What Do Tax Lawyers Do?

Tax attorneys are knowledgeable about tax laws, regulations, and policies at several levels—federal, state, and municipal. In addition to preparing some tax returns, tax attorneys can:

  • Represent clients in disputes with tax authorities.
  • Advise clients about the tax implications of
    • estate transfers,
    • property acquisitions,
    • business transactions, and
    • the different structures of businesses.

Education and background

To become a tax attorney, a person must licensed as an attorney, graduate from college and then law school, obtaining a Juris Doctor degree (also known as a J.D.). Many tax attorneys (including me) continue their education on tax law to earn a master of laws (LL.M.) degree in taxation.

Tax attorneys who also have accounting training are ideal for situations that involve both complex accounting and legal matters. They can provide you with legal guidance, draw up necessary legal documents, and help coordinate and file tax returns.

What Do Tax Attorneys Specialize In?

Tax attorneys specialize in handling a wide range of legal issues related to the tax code. They understand the intricacies of the federal tax code, and most also have in-depth knowledge of the tax code. Tax lawyers typically have expertise in at least one of the following issues:

  • Audit Representation: If you receive a straightforward audit notice from the IRS, you may be able to handle it yourself. However, if you’re concerned that an audit could result in more complex issues like tax fraud, a tax attorney can provide experienced audit representation.
  • Criminal Defense: You should never deal with tax fraud allegations or criminal tax charges alone. A tax attorney can build a case in your defense and represent you in court if necessary.
  • Delinquent Tax Returns: Filing outstanding tax returns allows you to bring your account with the IRS current, but filing late can also lead to substantial interest fees and penalties. A tax lawyer can help you file delinquent returns.
  • Installment Agreements: If you can’t pay your entire tax balance in a lump sum, an installment agreement could be a smart choice. A tax attorney can create a feasible installment plan.
  • Offers in Compromise (OIC): An OIC can allow you to settle for less than what you owe. A tax lawyer can work with you to develop a reasonable offer and negotiate the terms with the IRS.
  • Penalty Relief: Penalties can increase your back taxes significantly. A tax attorney can determine whether you qualify for penalty relief and help you eliminate these extra fees.
  • Tax Levy Release: When the IRS claims your property or your accounts via a tax levy, a tax lawyer may be able to find a way to remove your tax levy by proving economic hardship or starting an installment agreement.
  • Tax Lien Release: If the IRS places a tax lien against your property, selling assets can become impossible. A tax attorney can work with the IRS to release its lien on your property and find another solution for repaying your back taxes instead.
  • Wage Garnishment Removal: When the IRS threatens to start collecting its debt by taking a percentage from your paycheck, a tax lawyer can make a case for stopping wage garnishment and help you propose another course of action to the IRS instead.

Providing personal wealth management assistance

Many taxpayers hire tax attorneys to help reduce their tax liabilities in advance of filing a tax return. A tax attorney can provide related legal documents and offer advice on how to manage your personal wealth to minimize your taxes. Other wealth management services tax attorneys offer include:

  • Estate tax planning
  • Creating wills and trusts
  • Forming/structuring businesses
  • Preparing contracts
  • Advising on international tax considerations

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