Masters in Taxation – LL.M.
People gain a sense of purpose from the belief their work will be of use to everyone. For example, a gas station owner believes everyone needs gas, and a doctor believes everyone, at some point, will require medical assistance. Just like the gas station owner and medical professional, specialized tax professionals and attorneys with a Juris Doctor and Masters in Taxation claim the same certainty. After all, death and taxes are the only guarantees we have in life.
Under the large umbrella of tax law, there are three main practice distinctions: planning, defending amid controversy, or working for government entities like the IRS. The difference between planning and controversy resides in helping your client proactively optimize their tax positions versus representing your client before any of the tax agencies (IRS, FTB, CDTFA, EDD) during an inquiry, investigation, or audit.
Here are five reasons to consider a career in tax law and a Masters in Taxation – LL.M.:
1. Recession Proof
While no job is immune from a failing economy, tax attorneys can work with clients looking to weather the storm. Clients may need help planning for or dealing with negative tax implications and ramifications requiring representation before one or more tax agencies. Furthermore, taxes are not black and white as some of us come to believe. They are highly politicized policies which evoke conversations about equality, equity, American history, and economic strategy. Consequentially, as our political representation changes, so do the various tax codes creating an ongoing environment in which tax attorneys can thrive.
A common misconception is that one must be wealthy to hire a tax attorney to take advantage of the tax codes. While this may be true for some, more often tax attorneys will represent middle- and lower-income taxpayers to defend an IRS audit or provide relief from due to economic hardships. The expansive client base creates a ripe opportunity to help all in need and provide a steady stream of work for the attorney.
There is also diversity within the field of tax law. If you are interested in criminal law, tax law provides an opportunity to focus on criminal tax matters which will utilize the rules of evidence, criminal procedure, and criminal law. If you are interested in business and contracts law, there are opportunities for tax attorneys to analyze deals with respect to future tax implications and assist clients in drafting and reviewing business opportunities and contracts. If you are interested in property law, understanding the tax implications related with property titles, restrictions, and general land ownership will benefit your clients dramatically. Basically, tax is present in almost every aspect of the practice of law.
Tax also thrives in diverse demographics. Culturally diverse attorneys can expand their client base and provide expertise to different communities. A diverse client base provides the attorney the opportunity to cross-border assistance in the areas of international tax and compliance.
3. Salary and Mental Health
As with all professions, many factors come into play when discussing the potential salary for a tax attorney. Geographic regions, client base, specialty certifications, and work experience are just a few of the determining factors. According to Glassdoor, as of December 2021, the median salary for a tax attorney was $144,162. Of course, tax attorney salaries will vary for those working for private firms, versus a governmental agency or an auditing firm.
Loving what you do will have provide long-term benefits for your overall mental health. In 2014, Vault conducted a survey asking some 17,000 associates working in more than 100 mid- and large-sized law firms and across some 20 practice areas, which practice area created the highest level of satisfaction. As shown below, the number one response was tax.
4. Gain knowledge to “makes a difference”
Most attorneys go into practice to “make a difference.” It may be in the lives of their clients, their own, or their community. Tax law allows you to make a difference in all three. There is ample opportunity to dramatically influence and make a positive difference in a client’s life. You may represent businesses that stimulate free market interactions or represent individuals in need of help interacting with the market. Furthermore, the knowledge gained from a practice in tax will affect your personal financial decisions.
5. Setting yourself apart with specialized skillsets
Graduating law students or those attorneys already in practice should consider obtaining a Masters in Taxation (“LL.M.”) degree. The LL.M. degree in tax is a two-semester program of tax courses from which you gain added skills to add to your experience. An LL.M. will distinguish you from your peers and increase your marketability to employers and/or clients.
Obtaining a Masters in Taxation is an investment from which you will reap great rewards. In addition to a potentially higher salary, this advance degree will set you apart from other attorneys looking for employment. As tax law requires a vast knowledge across many platforms, earning an LL.M. will send a clear message of your intent to be the best in your chosen field.
Written by Peter Masih, RJS LAW, Law Clerk