Cher Zavala 5m 722 #taxlawyer
The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
What Can You Expect From a Career as a Tax Lawyer?
A tax lawyer holds an LLM in tax law. Being a tax lawyer isn’t as glamorous as being a criminal lawyer, and if you do become a tax lawyer, you may find that many people aren’t quite sure what you do. Tax lawyers are not accountants; they don’t prepare tax returns. A large part of what they do involves offering clients tax planning advice useful for structuring and running a business, getting married or divorced, or planning an estate. Tax lawyers also represent clients in disputes with the IRS or state tax officials.
But as a tax lawyer, you won’t spend all of your time in a courtroom. The lion’s share of your time will be spent producing and reviewing paperwork, researching and meeting court requirements, and smoothing ruffled client feathers. Even though tax law may not seem like the most exciting branch of the law, tax lawyers provide a necessary and valuable service.
As a Tax Attorney, You’ll Advise Clients on All Kinds of Tax Problems
Many clients go to tax lawyers to get advice about how to handle a complicated tax matter. For example, when a couple gets divorced, they’re generally allowed to split up any assets they shared tax-free. But if the couple wasn’t married — if they were only cohabitating — then escaping taxation when they split up assets can be a little more complicated.
As a tax attorney, it would be your job to help such a couple decide how to best split up their assets without having to pay taxes on them afterward. You might, for example, advise the couple to get married with a prenuptial agreement, and then divorce quickly so that they can divide their shared assets without paying taxes on them.
Tax attorneys may also help clients with matters of taxation on damages. For example, the IRS has no clear rule about whether or not a person who has been monetarily compensated for wrongful imprisonment owes taxes on those damages. As a tax attorney, you might defend your client on the grounds that in the past, the IRS has declared that damages paid for loss of personal liberty are not taxable.
Other types of cases you might work on as a tax lawyer include:
- Helping religious groups claim tax-exempt status as churches.
- Structuring and documenting businesses.
- Handling estate or other tax planning.
- Interpreting complex tax codes.
While you may spend some portion of your time settling tax disputes with the IRS and state tax officials, these may only be part of your duties. Many tax lawyers in big practices never set foot in a court room. You may spend the majority of your career helping corporate clients pay less money in taxes. If that sounds appealing to you and you already have your JD, you can go back to school online to earn your LLM. By getting an advanced degree and specializing in a particular area of law, you’ll be giving yourself a leg up over the competition in the fiercely competitive job market for aspiring lawyers.
Other Tasks You Can Expect as a Tax Lawyer
A large part of your job as a tax attorney will be handling paperwork. You’ll need to prepare documents for submission to the courts. Before you can submit documents to the courts, however, you’ll need to review them. That just means you’ll need to read over them to look for mistakes. Of course, you’ll need to make sure the documents you submit meet the court’s filing requirements. You’ll have assistants to help you with these tasks. Other duties will include team-building exercises, which often include fun stuff like writing and performing skits with your fellow high-powered tax attorneys.
While there may not be any dramatic television programs about tax law firms, it’s a field that many find both rewarding and lucrative. If you choose to go into tax law, you’ll help clients navigate disputes with federal and state tax authorities, and you’ll help your clients save money on their taxes. While you might not spend a lot of time in front of a judge, you’ll still earn the salary — and the respect — that’s your due as an attorney.