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How to Become an Income Tax Lawyer: Education and Career Roadmap

Research the requirements to become an income tax lawyer. Learn about the job description and duties and read the step-by-step process to start a career as an income tax lawyer. View article »

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Video Transcript

Should I Become an Income Tax Lawyer?

Attorneys help individuals resolve legal disputes. Their job tasks include researching laws, writing legal documents, arguing cases in court, and negotiating settlements. An income tax lawyer is a lawyer who focuses their legal practice on handling income tax legal issues.

Lawyers generally work at least 40 hours per week or more. While working a case, the potential for longer hours is high. Most lawyers work in an office setting, although some travel may be required in order to meet with clients. While the job may be stressful at times, lawyers have the ability to make large salaries. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the median annual salary for lawyers was $115,820.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Juris Doctor (J.D.)
Degree Field Law
Licensure All states require licensure
Key Skills Critical thinking, analytical reasoning, negotiation, research, and writing skills
Salary $115,820 (median for lawyers)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, CareerOneStop.

To be an income tax lawyer, you must have a Juris Doctor (J.D.) and a license to practice law. It's also helpful to have critical thinking, analytical reasoning, negotiation, research and writing skills.

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Steps to Become an Income Tax Lawyer

Let's go over what steps it'll take to become an income tax lawyer.

Step 1: Complete a Bachelor's Degree Program

The majority of law schools require that applicants graduate from a bachelor's degree program prior to applying for admission. The BLS states that there is no specific undergraduate field of study required to be admitted to law school. According to the BLS, many law students possess bachelor's degrees in the humanities, economics or history.

To obtain a foundation in accounting, tax laws and tax rules, aspiring income lawyers might consider completing an accounting bachelor's degree program that includes instruction about basic business tax issues. Knowledge of common income tax practices, which may be provided through these programs, can help an individual when practicing as an income tax lawyer.

Prepare for the LSAT. Law school applicants must submit Law School Admission Test (LSAT) scores with their applications. An individual's score on this half-day test, which aspiring law students normally take in their junior year of undergraduate study, can often determine whether they are admitted to the law school of their choice. Many companies offer LSAT test-prep courses that provide test-taking techniques and familiarize students with the exam's contents. Completing one of these courses may help an examinee increase the score they receive on the test.

Step 2: Take the LSAT

The LSAT is designed to test a student's critical thinking, analytical reasoning and reading skills. The exam includes several sections of multiple-choice questions. Scores from the test must be included with law school applications.

Step 3: Graduate from Law School

Law school usually requires three years of full-time study. First-year students take classes focusing on basic law subjects, such as contracts, torts, property and criminal law. Second- and third-year students complete elective courses, clinical experiences and judicial internships.

Sometimes, law students are able to concentrate their studies on taxation. In these concentrations, students complete courses in topics like income tax, estate and gift tax, state and local tax laws, income tax timing issues and income tax for real estate transactions. Some concentrations may also include clinics or internships.

Some schools offer joint J.D./Master of Laws (LLM) in Taxation degree programs. These programs may require seven semesters of full-time study, which is one semester longer than a traditional J.D. program. In these programs, in addition to the basic law school curriculum, students complete courses in family wealth planning, taxation of business entities and corporate income tax law. Internships with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or clinical experiences may also be a part of program curriculum.

Take elective courses in tax law. Regardless of whether a student completes a concentration or dual degree program, completing elective classes in tax law can provide them with in-depth knowledge of the field. Examples of these classes include estate and gift taxation, federal income taxation and corporate taxation.

Complete a tax law clinical experience. A tax law clinical experience allows students to obtain hands-on experience handling some of the issues that can arise in the field. This experience may prove beneficial when looking for a job or working as a tax lawyer.

Step 4: Take the Bar Exam

According to the BLS, every state requires that lawyers practicing inside its borders be licensed. To become licensed, most states require that individuals pass a bar exam, professional responsibility exam and be admitted to the state's bar association. The format of each state's bar exam differs, but may include several days of testing and both multiple choice and essay questions.

Prepare for the bar exam. Several private companies offer bar exam prep courses that provide examinees with test taking techniques and instruction about the subjects on the exam. Completing one of these prep courses may make it more likely that an individual passes the exam on their first try.

Step 5: Work as an Income Tax Lawyer

Government agencies, such as the Central Intelligence Agency and IRS, hire attorneys to help them with tax issues. Law firms and private companies also hire tax attorneys. Government agencies may not require that candidates have experience working as a lawyer, but law firms and private companies may prefer candidates with several years of experience.

Step 6: Consider Earning an LLM

Many times, employers prefer candidates that have an LLM in tax law. Because employers may prefer candidates with LLM degrees, completing one of these programs may increase job opportunities. Courses in these programs cover topics like income tax accounting, tax practices and procedures, taxation of energy markets and taxation of property transactions.

To become an income tax lawyer, you must complete a bachelor's degree program, pass the LSAT, graduate from law school and pass your state's bar exam.

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