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Everything You Need to Know about a Tax Attorney

Updated for Tax Year 2019


OVERVIEW

A tax attorney is an attorney who specializes in the interpretation and application of tax laws and policies. Tax attorneys can perform a wide array of services for their clients, including the preparation and filing of taxes.


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Tax attorneys are knowledgeable about tax laws, regulations, and policies at several levels—federal, state, and municipal. In addition to preparing tax returns, tax attorneys can:

  • Represent clients in disputes with tax authorities.
  • Advise clients about the tax implications of
    • estate transfers,
    • property acquisitions,
    • business transactions, and
    • the different structures of businesses.

Education and background

To become a tax attorney, a person must usually, graduate from college and then law school, obtaining a Juris Doctor degree (also known as a J.D.) Many tax attorneys continue their education on tax law to earn a master of laws (LL.M.) degree in taxation.

To obtain a license to practice law in the United States, a law school graduate must pass a state bar examination.

  • Bar exams take two to three days to complete.
  • Candidates spend one to two days answering essay questions covering legal principles and state laws.
  • The final day is typically spent on the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), a standardized test consisting of 200 questions.
  • The MBE is administered on the same day everywhere in the United States.

Some tax attorneys are also certified public accounts (CPAs). This means they've:

  • Taken the required number of college semester hours (usually 150) of accounting courses.
  • Passed the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination, a rigorous accounting test administered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
  • Most states require CPAs to also complete at least 80 hours of continuing education every two years.

Tax attorneys who are also CPAs are ideal for situations that involve both complex accounting and legal matters. They can provide you with legal guidance, draw up necessary legal documents, and prepare and file tax returns.

Protecting a client’s rights

A tax attorney can help protect your rights and negotiate with the IRS on your behalf.  With their in-depth understanding of tax law, tax attorneys are well qualified to act as a go-between with their clients and the IRS and are skilled at:

  • Challenging IRS rulings in court
  • Settling back taxes
  • Halting wage garnishment
  • Undoing property liens
  • Removing account levies
  • Negotiating compromises with the IRS

If the IRS has assigned an agent to your case, it usually means that the IRS is close to taking action against you. If you do not already have a tax attorney, this is a clear sign that you might want to contact one.

Providing personal wealth management assistance

Many taxpayers hire tax attorneys to help reduce their tax liabilities in advance of filing a tax return. A tax attorney can provide related legal documents and offer advice on how to manage your personal wealth to minimize your taxes. Other wealth management services tax attorneys offer include:

  • Estate planning
  • Creating wills and trusts
  • Incorporating businesses
  • Drawing up business contracts
  • Advising on international tax considerations

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