Tax law deals with the laws and regulations that govern the tax process. Tax law impacts individuals for personal tax planning, and business entities throughout the lifetime of the entity.
This begins with the formation of the entity, capital markets transactions to fund it, acquisition or sale of all or part of a company, and any activities that have economic consequences. Tax lawyers often focus in a specific area including: corporate tax, international tax, partnership tax, tax litigation, state and local tax, personal tax, estate planning, tax-exempt organizations, and executive compensation and benefits including ERISA pension funding and administration.
What do tax lawyers do?
Depending on the practice setting and area of specialization, a tax attorney will often be involved in analyzing, creating, and implementing complex transactions from the tax perspective, counseling clients on the tax results of specific transactions, monitoring new and pending tax legislation and explaining their consequences to clients, and litigating the tax treatment of controversial tax positions. Transactional work can include cross-border transactions, M&A support, real estate transactions including REITs, and mutual fund work. Tax litigation can be in Tax Court, Federal District Court or the Court of Federal Claims, or it may be criminal in the event of tax fraud.
Tax attorneys are employed in a large variety of practice settings, including large law firms, boutique tax firms, accounting firms, federal and state government agencies, nonprofit organizations, corporations, and tax courts.
Clients can include individuals, public and private companies, governments, non-profits, educational and health care entities, private foundations and trade associations.
Read Vault’s March 2020 article, “What Is It Like to Work as a Tax Law Attorney?“, to learn more.
What to do if you are interested in pursuing a career in Tax Law
If you are interested in tax law, you will want to take a variety of tax courses. Once you have satisfied prerequisite classes you can also cross-register for graduate classes in the LL.M. program. You may want to get an LL.M. in Taxation, which is not required, though sometimes favored, for certain tax legal positions.
Sample Georgetown Law Courses
- Taxation I
- Taxation II
- International Tax Law
- Taxation of Partnerships
- Taxation in the European Union Seminar
- Business Planning Seminar
There are also over 35 courses and seminars available through the LL.M. program ranging from Private Equity and Hedge Funds, Taxation &Transactions, Federal Taxation of Bankruptcy and Workouts to Corporate Income Tax Law and Comparative Tax Law.
Other recommended coursework, dependent on your area of interest and specialization, may include coursework in corporations, securities regulations, and venture capital and emerging companies, bankruptcy, as well as accounting courses.
Georgetown Law Professors to know
- John R. Brooks, II
- Stephen B. Cohen
- Lilian Faulhaber
- Brian Galle
- Itai Grinberg
- Charles H. Gustafson
Relevant Bar Association
- Federal Bar Association, Section on Taxation
- American Bar Association, Section of Taxation
- DC Bar, Section on Taxation
Where it’s Hot
There are many opportunities in tax regulatory work in DC but firms in large cities anywhere need tax attorneys in connection with transactions and other issues detailed above. Smaller cities may have more work in the SALT (State and Local Tax) area.
Helpful Tax Law Resources
- Chambers Tax Summary
- Tax Prof Blog –comprehensive coverage of tax law news
- Introduction to Tax Careers for JD Students – an article that provides a short but excellent summary of career possibilities for students interested in tax, and summarizes information about practice areas, roles, and settings
Representative Employers, Internships, and Post Graduate Fellowship Opportunities
Government Agencies: State and Federal Level
- Internal Revenue Service, IRS
- United States Treasury Department, Office of Tax Policy
- United States Department of Justice Tax Division
- United States Tax Court
- Senate Joint Committee on Taxation
- Chambers Top-Ranked Tax firms
- There are just a handful of tax boutique firms these days, as most large firms have tax departments. Examples of tax boutiques in DC are Caplin &Drysdale and Ivins Phillips &Barker.
- Regional firms may have tax practices but they will likely be focused on State and Local Tax (SALT) issues rather than federal tax issues.