Tax attorney career guide

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Your guide to becoming a tax attorney

Do you have a solid accounting background and a proven track record in the field? Are you passionate about laws and regulations that are related to current taxation policies? If that’s the case, then pursuing a tax attorney career may be the ideal choice for you. You could represent various clients or work in a larger company or a federal organization as an in-house subject matter expert.

As in every other accounting niche, with perseverance and by continually honing your set of skills and abilities, you can climb the organizational ladder to reach higher levels and more prominent roles. If your know-how is backed up by a strong sense of work ethics and integrity, you may have a promising career as a tax attorney in front of you.

What to expect from a tax attorney role?

Before choosing to accept a tax attorney position, you should consider the type of employer you’d like to have. You can be a part of a larger corporation, join a specialized

accounting company that has a set of preferred customers, work for a smaller tax firm, or even start a business of your own. All these career options have particular advantages, and you should think about the type of work you’d like to do regularly to make an educated decision.

First, let’s consider the benefits of joining a multinational corporation. These companies can have in-house tax specialists, external contractors, or both. You can become a full-time employee and help advise on the legal aspects of various transactions, payroll or employment activities, as well as financial and taxation trends or evolutions. You would also need to assess the monetary impact of economic decisions.

When joining an established law company, you may expect a more diverse role. Your customers will usually vary, and so will the current tasks. Different types of businesses may need your tax attorney expertise in domains like starting a nonprofit organization, forming a joint venture or a corporation, or even corporate reorganization.

If you work in a smaller accounting company or act as a self-employed individual, you might have to assist startups, micro-businesses, or individuals with tax disputes, audits, or even investments.

Other day-to-day tasks can include:

  • Analyzing current transactions before further acquisitions
  • Staying up to date with every relevant law, regulation, or taxation standard
  • Collaborating with other tax professionals like Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) to manage, prepare, and organize tax documents and financial statements prior to Internal Revenue Service (IRS) audits
  • Representing customers in IRS hearings or appeals in front of the U.S. Tax Court or
  • Offering assistance in litigations and representing clients in various legal disputes. The median annual salary in 2020 in the U.S. for tax attorneys was $101,061.

Qualifications to become a tax attorney

Tax attorneys are accounting professionals that companies, or individuals employ to help them understand the ins and outs of tax laws. Besides the excellent know-how of everything involving tax regulations, as a tax attorney, you should also possess a unique set of abilities to help you deal with the ever-changing challenges of the field. Here are

some of the main skills and competencies you should develop to become a truly successful tax attorney.

Mathematical competency

Having excellent numerical abilities is one of the most critical skills any accounting specialist should have. That’s even more important in a domain that’s intricately linked to numbers and calculations like taxation. Moreover, having an analytical mindset backed up with good mathematical skills will help you assess, understand, and navigate through all the tax implications your clients may be facing.

Good interpersonal and communication skills

Since you will continuously work directly with customers, effective verbal, nonverbal, and written communication abilities are required to inspire trust and gain confidence. You have to explain tax regulations and adapt taxation jargon so that people with little or no accounting background can understand the implications of various policies. This way, they can stay compliant and trust you to represent them further and offer pro-active financial suggestions.

Solid moral standards and work ethics

Strong moral standards and work ethic should be in the DNA of any successful tax attorney. If your company has a code of business conduct, you should strictly commit to it and even become its ambassador at your workplace. Total integrity will also help you build reliable relationships with your customers and consolidate an excellent reputation among your peers.

Compliance proficiency

Tax attorneys must check that their customers or organizations they work for are compliant with all essential taxation laws and regulations, whether local, national, or global. To verify compliance, you should have exhaustive know-how of legal principles, tax rules, and federal legislation.

Problem-solving skills

During your tax attorney career, you will face various situations and issues that require attention and excellent problem-solving skills. Each customer might have their particularities, and to serve them properly, you would have to solve problems in an emotionless, impartial, and open-minded fashion. You must also conduct proper and extensive research to come up with solutions tailored to the given circumstances.

Responsibilities and obligations of tax attorneys

As highly sought-after specialists in federal or local taxation regulations, tax attorneys have a deep understanding of tax law complexities. They may often be asked to help clients stay compliant, manage personal fiscal problems, or oversee the distribution of the financial assets among beneficiaries.

If you have decided to choose a tax attorney career and you’re eager to know what your primary responsibilities might look like, here’s your comprehensive overview.

Guide corporate decisions

Tax attorneys that work for or within multinational companies offer advice on mergers and acquisitions, acting as corporate governance counselors. They have a strategic role, ensuring that their company stays compliant with all applicable laws while making the best business health decisions.

Conducting legal inquiries

Another commonplace responsibility for tax attorneys is to oversee legal research through digital databases. They browse through numerous recordings and materials and conduct negotiations with various tax authorities, including the IRS. They discuss these matters with their clients and together go through all written pieces of evidence – from bank statements to invoices, payroll records, or other receipts.

Help start a business

If one plans to start a business and doesn’t know what sort of legal entity to choose, then a tax attorney is the right person to reach out to for help. Attorneys can help their clients select the most suitable entity type for their purpose and business plans and advise on the relevant tax particularities. They can also help their customers draft the initial documents of their organization.

Support estate planning

Tax attorneys advise individuals on the most appropriate ways to pass their wealth and assets to their inheritors, including trusts or wills. To maximize savings, avoid extra taxes, and choose the right type of trust, seeking an attorney’s guidance is an excellent option. These professionals can assist their clients every step of the way and inform them of local or federal tax law changes.

Review clients’ documentation

Attorneys may have to deal with property tax appeals problems. If that’s the case, they review and check the accuracy of the letters and documents their clients have received from local authorities. Their work may also include investigating the tax assessments of similar properties and evaluating all exemptions. These specialists can also represent their customers at hearings and may offer advice on the most suitable course of action.

What you should study to become a tax attorney

The first step towards a successful tax attorney career is to earn a degree from an accredited institution, be that a university or a college. A bachelor’s degree in accounting, mathematics, business, finance, economics, or any other related field will provide you with the needed knowledge and offer access to different job opportunities.

If you want to consolidate your career and explore new pathways, you can apply to a law school after earning your bachelor’s degree. They typically offer 3-year programs revolving around international and national taxation, estate planning, financial services, to name just a few. Make sure you choose a prominent law school with a comprehensive curriculum on tax policies.

American Accounting Association (AAA)

Established more than a century ago, the AAA gathers under one roof an extensive community of accountants from all walks of life, including the academic field.

International Federation of Accountants (IFA)

This organization represents accounting professionals in more than 130 countries around the world, acting as a global common ground for networking and best practices in the accounting industry.

The Institute of Internal Auditors of North America (IIA)

Founded in 1941 and based in Florida, the IIA is an organization with 200,000 members globally that represents internal auditors’ interests at national and international levels.