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How to Become a Tax Attorney

August 22, 2023

“Tax” is a short word with substantial meaning and typically negative connotations. To learn more about the professionals that make taxes less intimidating, read on!

Everyone hates taxes—or at least paying them. Filing your taxes can be complicated and challenging, especially when there are discrepancies that can cause legal penalties or issues. However, tax attorneys make these potential issues less daunting! 

These professionals dedicate their entire careers to resolving tax issues and ensuring individuals or corporations file their taxes correctly with as little hassle as possible.

If you’re interested in making a pesky part of everyday life more manageable, this guide will go into further detail about how to become a tax attorney, their duties, and career outlook.

Steps to Becoming a Tax Attorney

Steps to becoming a tax attorney

Like any other lawyer, tax attorneys are required to gain specialized training in their field to perform their job effectively. Considering this, you may be asking yourself, “how long does it take to become a tax attorney?”

Depending on the level of training you want to receive, it will take seven to eight years to join this profession. Here are the steps these years will involve:

Step One: Obtain an Undergraduate Degree

A JD is difficult to complete. It involves a rigorous curriculum that students must excel in if they want to secure strong job prospects. As such, committees need assurance that students are academically talented and have begun developing good study habits before they can accept them into their programs.

Correspondingly, all law school applicants must complete an undergrad before attending law school. 

For the majority of law schools, your major won’t impact your admission chances. However, considering you want to become a tax attorney, it’s recommended you choose accounting as your major to begin learning about the fundamentals of tax.

You must also maintain a high GPA throughout your undergrad to ensure you’re considered a competitive applicant at as many schools as possible.

Step Two: Gain Useful Experience

While it might be difficult to gain experience directly related to tax law, it’s essential you dedicate an adequate amount of time to extracurriculars, work, and volunteer endeavors to begin building your law school resume.

Choose activities you are genuinely interested in and plan to stick with throughout your undergrad or at least for a year. The admissions committee will appreciate depth more than breadth when reviewing your resume, so it’s essential you make a meaningful impact in all of these pursuits.

Step Two: Write the LSAT or GRE

Depending on the school you’d like to go to, you’ll be given the option to write the LSAT or GRE. Ensure you review the content and format of both exams to determine which one you can score higher on. 

Regardless of which exam you choose, you must use reliable resources and stick to a comprehensive study plan that will get you to your target score! Your LSAT or GRE will play a substantial role in the admission committee’s selection process.

Step Three: Go to Law School

After you’ve gone through the lengthy task of preparing your application, writing the LSAT/GRE, and waiting for decisions, you should hopefully get an offer letter from one of your top choices.

After accepting your offer, you’ll be spending the next three years completing a JD program. Since law school is known to be difficult, it’s essential you remain diligent and focused throughout these three years. Your grades will determine the job prospects you have post-graduation!

Step Four: Complete the MPRE Exam

Aside from the LSAT, you’ll have to write the MPRE exam in order to prove you’re able to meet the ethical and professional standards required of a lawyer. 

Most law students write this exam during the second or third year of their JD, but you should choose a time that works best for you. While this exam is generally considered to be easy to study for, it’s essential you give yourself at least a few weeks to master the material.

Step Five: Consider an LLM in Tax Law

While this step is optional, lawyers may choose to pursue additional legal training by completing an LLM in Tax Law. This certification can offer more employment options and higher pay. 

There are also several programs that combine a JD with an LLM in Tax Law.

Step Six: Pass the Bar Exam

The final step, and final exam, you’ll have to complete before you can begin representing clients is the bar exam. Unlike the MPRE, this exam is considered to be challenging and typically requires a few months of preparation! 

You’re almost at the finish line by this step, so as tempting as it may be to slow down and catch your breath, it’s important you push through to ensure you can cross that line as soon as possible!

Step Seven: Completing Continuing Education Certificates

Many tax lawyers also participate in continuing education programs throughout their careers to keep up-to-date with all state and federal income tax laws.

What Does a Tax Attorney Do?

While tax attorneys generally ensure there are no discrepancies in their clients’ taxes or help them resolve discrepancies, the specific tasks they perform to do this successfully include:

  • Helping businesses fill out their corporate tax forms
  • Creating contracts for business owners involving their tax obligations or responsibilities
  • Representing business owners or individuals with IRS or state tax issues
  • Negotiating settlements with tax institutions
  • Acting as a mediator between the tax filer and the IRS
  • Providing legal advice on how to approach tax issues

Tax lawyers are also constantly conducting legal research to understand complex tax law policies that change frequently.

Tax Attorney Salary and Career Outlook

Another essential part of learning how to become a tax lawyer is knowing your career outlook.

Luckily, tax attorneys are well-paid and have high earning potential, depending on their location and experience. Entry-level tax lawyers typically make around $84,700 a year, mid-career lawyers make $124,500 a year, and late-career lawyers make approximately $175,800 a year.

Since everyone needs to file taxes, and there are often issues that arise with them, tax lawyers are always in demand. While these professionals tend to be the busiest during tax season, they’re needed year-round and often build a substantial clientele within a few years of working in the field.

FAQs: Becoming a Tax Attorney

In this guide, we’ve covered the basics of how to become a tax attorney. For any remaining questions about this career, read on to find your answers.

1. How Long Does It Take to Become a Tax Attorney?

It will take at least seven to eight years of formal education to become a tax attorney: ideally four years to obtain an undergrad in accounting, three years to obtain a JD, and an optional additional year to obtain an LLM in Tax Law.

While you’ll only need to be in school for seven years to become a tax lawyer, tax attorneys spend their entire careers learning! You can expect to take additional continuing education courses several times throughout your career to ensure you’re providing your clients with the best advice and representation.

2. How Much Do Tax Lawyers Make in Florida?

On average, tax lawyers make $100,098 a year in Florida.

3. Where Do Tax Lawyers Get Paid the Most?

The top-paying states for tax lawyers are the District of Columbia, where they make an average of $198,820 a year, New York, where they make an average of $179,060 a year, and California, where they make an average of $176,610 a year.

4. Is Being a Tax Lawyer Hard?

Yes, becoming a tax lawyer will be challenging. One of the hardest parts will be getting into a good law school, as law schools are competitive and typically only accept a small fraction of applicants. Another challenging step will be to pass the two-day bar exam.

Once you’ve joined the profession, there will be other challenges you will face. As tax laws are constantly being modified, you’ll have to ensure you keep up with these changes or your clients can face penalties and your reputation will be on the line!

5. Where Is There the Most Opportunity for Tax Lawyers?

California is not only one of the highest-paying states for tax lawyers, but it also has the most annual job openings.

6. Are Tax Attorneys CPAs?

No, tax attorneys do not have to receive CPA licenses. They do not handle other accounting matters, only taxes. As such, they only require a JD to perform their job effectively.

Final Thoughts

Undoubtedly, the journey to becoming a tax lawyer will be challenging. You will likely face many hurdles along the way, but will ultimately end up in a high-paying and high-demand legal profession!

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