Tax Law Career: Courses & Training Requirements
A tax lawyer needs to possess a professional law degree and obtain state licensure. Courses in tax law are completed as part of a full graduate program in law.
Law schools offer graduate-level Juris Doctor (J.D.) and Master of Laws (LL.M.) programs that have coursework or specializations in taxation. While J.D. programs usually take three years and are suitable for those wanting to get licensed to work as an attorney, LL.M. programs can take as little as one year and are suitable for working legal professionals or those in other fields who want to gain an understanding of law. There are also combined J.D. and LL.M. programs available that enable students to take significant coursework in tax law while also meeting the requirements to take the bar exam and obtain licensure.
Some of the many courses available in tax law include those in corporate tax law, income tax law, federal tax law, partnership tax law and estate planning. Students usually first learn about the tax laws applying to businesses and income in general before they study the more advanced topics of federal and partnership tax law. Tax law courses often include case studies.
J.D. programs include additional core coursework in areas that include criminal law, contracts, constitutional law, professional responsibility and property law. LL.M. programs often include core courses in United States law and legal research. Law students can do internships to gain some experience.
Tax Law Courses
Some sample tax law courses found in graduate programs are described below.
Corporate Tax Law
Income tax follows specific, unique guidelines as it relates to corporations and investors. Topics include mergers, payment of dividends to investors, liquidation and reorganizations of corporations. Corporate tax law courses discuss the option of corporations to declare themselves either C corporations or S corporations, and the tax consequences of each choice.
Income Tax Law
Students learn the nuances of federal income tax, particularly in terms of the legal ramifications of the tax. This course also discusses the Internal Revenue Code, which sets forth the federal tax statues that are utilized by tax law professionals. The income tax course is often taken early in tax law programs because it is a common prerequisite for other tax law classes.
Federal Tax Law
This course focuses on government audits and the process of appearing before the Internal Revenue Service and United States Tax Court. It covers all areas of federal tax law, from filing tax returns to settling cases to audit case strategies. While some schools offer a federal tax law curriculum based on past cases, other schools allow students to practice federal tax law in actual cases with real clients.
Partnership Tax Law
Students learn about the tax consequences of businesses that are classified as partnerships. The course begins by explaining the differences between partnerships and limited liability corporations, the proceeds to address the ways that partnerships can be initiated and dissolved. Students also learn the distribution of assets with in a partnership. This course also includes information about mergers between two or more partnerships.
This course discusses the processes and procedures involved in planning an estate. It covers the tax implications of estate planning as well as non-tax aspects, such as interviewing clients, analyzing estates and working with clients to ensure that the estate satisfies all necessary parties. Such classes often utilize group work and case studies to show students how estate planning works in actual situations.
Tax Law Training
Tax law courses are offered in Juris Doctor (J.D.) programs; applicants must hold a bachelor's degree and pass the LSAT. J.D. degrees do not have any pre-selected specializations; however, the degree program does require students to complete a significant amount of elective courses, many of which may focus on tax law. This program constitutes sufficient training so that graduates are prepared to sit for the American Bar Association exam.
Master of Laws (LL.M) degrees in tax law or taxation are available to J.D. recipients who desire further education in tax law. However, a LL.M degree is not required to take the bar exam, nor is it a requirement to find work in the tax law field. LL.M degrees in tax law are usually pursued by those interested in teaching tax law at universities.
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