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How to Become a Tax Attorney

If you are a lawyer looking to make a career change, you have a passion for helping others, and you have an interest in tax law, becoming a tax attorney could be the perfect career path for you.

Tax attorneys resolve legal tax issues for people and organizations. They might help a company limit its exposure to tax liabilities or settle tax disputes that a client has with the IRS. As a tax attorney, you will need a solid foundation in tax laws and regulations, whether local, state, or federal. You must have excellent written and verbal communication, be an outstanding negotiator, and have good research skills. 

Tax issues may be related to income, property, gift, federal tax, or more. As a tax attorney, you must be current on all relevant regulations and tax laws pertaining to the tax issues for the clients they represent. To excel as a tax attorney, you should have a passion for helping others, and be able to explain complicated tax laws to clients to help them understand their rights and options. Confidentiality is important for tax attorneys, as is a good working knowledge of finance and accounting principles. 

Sample job description

Tax attorneys represent corporations and individuals who are being audited by the Internal Revenue Service, as well as by state and local taxing authorities. They also work with clients to help limit exposure to tax liabilities. A tax attorney should have a solid knowledge of laws and regulations relating to taxes, excellent written and verbal communication, and strong research and negotiation skills. [Your Company Name] is hiring an experienced tax attorney to ensure our business stays at the expert level it’s at. As an ideal candidate, you have experience handling legal matters related to taxes and taxation for businesses, organizations, or individuals.    

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Advise and counsel clients on legal matters relating to taxes, from limiting tax liability to audits, mergers and acquisitions and prosecuting disputes with government entities who levy taxes
  • Litigate tax disputes in court if necessary
  • Write and file motions and court briefs
  • Negotiate tax settlements

Education and experience

This position requires a Juris Doctorate as well as a license to practice law in the state where the candidate will work. Tax attorneys must also take and pass the MPRE (Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination) before taking the bar examination.

College coursework in business law, taxation, accounting, and related topics is preferred.

Required skills and qualifications

  • Expertise in written and verbal communication
  • Knowledge of federal, state and local tax laws
  • Research skills
  • Analytical thinking
  • Negotiation skills
  • Litigation experience
  • Accounting skills and expertise

Preferred qualifications

  • Excellent knowledge of tax practices
  • 5+ years of experience working as a tax attorney
  • Strong analytical skills

Typical work environment

Tax attorneys typically work in an office setting during regular business hours. They often meet directly with clients. Many tax attorneys work as much as 60 hours per week, especially when preparing for a major case.   

Typical hours

The work hours in an office setting for a tax attorney are usually from 9 AM to 5 PM. However, many attorneys work more than 40 hours a week or on weekends, especially when nearing deadlines.

Available certifications

Many institutions offer certification programs for tax attorneys to demonstrate their knowledge and skills and to help them move ahead in their careers. Here are some of the top certifications for tax attorneys: 

  • Board Certified Tax Lawyer Specialist. Many states offer a Board Certified Specialist exam for tax law specialists. The requirements vary by state, but they include a level of experience, a law degree, and a certain amount of continuing education in the field of tax law. The exam is rigorous and very hard, which means a board-certified tax lawyer has a level of expertise found only if the very best tax lawyers. Most candidates specialize in a particular area of tax law.  
  • Masters of Law (LLM) in Tax Law. The LLM in tax law is designed for lawyers who want to specialize in this field of law. Offered at many schools of law, the program follows comprehensive, real-world case studies and helps you identify common tax issues and how to apply tax law in a variety of contexts. You also learn the intricacies of the Internal Revenue Code, and more. 

Career path

Tax attorneys are required to have a Juris Doctorate from an accredited law school and a license to practice law in the state where they work. Tax attorneys must also take and pass the MPRE (Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination) before taking the bar examination. College coursework in areas like in business law, accounting and related topics is helpful and can make candidates attractive to employers. Many tax attorneys are also certified public accountants (CPAs), which involves further education and licensing.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 23-1011

2020 Employment804,200
Projected Employment in 2030875,700
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 9% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift71,500 increase

Tax laws, especially in the U.S., are constantly changing, and it’s vital for tax attorneys to keep up with those changes in order to protect their clients. According to the industry website Above the Law, there are some trends a tax attorney should be aware of. The tax law field tends to ebb and flow with the economy. In times of economic uncertainty, there are fewer mergers and acquisitions, which means tax attorneys who specialize in those areas of tax law could see a slowdown in business. It also means clients will be more cost-conscious and concerned with limiting tax liability. However, with major changes in tax laws, there is a greater need for tax attorneys to help clients comply with, understand, and navigate those new laws.