Tax Lawyer Careers
The job of a tax lawyer often contrasts the image of what most people envision when they think of lawyers. It can but does not always involve courtroom litigation. That does not mean becoming a tax lawyer won’t lead to a fruitful career. The job of a tax lawyer often comes with less stress when compared to other practice areas. And since taxes are never going to be eliminated from the American way of life, there is never the worry of tax lawyers becoming obsolete. Starting out a tax lawyer career can lead to a beneficial career choice that provides longevity and stability.
Tax Lawyer Education
There is a specific educational path mapped out for those interested in becoming tax lawyers. Tax law is a lot different than family law and does not involve as much personal interaction. But there are more numbers involved and that’s why it’s important to have a strong background that will prepare students for what they will face as future tax lawyers. The following education requirements will be needed in order to start practicing as a tax lawyer:
- Bachelor’s Degree
- Law School Admission
- Juris Doctor Law Degree
- Bar Examination
The first step on that path is to earn a bachelor’s degree. There is no specification in terms of which undergraduate degree should be earned. However, to adequately prepare for what lies ahead. Most undergrads major in Business or Accounting.
The completion of an undergraduate degree will give way to a comprehensive law school entrance examination. This examination is called the LSAT (Law School Admission Test). No student will be granted admission to a law school without first taking this test and earning a favorable score. Every year, law schools only accept so many new students, which means the strength of an application could be the determining factor. One of the main parts of that application is an applicant’s LSAT score. That’s why it’s important for aspiring tax lawyers to achieve a high score on this test.
The LSAT can be taken more than once, although policy requires that all test scores will be reported for a period of 5 years. That stresses the importance of performing well during the first attempt.
Gaining admission to law school means that the LSAT is behind a student and they can focus on the workload ahead. A law school education curriculum spans 3 years while specific courses and requirements differ on a school to school basis. There are some law school programs that have been approved by the American Bar Association, simply meaning that they are expected to teach the minimum requirements needed to pass the Bar Exam. Law school is intended to teach lawyers what they will need to know in the field, although it is also a building process for taking the Bar Exam.
After graduation from law school, the next step involves passing the MPRE (Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination). This must be done in order to be eligible to take the State Bar Examination. The MPRE is a 60-question exam that focuses on ethics. After a passing score is achieved, students are eligible to take the Bar Examination in their respective state.
The Bar Exam is considered the most difficult part of becoming a tax lawyer and some students spend months preparing. The Bar Examination tests all areas of the law and is very comprehensive in nature. The Bar Exam administered in each state is not always the same and may consist of any of the following:
- MBE (Multistate Bar Examination)
- MPT (Multistate Performance Test)
- MEE (Multistate Essay Examination)
- UBE (Uniform Bar Examination)
This marks the final part of a tax attorney’s education. Continuing education options are available.
Tax Lawyer Job Description and Skills
A tax lawyer helps individuals and organizations with all aspects of their taxes. This could mean generating a legal way of reducing tax exposure or representing clients in the courtroom during disputes with the IRS or other government entities. Tax lawyers spend a typical work day doing a variety of tasks. There is typically the need to do research on some type of tax law. There are also negotiation responsibilities that involve other lawyers when conducting all types of transactions. When a tax lawyer represents a client in court, their duties that focus on preparing for a trial. Other tax lawyers work with teams representing businesses or organizations. There are a number of specialty areas that tax lawyers can enter into and they include the following:
- Estate planning
- Mergers and acquisitions
- Corporate tax
- Real estate tax
These are just a few of the areas that require the service of a tax attorney. No matter what area of tax law and attorney will choose, there are certain qualities that are requisite. Tax lawyers should expect to possess the following qualities in order to be successful:
- High knowledge of tax law
- Attention to detail
- Strong analytical reasoning
- Knowledge of IRS protocol
- Good foundation of legal codes
- Well informed on government regulations
One of the primary duties of a tax lawyer is to ensure full compliance for clients. This often applies to meeting and adhering to strict government deadlines. Tax attorneys may also work to design tax planning projects as there is some room for creativity in this regard. In most instances, clients hand over a lot of responsibility to tax lawyers because they are the experts in this particular field. Tax lawyers can also become immersed in more complex job assignments that may include providing support through calculations for the domestic market. Meanwhile, preparing tax audits is a more common responsibility and one that is commonplace in this practice area.
Tax lawyers are often asked to put tax situations and simple terms for business owners and individual clients. This is another reason why they are in such demand because it is a necessary part of all business transactions. Even nonprofit organizations hire tax lawyers to document their transactions while also staying up to date on all the tax processes that are involved with this type of business. Tax lawyers can be viewed as a client’s ultimate line of defense against the IRS and that sometimes becomes literal when tax lawyers represent their clients in court.
Salary and Wages
The salary of most tax lawyers is often determined by billable hours. That could mean tax lawyers will have to keep track of every minute of work they do for clients. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the annual salary of a lawyer to be $163,770 as of May 2022.
Entry-level tax lawyers generally make less than the average amount and much of their time is often spent conducting research. Entry-level positions typically start at $66,470 and can stretch all the way up to $94,440. Experience creates a greater value for individual tax attorneys and that leads to an increase in pay over the course of their careers. For example, tax lawyers with four to eight years of experience can expect to make about double the amount of the lower entry-level salaries.
Job Outlook for a Tax Lawyer
Tax law applies to every type of occupation, which means every sector of employment has to deal with tax law. Law firms employ tax lawyers, while most accounting firms also have tax lawyers as part of their staff. There are Federal and State opportunities for tax lawyers and many businesses hire tax lawyers as well. There is no shortage of opportunities for those looking to enter into the tax law practice area. That has made for a promising future filled with a plethora of opportunities.
One of the best attributes of being a tax lawyer is the flexibility it offers in the job market. Tax lawyers can choose to work for large corporations, any size law firm or even go into business for themselves. Tax lawyers could also find themselves involved in courtroom litigation representing clients in legal battles with the IRS. Becoming a tax lawyer is one of the most stable choices for any lawyer and that is because there is always going to be a demand in so many different sectors. Almost a quarter of all tax lawyers in the United States work for themselves, which is something that is not as prominent in all practice areas.
2022 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and employment figures for Lawyers reflect national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed April 2023.