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A tax attorney has a complex job that involves understanding tax law and helping clients if they have legal issues related to their tax returns or obligations. Tax attorneys might also work directly for the IRS, analyzing tax returns and dealing with people who are trying to avoid paying taxes. Becoming a tax attorney requires an extensive education.
To become a tax attorney, you first need an undergraduate degree. There is no requirement for a specific degree, though you should choose a degree that will help you develop useful skills for both law school and a tax career. Business, accounting, finance and economics majors are among the most helpful. You should also do well academically since your grades will play a big part in which law schools accept your application.
Law Degree and Licensing
The next step to becoming a tax attorney is to enroll in and graduate from an accredited law school, then pass the bar exam. Law schools do not offer specializations such as tax law. However, it is helpful to take a variety of tax classes to familiarize yourself with the topic and make sure tax law is the right choice for you. After you graduate from law school, you will need to take and pass the bar exam for the state you will be practicing in. The bar exam is a two-day or three-day test, depending on the state. To pass the exam, you should take a bar exam preparation course, which usually lasts six to eight weeks.
If you want to be qualified to represent clients before the IRS, you will need to complete the IRS program for becoming an Enrolled Agent. This involves passing a three-part Special Enrollment Exam that covers both business and individual tax returns. To keep your status as an enrolled agent, you need to take 72 hours of continuing education classes every three years and follow ethical standards.
You do not need any special certification to practice as a tax attorney. However, some attorneys choose to obtain state certifications so they can advertise themselves as specializing in tax law. This typically involves passing an exam and having a certain number of hours working in tax law. For example, in Florida, you must have practiced in tax law full-time for five years, or four years if you have an LL.M. degree in taxation. You must have at least 500 hours per year in the specialty of tax law during the three years immediately preceding application. You must also complete 90 hours of tax law continuing education during the three years before your certification, and pass a written exam, to be a certified tax attorney. In Texas, you must have 60 hours of continuing education in tax law. You must also have devoted at least 35 percent of your work hours practicing tax law during each of any five of the seven years immediately preceding application. In addition, you must provide specific examples of your tax work, submit five references and pass a specialty examination.
With features published by media such as Business Week and Fox News, Stephanie Dube Dwilson is an accomplished writer with a law degree and a master's in science and technology journalism. She has written for law firms, public relations and marketing agencies, science and technology websites, and business magazines.