Tax AttorneyJob Description, Salary, Career Path, and Trends

Tax attorneys help businesses, organizations, and individuals with legal issues regarding their taxes. That includes helping organizations limit their exposure to tax liabilities. Tax attorneys also handle issues for clients who may be in tax disputes with the IRS or other government entities who levy taxes. Legal industry observers and thought leaders say the job of a tax attorney can come with less stress than other legal specialties. Since taxes aren’t going away anytime soon, it’s also considered a very stable area of practice.

A tax attorney should have knowledge of laws and regulations relating to taxes, as well as a background in accounting and business law. Skills common to most attorney positions, such as written and verbal communication, research and negotiation, are also important for a tax attorney.

Sample job description

Tax attorneys represent corporations and individuals who are being audited by the Internal Revenue Service, as well as by state and local taxing authorities. They also work with clients to help limit exposure to tax liabilities. A tax attorney should have a solid knowledge of laws and regulations relating to taxes, excellent written and verbal communication, and strong research and negotiation skills. [Your Company Name] is hiring an experienced tax attorney to ensure our business stays at the expert level it’s at. As an ideal candidate, you have experience handling legal matters related to taxes and taxation for businesses, organizations, or individuals.    

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Advise and counsel clients on legal matters relating to taxes, from limiting tax liability to audits, mergers and acquisitions and prosecuting disputes with government entities who levy taxes
  • Litigate tax disputes in court if necessary
  • Write and file motions and court briefs
  • Negotiate tax settlements

Education and experience

This position requires a Juris Doctorate as well as a license to practice law in the state where the candidate will work. Tax attorneys must also take and pass the MPRE (Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination) before taking the bar examination.

College coursework in business law, taxation, accounting, and related topics is preferred.

Required skills and qualifications

  • Expertise in written and verbal communication
  • Knowledge of federal, state and local tax laws
  • Research skills
  • Analytical thinking
  • Negotiation skills
  • Litigation experience
  • Accounting skills and expertise

Preferred qualifications

  • Excellent knowledge of tax practices
  • 5+ years of experience working as a tax attorney
  • Strong analytical skills

Average salary and compensation

The average salary for a tax attorney is $130,000 in the United States. Position salary will vary based on experience, education, company size, industry, and market.

LocationSalary LowSalary High
Phoenix, Arizona$129,300$174,900
Los Angeles, California$145,850$197,350
Denver, Colorado$121,550$164,450
Washington, DC$148,050$200,350
Miami, Florida$121,000$163,700
Orlando, Florida$111,600$151,000
Tampa, Florida$112,700$152,500
Atlanta, Georgia$118,250$159,950
Chicago, Illinois$135,900$183,900
Boston, Massachusetts$146,950$198,850
Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota$117,150$158,450
New York City, New York$154,700$209,300
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania$125,950$170,450
Dallas, Texas$122,650$165,950
Houston, Texas$121,550$164,450
Seattle, Washington$141,450$191,350
National Average$110,500$149,500

Typical work environment

Tax attorneys typically work in an office setting during regular business hours. They often meet directly with clients. Many tax attorneys work as much as 60 hours per week, especially when preparing for a major case.   

Typical hours

The work hours in an office setting for a tax attorney are usually from 9 AM to 5 PM. However, many attorneys work more than 40 hours a week or on weekends, especially when nearing deadlines.

Available certifications

Many institutions offer certification programs for tax attorneys to demonstrate their knowledge and skills and to help them move ahead in their careers. Here are some of the top certifications for tax attorneys: 

  • Board Certified Tax Lawyer Specialist. Many states offer a Board Certified Specialist exam for tax law specialists. The requirements vary by state, but they include a level of experience, a law degree, and a certain amount of continuing education in the field of tax law. The exam is rigorous and very hard, which means a board-certified tax lawyer has a level of expertise found only if the very best tax lawyers. Most candidates specialize in a particular area of tax law.  
  • Masters of Law (LLM) in Tax Law. The LLM in tax law is designed for lawyers who want to specialize in this field of law. Offered at many schools of law, the program follows comprehensive, real-world case studies and helps you identify common tax issues and how to apply tax law in a variety of contexts. You also learn the intricacies of the Internal Revenue Code, and more. 

Career path

Tax attorneys are required to have a Juris Doctorate from an accredited law school and a license to practice law in the state where they work. Tax attorneys must also take and pass the MPRE (Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination) before taking the bar examination. College coursework in areas like in business law, accounting and related topics is helpful and can make candidates attractive to employers. Many tax attorneys are also certified public accountants (CPAs), which involves further education and licensing.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 23-1011

2020 Employment804,200
Projected Employment in 2030875,700
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 9% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift71,500 increase

Tax laws, especially in the U.S., are constantly changing, and it’s vital for tax attorneys to keep up with those changes in order to protect their clients. According to the industry website Above the Law, there are some trends a tax attorney should be aware of. The tax law field tends to ebb and flow with the economy. In times of economic uncertainty, there are fewer mergers and acquisitions, which means tax attorneys who specialize in those areas of tax law could see a slowdown in business. It also means clients will be more cost-conscious and concerned with limiting tax liability. However, with major changes in tax laws, there is a greater need for tax attorneys to help clients comply with, understand, and navigate those new laws.

Sample interview questions

  • What area of tax law appeals to you the most?
  • Why are you interested in this role?
  • What are the most important skills for a tax attorney?
  • What methods do you use to prepare for a complex trial?
  • What is the most challenging case you have worked on?
  • Can you give an example of when your research skills made a difference in the outcome of a case?
  • How do you stay motivated?
  • How do you stay current with local, state, and federal tax laws and regulations?
  • What is your greatest strength? Your greatest weakness?
  • How would you prioritize your work when working on multiple cases at the same time?
  • How would you handle stress?
  • What mistakes have you learned from? 
  • How do you go about sharing difficult information with a client?
  • How well do you perform under pressure?
  • Why would you excel at this job?
  • What is the best way to research complicated tax laws?
  • What accomplishment are you most proud of?
  • Where do you see your career in 5 years?
  • How would you give your client the best personal and professional help?
  • Are you more comfortable working as part of a team or alone?

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