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Accounting Career Information: Tax Attorney Job Profile

written by: N Nayab•edited by: Ginny Edwards•updated: 1/16/2011

A tax attorney is a lawyer specializing in tax-related issues, helping clients identify and secure the best deal from the intricacies of business and self-employment tax laws. Read on for accounting career information & tax attorney opportunities.

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    Accounting Career Information Tax Attorney Tax attorneys maintain confidential records and tax information of their clients. The broad aspects of a tax attorney job description include:

    • researching and analyzing federal and state laws, and the related case laws
    • communicating and negotiate with federal, state, and local governments for their clients
    • offering advice on tax related issues to their clients.

    Image Credit: Kabir

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    A review of a tax attorney job description reveals that the main role of a tax attorney is negotiating on behalf of clients in trouble with authorities such as the IRS and state tax authorities to provide relief such as reduction of fines and removal of liens, to name a few. They also represent the client before the court and argue the client’s case if the tax dispute reaches the court.

    Tax attorneys also negotiate with the tax authorities for a compromise to settle back taxes. They also help businesses that owe the IRS and other tax authorities more than they can afford to pay prepared restructuring proposals that allow the business to escape most penalties.

    Another area of tax attorney’s job profile is providing tax related advice and identifying potential trouble spots in the organizational and accounting set up, payroll processing, and other areas, to help clients preempt trouble with the authorities, rather than trying to solve the trouble.

    The tax attorney also helps clients set up trust funds, stock portfolios, and other structures to secure the best tax deal, besides providing general tax advice, including estate, property, and gift taxes.

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    A career as a tax attorney is a highly technical and specialized field that requires a minimum of seven years of college education, including four years of any undergraduate program and three years in a law school, followed by securing a license to practice in a state by passing the bar exam.

    One good entry path is a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (BSBA) in Accounting that offers subjects such as financial, managerial and cost accounting, income tax, fundamentals of auditing, and business law, and an internship.

    Another more common path is the bachelor’s law degree program that covers the basics of taxation such as federal income tax, tax practices, and procedures, corporate and partnership tax, and other courses.

    The three year master’s degree in law allows further specialization in areas such as general business taxation, international taxation, financial services, and other similar courses. Another option is to select electives that focus on tax laws.

    The basic entry-level qualification for a lawyer is the degree from a law school, followed by passing the bar exam to obtain a license to practice within the state. Depending on the state, the bar exam consists of a written test and an ethics exam.

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    The accounting career information tax attorney profile indicates that the qualification and license notwithstanding, establishing a reputation as a specialized tax attorney requires years of experience handling debt management cases with the IRS and working with real live taxpayers.

    Apart from a law degree and experience, to be a successful tax attorney also requires extensive knowledge on how to communicate and analyze financial data and how to keep accounting records, besides good math skills. Tax attorneys need a sound understanding of contemporary finance and accounting principles to evaluate and assess complicated tax issues.

    The best tax attorney are those with good communication skills, negotiation skills, attention to detail, and analytical acumen. Successful tax attorneys also need to interpret data in unorthodox and unconventional ways to create custom plans that suit the client's unique situation.

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    Job Prospects

    A review of the accounting career information tax attorney profile shows that they remain in demand, especially among small business owners who consider their tax attorney at par with the accountant. Most of the tax attorneys work either as freelancers or under established tax attorneys in law firms. Some very large corporations may hire their in house tax attorneys as well.

    2010 figures indicate a median salary level for a tax lawyer with less than two years of experience at $86,500, and the median salary for tax lawyers with at least eight years of experience at $165,700.

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there were about 750,000 attorneys in the United States in 2008, with the number of job opportunities for all lawyers expected to increase by 13 percent through 2018.