Education and training : Law degree, additional master’s degree in taxation law recommended
Average salary : $101,823 – $131,140
Job outlook : Excellent
For people who have a talent with numbers and strong attention to detail, working as a tax lawyer is a career that adds these attributes into an equation for success.
Tax lawyers help people, businesses and organizations with staying on the right side of the law when it comes to taxes. Tax attorneys can provide individuals and organizations with advice concerning their taxes, help develop legal means to reduce tax exposure, and defend clients in court if a dispute with government tax officials arises. One of the great things about becoming a tax lawyer is that it is a very flexible career path. Tax attorneys can find work in a big corporation, at a law firm, or the more entrepreneurial spirited ones can go into business for themselves.
Education and Training Requirements
If you’re considering becoming a tax lawyer, be ready to spend a few years in school. Because of the byzantine nature of tax law, and the high stakes involved, tax attorneys are required to by highly educated and highly competent.
Tax attorneys must have a law degree and most should also have a master of laws degree in taxation. In addition to degree requirements, tax attorneys must also be licensed to practice in their state.
To even get into law school, potential tax lawyers must obtain a bachelor’s degree. Many choose to get one in accounting, finance, or a related field. Before gaining admission to law school, students must pass the Law School Admission test, commonly referred to as the LSAT.
While in law school, students will take core law courses such as constitutional law and basic courses about civil procedures before moving on to more specialized courses in limited partnership law, business taxation, business liquidations, etc.
After finishing law school, many students intending to become tax attorneys also pursue a master of laws in taxation (LLM) program. It typically takes about a year to complete this degree, and students enrolled in an LLM program benefit from more intense training in specific areas of tax law such as estate planning or business taxation. Many LLM students go on to externship jobs with government agencies or law firms specializing in corporate tax law.
To work as a tax attorney, students must pass the state bar exam in their state and may also have to complete other licensure requirements, depending on where they’re practicing.
Getting the Job
Getting good internships and externships and making the right connections in college are key to landing a job as a tax attorney. This is an exclusive field and tax attorneys are scarce enough to ensure almost full employment for anyone who leaves school with a law degree and an LLM, but the very best jobs go to tax lawyers who prove themselves in the right internship.
Job Prospects, Employment Outlook and Career Development
If you’ve jumped through all the hoops to become a tax attorney, your chances of employment are excellent. The ever-changing world of tax law makes tax lawyers a very much in demand field. Tax attorneys have a lot of options with regard to their employment. While many start out working for big firms or government agencies, a significant number eventually break off to form their own firms. Nearly 26 percent of all attorneys are self-employed.
Working Conditions and Environment
Tax attorneys work in a formal, professional office environment. Expect to wear professional clothing, especially if you deal directly with clients. Tax lawyers will often work long hours, 40-60 hours per week particularly if they’re working on a major case. Because of the workload, and the intense pressure to get every detail correct, this is a high-stress position.
Salary and Benefits
Salary and benefits can vary for tax attorneys, depending on whether you work for the government or for a private firm or if you go out on your own. Tax attorneys who work for government agencies tend to have better benefit programs, as governmental agencies typically offer strong benefit programs to compensate for the typically lower salaries they offer compared to private firms.
Beginning tax attorneys make about $88,664 per year, while the average salary of top tax attorneys who have years of experience and supervise other attorneys is around $167,474. Many firms offer bonuses to attorneys if the firm meets performance goals.
Where to Go for More Information
American Bar Association
321 North Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60654-7598
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys
National Association of Property Tax Attorneys