How to Become a

Tax Lawyer

The complete career guide to be a Tax Lawyer: salary, job growth, employers, best schools, and education you may need to get started.

Why We Love It

  • $136,260
    Potential Avg. Salary
  • 5.6%
    Job Growth Rate
  • Growing Demand
    Job Outlook
  • High Income Potential
    Career Attribute

Tax lawyers help individuals and businesses take steps to ensure adherence to tax laws, reduce amount of taxes owed, combat audits, and claim all eligible tax credits. They advise individuals and businesses in all matters related to taxes, and work on behalf of clients to combat accusations of fraud by the IRS.


What is a Tax Lawyer?

The following job responsibilities are common for individuals in tax attorney roles:

  • Prepare tax returns for individuals or businesses: ensure eligible deductions are applied, compute taxes owed, and guarantee compliance with applicable tax laws
  • Search for and identify ways that tax burdens can be reduced through qualified credits, itemized deductions, or claimed operational expenses
  • Assist in the event of an audit, representing clients in proceedings or suits filed by the IRS or a state/local tax collection agency
  • Advise on the legal, business, and tax implications of different business decisions, such as incorporation, new partnerships, mergers, or acquisitions
  • Assist with the proper reporting on distributed funds as the result of divestitures, profit distributions, capital gains and losses, and retirement distributions

A Day in the Life

Tax lawyers are both accountants and attorneys who specialize in advising individuals and businesses alike when it comes to tax law. When working with individuals, tax lawyers can help file taxes, but more often their services are designed to ensure that individuals take advantage of all opportunities to reduce tax burdens. They may recommend solutions for an upcoming year for receipts to save for itemization, recommend a sole proprietor transition to an LLC, or propose tax credits the individual may qualify for.

Tax lawyers also work with businesses to help businesses operate legally, report incoming and outgoing funds correctly, and assist with distribution of funds in mergers, acquisitions, or bankruptcies. Business tax law is much more complex than that of individual tax laws, so businesses often keep a law attorney on staff or have a retainer with a tax law firm to assist with questions and regulations. When a business is considering an acquisition or merger, tax lawyers play a large role in developing these partnerships.

The other major role tax lawyers play—for both individuals and businesses—is that of legal counsel in the event of an audit or more advanced proceedings. Tax lawyers can assist individuals when dealing with the IRS during an audit, can file appeals on judgments, and represent the client in legal proceedings. When large tax amounts are owned to local, state, or federal governments, tax lawyers may be able to work with the collecting agency to set up payment plans or reduced amounts owed.

Typical Work Schedule

Most tax lawyers work full-time schedules during normal business hours. Overtime may be required in this role, especially during the first few months of the year when individuals and businesses are filing annual taxes. However, most businesses are required to file taxes quarterly, so most tax attorneys are able to spread their work evenly throughout the year.

Typical Employers

Many tax lawyers are able to find work through the Big Four accounting firms: Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young, and KPMG. Other work for private tax law practices—they may own their own practices, share practices with other lawyers, or work for practices owned by other lawyers. Additionally, some may be kept on staff for individual businesses with significant tax needs.


How To Become a Tax Lawyer

Most tax lawyers begin their careers with a bachelor’s degree in business, finance, or accounting. From there, they go on to take the certified public accountant (CPA) licensing exam to become licensed accountants. To take the CPA exam, most states require 150 hours of college coursework. The CPA exam for all states is a four-part exam from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Most states also have continuing education requirements to maintain the CPA certification.

With a bachelor’s degree and a CPA license, the next step is to apply for and begin law school. Most law school programs require three years of study and result in earning a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree. Earning a J.D. is a prerequisite for taking the bar exam, and passing the bar exam is a requirement for earning state licensure to practice law. Tax attorneys generally have licenses to practice as both accountants and lawyers in the states they live in, and continuing education is usually required to maintain both licenses.

While it’s possible to launch a private tax attorney practice right out of law school, most tax lawyers begin their careers working under other attorneys to learn the ropes of the profession before venturing out on their own. However, if you earned money by preparing taxes for individual clients while going to law school, it’s not a huge stretch to expand that business—and offer both legal and tax preparation services—after graduation as both a tax law and accounting firm.


Tax Lawyer Salary Data

We’ve provided you the following to learn more about this career. The salary and growth data on this page comes from recently published Bureau of Labor Statistics data while the recommendations and editorial content are based on our research.

National Anual Salary

Low Range

$76,300

Average

$136,260

High Range

---

National Hourly Wage

Low Range

$37/hr

Average

$66/hr

High Range

---

How do Tax Lawyer salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, Tax Lawyer's can make an average annual salary of $136,260, or $66 per hour. On the lower end, they can make $76,300 or $37 per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.

Salary Rankings And Facts

  • #22 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Average Salary Nationally


Highest Education Among Tax Lawyers

  • 91%   Doctorate
  • 4.1%   Masters
  • 3.5%   Bachelors
  • 0.5%   Associates
  • 0.4%   College
  • 0.4%   High School
  • 0.1%   Less than High School

Job Growth Projections and Forecast

2014 Total Jobs

778,700

2024 Est. Jobs

822,500

Job Growth Rate

5.6%

Est. New Jobs

43,800

How does Tax Lawyer job growth stack up to other jobs across the country? By 2024, there will be a change of 43,800 jobs for a total of 822,500 people employed in the career nationwide. This is a 5.6% change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate nationwide of Above Average.

Growth Rankings And Facts

  • #401 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Avg. Growth Nationally


What Companies Employ The Most Tax Lawyers

Industry Current Jobs New Jobs Needed % Increase
Legal services 376,100 22,100 22%
Self-employed workers 165,500 -1,800 -2%
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 55,600 5,300 5%

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