Depending on what level of degree aspiring tax specialists choose to complete, the career options vary. Accountants and auditors often only require a bachelor's degree and the Certified Public Accountant credential, while tax attorneys must earn a Juris Doctor degree, which then makes them eligible for an optional one-year Master of Laws program. Tax-specific graduate programs are also offered by many postsecondary institutions and include the Master of Science in Taxation degree.
Many colleges and universities offer taxation programs at the graduate-degree level. While some programs, such as a Master of Science in Taxation, focus expressly on taxation, others offer this subject as a concentration for accounting or business-administration majors. Such programs take 1-2 years to complete and typically include coursework in real estate tax, business law, corporate taxation and research methodology.
Students interested in practicing taxation law may earn Master of Laws (LL.M.) degrees in taxation after earning their Juris Doctor (J.D.) degrees. An LL.M. program typically lasts one year and provides advanced instruction in tax law. Courses may include property, partnership, corporate and international tax law. Some LL.M. programs are combined with J.D. programs and tend to take four years to complete.
|Career||Accountants and Auditors||Tax Attorneys|
|Education Requirements||At least a bachelor's degree||Juris Doctor|
|Licensure/Certification||CPA credential required for some positions||N/A|
|Job Growth (2014-2024)*||11%||6% for all lawyers|
|Median Annual Salary (2015)*||$67,190||$115,820 for all lawyers|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
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Completion of a taxation degree program may prepare an individual for a career as an accountant, auditor or tax attorney. Graduates of graduate-level taxation degree programs often go on to become accountants and auditors. Lawyers who graduate with an LL.M often specialize in tax law.
Accountant or Auditor
Accountants prepare financial statements and tax forms. They also advise clients on financial matters and ensure that fiscal reports are balanced and accurate. Tax accountants may provide their services to the public, the government or businesses. Accountants who file reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission must hold the Certified Public Accountant credential.
An auditor ensures that an agency, company or individual's taxes and other financial records are complete and do not contain any fraud or errors. Additionally, these professionals might evaluate companies' operations in order to increase efficiency and ensure compliance with state and federal regulations.
Salary and Outlook Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), auditors and accountants earned a median annual wage of $67,190 in May 2015. The BLS also estimated that job opportunities of accountants and auditors will increase 11% for the years 2014-2024.
Tax attorneys are lawyers who specialize in tax law. They provide clients with legal advice on tax issues and represent clients in tax matters. These attorneys interpret tax laws, describe the potential advantages of certain courses of action and counsel clients on the impacts of new tax legislation. Tax attorneys may be employed by law firms, legal departments of businesses or government branches. Many also own their own practices or are partial owners in partnerships. To become a lawyer, an individual must graduate from law school and pass a state bar exam.
Salary and Outlook Information
The BLS does not provide salary information specifically for tax attorneys; however, the BLS reported that lawyers in general earned a median wage of $115,820 in May 2015. Employment for lawyers in general is projected to increase 6% between 2014 and 2024.
The daily duties for tax professionals differ greatly, depending on the job title; for example, tax attorneys are tax law specialists who advise or represent clients regarding tax-related legal matters, while an accountant prepares tax forms and statements for individual, business, or government records. An auditor evaluates the tax statements of a person or company so as to ensure financial records are free of any fraudulence. Accountants, auditors, and attorneys can all expect to experience an increase in new job openings during the 2014-24 decade, reports the BLS.