WHAT IS TAX LAW?
The basic idea of taxation is simple: imposing a financial obligation upon individuals and companies to finance the many services provided by the government. However, the variety of taxes at the federal, state, and municipal levels and the range of activities that are taxed make for a very complex area of the law.
Although most general practice law firms have a tax department, what those tax lawyers do may vary quite dramatically from firm to firm, especially depending on the firm's clients. A tax lawyer may be a generalist, or his or her experience may be very specific. Tax attorneys work in a wide variety of fields, some of which are described here:
- Tax Planning for Businesses & Tax-Exempt Organizations: When business entities are formed, tax planners work to analyze the implications of incorporating or forming a partnership. Tax attorneys are also intimately involved in acquisitions or divestitures of corporate entities. Additionally, tax attorneys guide non-profit organizations through the procedures necessary to gain and preserve their tax-exempt status.
- Tax Litigation: These attorneys specialize in tax-related controversies such as an individual or business subject to investigation or an audit by the IRS or by state or local tax authorities. Attorneys may represent their clients at audits or litigate issues in the U.S. Tax Court or the U.S. District Court.
- Employee Benefits: Tax attorneys play an important role in designing employee benefit plans including pension, profit-sharing, employee stock ownership, and 401(k) plans. Additionally, attorneys provide advice concerning the reporting and disclosure requirements of the Employment Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), a federal act that governs the funding and administration of pension plans.
- Personal Estate Planning & Tax Planning: Estate planning involves helping individuals plan the distribution of their estate either prior to or upon their death, including planning the distribution of assets to beneficiaries and charitable organizations and advising clients concerning trusts for minor children or grown children with disabilities. See our page on Trusts & Estates for more information.
IF YOU'RE CONSIDERING PURSUING A CAREER IN TAX LAW...
1. Take two to four basic tax classes in law school to help determine whether you really want to work as a tax attorney.
2. If you didn't take any accounting classes in undergraduate school, take an accounting for lawyers class in law school.
3. Work as a law clerk, legal intern, or summer associate at a law firm, government agencies, or public interest organization that works in the area of tax law. This will not only give you practical experience, but will also give you an idea of what day-to-day life is like for a tax attorney.
4. Gain experience by working at Loyola's Federal Tax Clinic.
6. Get to know Loyola professors specializing in tax law - Samuel Brunson, Jeffrey Kwall, Michael Novy, Daniel Pavlik, and Anne-Marie Rhodes.
TAX LAW RESOURCES
Chicago Accounting Firms (PDF)
ABA Section of Taxation
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