Tax Lawyer: Educational Requirements and Career Summary
Tax lawyers, also known as tax attorneys, help individuals and organizations solve tax-related issues. Aside from completing law school, these professionals typically have a background in accounting, taxation or a related field.
Educational Requirements for Tax Lawyers
Law School Prerequisites
Admission into law school entails completion of a bachelor's degree program and the Law School Admission Test. Most colleges and universities do not offer pre-law undergraduate degrees; however, students interested in tax law may consider majoring in economics, accounting or finance to gain knowledge of taxation and financial recordkeeping. Those interested in gaining additional accounting experience may consider completing a summer internship or working as an accountant after college.
Once accepted into law school, students take required foundational courses covering topics from constitutional law to civil procedures. After fulfilling these requirements, aspiring tax lawyers may begin to take more specialized courses covering topics in business taxation, such as limited partnerships and income taxes. More advanced courses may cover subjects like business liquidations and acquisitions. Law students who complete the curriculum earn a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree.
Master of Laws in Taxation (LL.M.)
Law school graduates may consider enrolling in a 1-year LL.M. program in taxation. Students can cater these highly-specialized programs to a specific area of interest, like estate planning or international business taxation. Most programs help students find externships with government offices and corporate law firms. These positions allow students to gain experience with both research and legal writing pertaining to tax law.
Career Summary for Tax Lawyers
Tax lawyers must be licensed, or 'admitted to the bar', in order to practice. To obtain licensure, lawyers must pass the written bar examination administered by the state in which they intend to practice. Some states may administer additional exams, such as an ethics assessment, before admitting the candidate to the bar. Passing the bar exam means the candidate can practice law in that state only. While some states have transfer agreements, lawyers may need to pass the bar exam for every state in which they intend to practice.
Tax lawyers may work for organizations, corporations or government offices. They may also begin their own businesses, advising and representing clients on taxation or accounting matters. Tax lawyers working for larger corporations or with clients in various parts of the country may be required to travel. Others work long, irregular hours that may include weekends.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of lawyers in general is expected to increase 10% between 2010 and 2020 (www.bls.gov). Lawyers earned a median annual salary of $113,530 in May 2012.
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