet wet in a new field and start building your law school resume. Be sure to choose activities that will complement your legal education, as the admissions committee will look for depth rather than breadth.
The minimum amount of education needed to become a tax attorney is seven years, and it can take more or less time depending on your degree. Ideally, you will complete an undergraduate degree in accounting or a related field and then attend an ABA-accredited law school for an additional three years before passing the bar exam to earn your juris doctorate. If you’d prefer to specialize in taxation, you can add an additional year to the timeline by completing an LLM degree in taxation or becoming state-bar-certified as a specialist in this practice area.
During law school, you will take a number of classes in taxation. In addition to your core courses, you should take a course in Business Associations to develop familiarity with the tax aspects of a variety of business transactions.
You will also want to take a course in Estate Planning and Family Law, both of which are essential for this field. Taking these courses will help you to understand the complex issues that tax attorneys deal with, and it will also help you to develop your skills in drafting documents and conducting legal research.