The Step-by-Step Guide for the Best Tax Law Jobs in 2023
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Director of Product Tax - Now Hiring
Lansing, MI, US
2 months ago
Senior Tax Manager
Chicago, IL, US
2 months ago
Tax Manager - International Tax
Edison, NJ, US
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Non Profit Tax Manager
California City, CA, US
2 months ago
Online Business, Tax, Direct Tax Laws tutor
American Canyon, CA 94503, USA
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All You Need to Know About Tax Law Jobs
Taxes are a significant aspect of every adult’s life, in every part of the world. Businesses and individuals alike must pay their taxes or face the consequences.
But taxes are tricky, so we need people with tax-law jobs to serve as interpreters for the regulatory framework that outlines how and when entities should pay taxes to local, state, and federal governments.
Therefore, to handle taxes properly and complete all the paperwork in a timely and efficient manner, many people use law firms to aid them in this undertaking or settle it for them altogether.
However, from the legal-professional side of things, tax law usually seems more complicated than it is. That’s not to say, however, that tax law doesn’t demand specific expertise, just that it’s quite the lucrative field for anyone planning on starting a legal career.
Tax Lawyer Job Description
A tax attorney’s job description is to be aware of all the relevant tax legislation and advise clients on the steps to proper tax filing. Should any issues arise with your client’s returns, you are the person they will turn to solve them.
To be a competent tax lawyer, you need to have both textbook knowledge of federal, state, or local tax regulations, and experience in the field. Only then can you provide valuable counsel on the topics of income tax, tax deductions, or more complex subjects like corporate transactions.
Tax lawyers appear on behalf of clients in front of government authorities, too. Any dealings with the IRS are a tax attorney’s acumen as well. The IRS stands for the Internal Revenue Service, the US’s principal tax collection agency.
Other tax lawyer tasks involve negotiations with tax entities and advising clients on the tax-related ramifications of business endeavors. This may include financing, compensation taxation, tax exemption, taxing joint ventures, or international transaction taxation.
On a day-to-day basis, the job of a tax law attorney consists of advising clients and monitoring the changes in the relevant legislation. In case there is a direct or indirect impact of the new legislation in the field on a client or their business, it’s your responsibility to direct your client’s consecutive actions.
The principal duties tax attorneys perform are as follows:
- Storing client records and tax information.
- Continuously communicating with relevant stakeholders on the federal, state, or local level.
- Handling all complex tax issues.
- Monitoring tax changes and reporting back to the client.
- Saving the client’s money on taxes.
- Preparing tax assessments for clients prior to financial decisions.
- Representing clients in all tax-related matters in front of the authorities.
Choosing to pursue a tax-law career path doesn’t mean there’s just one direction you can take. The positions you can occupy strictly depend on your interests and qualifications.
First, it’s important to distinguish between the two major tax-law fields: consultancy and compliance.
The first one tackles tax issues and finds solutions for them. The second one involves the correct filing of tax-related paperwork. For instance, one of the primary tasks for those with consultancy tax lawyer jobs is to make sure your client pays as little as possible.
Of course, we don’t mean going to illegal lengths to achieve this. As a tax-law specialist, you are supposed to be familiar with tax structures and - more importantly in this case - all existing loopholes in tax legislation. Thus, your job is to efficiently organize your client’s tax obligations with as many deductions as possible, thus saving them money.
On the other hand, compliance tasks primarily pertain to completing client tax returns and ensuring they stay in line with the regulations. Besides that, you would liaise with the tax authorities to resolve any issues involving your clients.
According to some definitions from Lexis Nexis, the leading provider of legal regulatory information and analytics, there are several tax attorney positions based on the duties they perform. We’ll make a brief overview of each.
General Tax Attorney
People often confuse this position with tax law occupations in general. However, the principal assignments in this role involve handling partnership, corporate, and income-tax-related matters. They deal with various fields of tax law and serve as consultants on legal subjects.
In most cases, general tax attorneys collaborate closely with the in-house counsel of their client’s company and handle anything tax-related. In some sense, they act as corporate tax lawyers.
Another of the tax law careers is that of the estate planner. In this role, your focus will be on estate and gift taxes, as outlined by the IRC (Internal Revenue Code).
Typically, estate planners work as consultants to individual clients or even families. For example, people who decide to start a trust fund need an estate planner to handle the administrative parts of running one.
Other responsibilities undertaken by estate planners are helping clients avoid probate or advise them on how to minimize estate taxes.
“ERISA” stands for the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. According to the US Department of Labor, this federal law sets up the minimum criteria for voluntary health and retirement plans in the private sector.
This is one of the more specialized jobs in tax law, and you would work with private companies to aid their employees in exercising their rights. “ERISA” lawyers help develop appropriate labor-related strategies for dealing with pensions and benefits.
Tax Law Work Environment
As most lawyers do, tax lawyers work in an office. The office could be part of a larger law firm, a corporation, or a private practice. In any case, jobs in tax law are nine-to-five occupations in a formal environment. Depending on your workload, you might be expected or forced to work longer hours or even stay over the weekend.
With international-tax law-firm jobs, you can look forward to some traveling, but not too often. A tax lawyer position is an office-bound one, for the most part. And with law offices come dress codes, so you will have to wear professional-looking clothes, like suits, or at least shirts and slacks or skirts.
Most tax attorney jobs officially entail a 40-hour workweek. However, people in these positions often have to work up to 60 hours, depending on the severity and urgency of a particular case.
Also, the younger and less experienced you are, the harder you are expected to work. You’ll be burning the midnight oil a lot in your first years until you reach a certain level of experience and knowledge.
On top of that, regardless of how long you’ve been in the industry, January will be the most challenging month of the year. Taxes are due in January, so you’ll have to prepare all necessary information and paperwork for the tax returns you’re handling in a timely manner.
Tax Law Career Path
If you ever wondered what the skills, education, and other requirements to start a career in tax law are, read the following lines. They will help you take all the right steps to eventually land a job in this branch of the law.
Despite it often being portrayed as less dynamic compared to other legal jobs, the role of a tax attorney offers plenty of opportunities to turn itself into a rewarding career. For instance, the fact that it comes with significantly less stress than lawyer positions with more courtroom time is a significant benefit.
In the life of a tax lawyer, some skills play a more prominent role than others. Some of them are essential, even, if you want to succeed on this career path.
For example, excellent tax lawyers possess:
- Detailed knowledge of tax laws and regulations: You have to stay informed and updated with the primary source of your work. If you are to advise clients on tax structure, efficient ways to file taxes, and maybe even give them complex financial advice, you have to wield all the relevant information skillfully.
- Strong analytical skills: The rules for lawyers apply to tax attorney positions, as well - analytical reasoning and a rational approach to challenges will help you factor in all the relevant when proposing solutions to tax-related dilemmas.
- Attention to detail: Where the law is concerned, every word is interpreted as written. Your job is to ensure that meaning translates to your clients’ tax-oriented activities.
- Problem-solving skills: Tax law jobs require a dose of creativity. Aside from processing all the information for your clients as objectively as possible, sometimes it will be your job to solve specific problems. When it’s up to you to think of a clever fix, a little imagination can go a long way.
- Numeracy: Your math competencies don’t have to be perfect; you just have to be pretty good with numbers, as you’ll be dealing with a lot of them, either directly or indirectly.
- IRS protocol knowledge: To represent their client’s interests in front of the IRS, tax lawyers need to have a perfect understanding of the tax system. This will make both their job and the lives of their clients much easier.
- Organizational skills: A tax attorney’s tasks can sometimes get pretty convoluted. In those cases, a methodical approach is fundamental to staying on top of things.
- Communication skills: While you most likely won’t be defending your clients in a courtroom like Harvey Specter, it’s essential to be a master of communication when you’re a tax lawyer. The ability to express things clearly and precisely is vital for explaining complex regulations to your clients so that they can understand them and avoid any potential blunders.
Although the education path to become a tax lawyer isn’t remarkably different from those leading up to other professions that involve a law degree, some things are distinct. For example, this role involves more dealings with numbers and accounts, so a suitable candidate needs a solid accounting background to prepare them for the job.
Tax law careers start with a college education, which typically takes seven years, the same as for other lawyer positions.
The first hurdle is getting a four-year bachelor's degree. While there are no pre-set classes for aspiring tax lawyers, students should consider a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in Accounting. The courses required to earn this diploma will provide you with broad knowledge of accounting principles, keeping accounting records, and analyzing financial data.
After completing four years (usually) of undergraduate studies and receiving a bachelor’s degree, the next step involves enrolling in a law school, which will take you at least three years to finish.
However, to be eligible for a law degree, you first have to take the LSAT. The score from this determines your eligibility for getting into law school and becoming a tax law attorney.
Your choice of law school depends a great deal on your LSAT score and previous results in college. According to the latest rankings, the best schools to learn tax law are the New York University School of Law, the Georgetown University Law Center, the University of Florida Levin College of Law, and the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law.
During your law school studies, you might have the opportunity to choose specific subjects that will better prepare you for working with tax laws. For instance, some good choices are Estate Planning, General Business Taxation, or Financial Services.
Finishing law school will get you the title of Juris Doctor. Only then will the formal part of education for a tax attorney career be finished. However, your work would only just be beginning.
Licensing, Certification, and Registration
After completing all the relevant educational requirements, it will be time to set yourself on the path for some entry-level tax-attorney jobs. To be eligible for them, you’ll need to get multiple certificates.
First, take the MPRE, short for Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination - a test comprising 60 questions tackling ethical matters. Passing it is mandatory to qualify for the bar exam in almost all states.
Then, to practice law in any state, you have to pass the bar exam. Bar exams differ slightly between states, but typically they consist of a 6-hour-long test covering all sorts of legal topics. Students spend months preparing for this exam, as it is one of the most important and difficult steps on the tax attorney career path or that of any other lawyer.
Passing this exam will grant you a license to practice law from the National Conference of Bar Examiners. You may choose to get some additional certification, which may come in handy for international tax attorney jobs, but these two are all you need to launch your tax law career.
The best tax law jobs for new lawyers are any jobs that you can get. Better positions with benefits, shorter hours, and high-profile cases will have to wait until you gain some experience in the field.
Most fresh-out-of-law-school attorneys work as associates in law firms, in a team supervised by more experienced colleagues. However, if you’re looking to build your career in a federal, state, or local government, some IRS jobs would be much better suited to what you’re going for. A tax specialist position is an entry-level job for those willing to learn and build their professional role on the government side.
Tax Lawyer Salary
How much a tax lawyer earns depends on multiple factors, including their level of experience, educational background, and which licenses and certificates they possess.
The BLS stats for 2020 show that the median salary for law professionals in the US is $126,930 annually. Despite that, the median tax attorney salary is actually lower than this. For instance, PayScale stats will tell you that the median salary for a tax lawyer in the US is $102,181 per year.
The amount varies between tax law professionals, too, depending on their seniority level or even the state in which they practice. For example, a tax attorney’s starting salary is usually somewhere around $85,000. In the beginning, much of your tasks would be research- and compliance-related, rather than dealing with consultancy issues.
With more experience, you’ll also be getting more money. For instance, according to Glassdoor, a senior tax counsel’s salary can go up to $264,000 annually. On top of that, the international tax lawyer salary can climb to $208,000.
Those who elect to open a private practice generally earn less than employees of larger law firms. But, with enough experience to create value for your clients, come more clients and, in turn, higher wages.
The Tax Attorney Job Outlook
Taxes are a necessary aspect of life, work, and the economy. On the plus side, this means that those planning on working in this field can always count on having a job.
Aside from law firms that hire tax lawyers, many companies offer in-house tax lawyer jobs to attorneys to help the company deal with the complex systems and regulations surrounding taxes. Many accounting firms employ tax attorneys to add value and expertise to their offer for clients. Despite it not being common, tax lawyers can represent their clients in courtrooms for legal proceedings involving the IRS.
On the other hand, IRS tax attorney jobs are available for those who wish to work for the government and contribute to the tax collection system.
The Bureau of Labor predicted that all lawyer occupations would grow by 4% by 2029, so we can certainly say the tax lawyer prospects are more than good. It’s also worth mentioning that a quarter of tax lawyers in the US work in their own practice as their own bosses.
Despite the current competition strength due to the huge number of law-school graduates, future tax attorneys have a lot to look forward to.
While the number of law-related positions is indeed growing more slowly than required, careers in tax law offer more flexibility than regular lawyer positions. What makes the tax lawyer position even more interesting is that you can always supplement it with some accountant training and even get a license to work as CPA (Certified Public Accountant).
Finally, if none of this works for you, tax law professor jobs are also on the table. Typically, the average annual salary for this position is around $97,000. However, to be a tax law professor, you need to possess a firm knowledge of tax law and pass your university tests with flying colors. What’s more, you have to gain plenty of experience in the field to impart both knowledge and realistic expectations of the industry to your students.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do tax lawyers make a lot of money?
Although the amount of money you would earn as a tax lawyer varies based on multiple factors, the average tax lawyer earns a more-than-decent salary. In fact, it’s only slightly below the average for all lawyer professions, at $113,000 annually.
The entry-level tax attorney salary of $96,000 is also lower than the estimated average for all lawyer occupations, at $113,000, but it’s not something to dismiss easily, either. With more experience and accumulated knowledge, a good tax attorney could earn more than $200,000 per year.
Do tax lawyers go to court?
Usually, the tax attorney job description doesn’t involve much courtroom time. It’s mostly advisory in nature, and a tax attorney’s primary job is to provide counsel to help avoid court proceedings.
However, tax attorneys complete law school and pass the bar exam to practice law. Hence, they can represent their clients in court if it comes to that. Typically, tax attorneys can go to court if their client is in a legal dispute with the IRS or any other government authority.
How much money does a tax lawyer make?
The average tax lawyer’s salary ranges from $58,000 for starter positions to over $200,000 for skilled tax consultants with ten or more years of experience.
The level of your degree plays a fundamental role in your salary. In fact, those who get a master’s degree could earn a six-figure median wage. Otherwise, a bachelor’s degree lowers your median salary to $73,000.
Is tax law a good field?
As long as taxes exist, there will be a demand for tax law jobs. Lawyers who are good with numbers have a good outlook in this field.
Moreover, the flexible characteristics of the job lead to a broader array of employment possibilities. From private businesses to federal authorities, many are in need of a tax attorney. The complex nature of tax laws makes those with expertise in it invaluable to corporations and individuals alike.