Celebrating 10 years! 2007-2017

CPA thinking of tax law

I've been scouring the threads and have come across some ver superfly00010/30/17
You can't go into tax law without being a lawyer, so you'd h notreallyalawyer10/30/17
Read your case and am sorry about your situation. I do hope superfly00010/31/17
First, I have no knowledge of the job market in Canada. T toooldtocare10/30/17
Sorry, I take that back. There is a slight monetary gain but superfly00010/31/17
There are ways to get into tax law without being a lawyer. I esquire13810/30/17
Some general links to help: https://taxcourtexam.com/ esquire13810/30/17
Huh, I wasn't aware that there are different types of bars a superfly00010/31/17
Also, OP do you plan to stay in Canada? If so each province esquire13810/30/17
http://www.calbar.ca.gov/Admissions /Law-School-Regulation/La esquire13810/30/17
Thank you, Esquire138. It appears as though you've also con superfly00010/31/17
I honestly don't know. My guess would be that if its somethi esquire13810/31/17
What can you do as a tax lawyer that you can't do as a CPA? jeffm10/30/17
Put two extra initials after CPA and a comma on your busines esquire13810/30/17
Controversies and most big and pooo law... big law is pro triplesix10/30/17
If you want to do the law degree, then just an FYI. I am pre kramer71610/31/17
Thank you for the heads up. That's a nice package deal. superfly00010/31/17
You could also consider obtaining the Enrolled Agent credent whatisanea10/31/17
I was thinking the same thing for OP, but it sounds like he esquire13810/31/17
(My answer pertains to the tax law system in the US, I am no elle30110/31/17
----"I think that even as a non-attorney a CPA can take an e larrywilliams10/31/17
Couldn't agree more, Larry. Like yourself I'm also a tax at nubiansage10/31/17
I think OP wants to go solo since that is what they are alre esquire13810/31/17
A lot to consider and reconsider. Thank you all for your co superfly00011/01/17

superfly000 (Oct 30, 2017 - 7:20 pm)

I've been scouring the threads and have come across some very interesting experiences and insight. Almost all of these threads had something negative to say about the industry and to stay clear if possible. This last couple years I have been contemplating to further continue my education to specialize in the field of tax law as the job seemed appealing at first but after reading about job prospects and others personal experiences, I'm almost convinced to stay away unless it was something I truly enjoyed doing day in day out for no real monetary gain from the position that I am currently in. This has been on my radar ever since my former supervisor who is also a CPA had regrets not going that route due to age and family and hinted that I should try it out (even though he doesn't have first hand experience himself - just hearsay). I'm trying to convince myself out of it.

A little info about myself: 28, A Chartered Accountant(Canada) for the past few years, graduated without any debt (Worked PT/FT to pay for tuition), Mult-family investment property with mortgage, work 1 block from where I live for a small public practice firm, earn 65k-70k a year depending on bonuses and tax season OT. Job is low stress other than busy season. No marital/family commitments.

Is this career suicide? or is there any real benefit to this risk? Am I in over my head? I don't want to have any regrets in my later years for lack of trying. I've been researching on both goingconcern.com and abovethelaw.com and I thought that was grim until I stumbled upon this site... please share your thoughts on the matter of specializing in tax law and if it's even necessary to obtain a JD for this purpose.

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notreallyalawyer (Oct 30, 2017 - 7:30 pm)

You can't go into tax law without being a lawyer, so you'd have to go to law school. I focused on tax courses and it didn't help me in the slightest getting a tax law related job. I even entered a tax LL.M program..

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superfly000 (Oct 31, 2017 - 11:28 am)

Read your case and am sorry about your situation. I do hope things have gotten better for you.

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toooldtocare (Oct 30, 2017 - 8:13 pm)

First, I have no knowledge of the job market in Canada.

That said, the key language in your post:
"no real monetary gain from the position that I am currently in"

Why, then, make the change? As noted above, to practice "tax law" you've got to be a lawyer, with years of additional formal schooling, the bar exam, and lots of $$$$ invested...to get a job that pays the same?

Unless I missed something, do not incur debt to get a job that pays the same as the one you have now.

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superfly000 (Oct 31, 2017 - 11:26 am)

Sorry, I take that back. There is a slight monetary gain but not really enough to put me on the boat.

Why change? not a huge change but some change. Simple - it's appealing the work seems interesting. Although it is in the same area, a different approach and aspect of tax. Preparing and applying tax related work is different from appealing and challenging the tax system.

You're right about the debt.. that's the one biggest concern.

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esquire138 (Oct 30, 2017 - 8:15 pm)

There are ways to get into tax law without being a lawyer. I have known people to do it.
Some just negotiate the debt (just need a general irs practice number or whatever, pretty easy to get) others do actual court stuff, and I think you need referrals from 3 already licensed tax lawyers to get allowed to sit the tax bar (or whatever they call it)

kind of similar to how people can sit the patent bar if they have the right type of undergrad (even though ironically most lawyers cant sit it due to having the wrong undergrad)OP if you have enough math and science credits, consider that option too.

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esquire138 (Oct 30, 2017 - 8:24 pm)

Some general links to help:

https://taxcourtexam.com/

https://www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/tax-practitioner-institute-classes

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USPTO_registration_examination

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superfly000 (Oct 31, 2017 - 11:35 am)

Huh, I wasn't aware that there are different types of bars and undergrad requirements. Clearly I have not done enough research. I'll look into this as my undergrad was more focused on math and previously I studied sciences before making a clean switch. Thank you for this insight.

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esquire138 (Oct 30, 2017 - 8:20 pm)

Also, OP do you plan to stay in Canada? If so each province up there has rules different than the USA. I think Ontario lets you do most of what a regular lawyer can do as a paralegal (including in court by yourself in lower court) with less education requirements than a full attorney.

Kind of silly idea, but if you just want the JD to have it, look into online law school. You could still (in theory) travel to CA and sit their bar exam. Its good enough to get you into federal court (including tax court) and then once in tax court you can practice anywhere, similar again to patent court (unlike other federal jurisdictions which make you reapply to each district) And you could do that part time while working at your main job to avoid losing money.

If planning to be in the US consider Social Security Court too. You can often start in there without a bar license if you can get court approval. With a CPA you likely can pull that off pretty easy. I knew people with community college who did it.

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esquire138 (Oct 30, 2017 - 8:26 pm)

http://www.calbar.ca.gov/Admissions/Law-School-Regulation/Law-Schools

http://study.com/articles/Become_a_Social_Security_Disability_Advocate_Step-by-Step_Career_Guide.html

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superfly000 (Oct 31, 2017 - 11:54 am)

Thank you, Esquire138. It appears as though you've also considered all the different avenues. I'll keep my expectations in check. Really, I don't have much to lose if I go the online route and then sit for the CA bar fail or succeed. I don't believe I'll have too much of a problem putting in the educational hours and completing the exams. Only question is - can it translate to Canada.

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esquire138 (Oct 31, 2017 - 1:59 pm)

I honestly don't know. My guess would be that if its something that requires a full attorney license....maybe not. CA online schools are state approved only and not ABA. That strikes me as a province by province rule with maybe a waiver for if you practice a bit first. I'd say look before you leap on that one with the specific bar you plan to be in front of.

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jeffm (Oct 30, 2017 - 8:41 pm)

What can you do as a tax lawyer that you can't do as a CPA?

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esquire138 (Oct 30, 2017 - 8:43 pm)

Put two extra initials after CPA and a comma on your business card........

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triplesix (Oct 30, 2017 - 9:19 pm)

Controversies and most big and pooo law...

big law is prolly not even on the table at this stage anyway.

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kramer716 (Oct 31, 2017 - 11:52 am)

If you want to do the law degree, then just an FYI. I am pretty sure Michigan State's law school has a partnership with the University of Ottawa, and I think you receive law degrees from both institutions. I think it's 2 and 2, but don't quote me on that. I just know there were a ton of Canadians who I went to law school with, and they took advantage of this program. Having said that it was ten years ago, so things may have changed but just something you may want to check out.

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superfly000 (Oct 31, 2017 - 11:57 am)

Thank you for the heads up. That's a nice package deal.

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whatisanea (Oct 31, 2017 - 5:42 pm)

You could also consider obtaining the Enrolled Agent credential.

https://www.irs.gov/tax-professionals/enrolled-agents/enrolled-agents-frequently-asked-questions

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esquire138 (Oct 31, 2017 - 9:25 pm)

I was thinking the same thing for OP, but it sounds like he wants to practice in Canada. Does Canada have something similar?

Or in theory could he specialize in helping americans expats up there with taxes or even do it remote (online/phone conference/Skype) for americans while in Canada?

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elle301 (Oct 31, 2017 - 7:34 pm)

(My answer pertains to the tax law system in the US, I am not sure how things differ in Canada.) In my experience, CPAs represent people all the time in front of the IRS and state taxing authorities. I think that even as a non-attorney a CPA can take an exam to argue in front of tax court.

So, if you have a case where your taxpayer is negotiating a settlement, trying to enter into an installment agreement, applying for an offer in compromise, etc... a CPA would be able to do that just the same as a lawyer. It's not THAT often that a taxpayer has a novel legal argument that they need help with. Even the cases that are considered controversies are largely audit defense... a skill set that is often better served by a CPA than a JD. The cases that continue to tax court are often not settled simply because the taxpayer has unrealistic expectations not because of the legal merits. And cases that get appealed beyond tax court are better for attorneys who specialize in appellate work anyway.

So, my question for you would be... how often do you expect that you would run into a problem that a CPA license wouldn't equip you for?

I am a tax attorney and although I really like my job and am happy with where I am, I wouldn't go to law school now if I was in your shoes. You can do most everything a tax attorney can do as a CPA.

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larrywilliams (Oct 31, 2017 - 8:23 pm)

----"I think that even as a non-attorney a CPA can take an exam to argue in front of tax court."

That's incorrect. If you're not an attorney, you must pass the U.S. Tax Court examination to be able to represent anyone in Tax Court. I don't have the statistics in front of me, but I believe there are relatively few non-attorney members of the bar of the Tax Court.

I am a CPA who started law school after about seven years or so in public accounting. This was back in the 1980s. Even back then, the market was super-saturated with JDs. I went to the University of Houston and finished, class-ranking-wise, somewhere in the middle of my class. So, the pickings were really, really slim. The story back then was: The only thing the big law firms care about is your over-all law school class ranking. It was grades, grades, grades, first last and always. Even though I had years of relatively intensive Federal tax experience (and an "A" in one of my two tax law classes in law school, by the way), I had one recruiter tell me, point blank, that the firms didn't care a whit about my tax expertise; they just wanted to know if the candidate was in the top 10 percent of the class, preferably with law review.

I passed the bar exam and I did practice law with a small tax boutique firm for a short period but, in an odd turn of events, I ended up back in a CPA firm -- this time with a weird, exotic tax "sub-specialty" with a heavy emphasis on the use of my legal training -- with a lot more work than just preparing tax returns. That was over 25 years ago.

My law degree ended up working very well for me. However, I was to a large extent lucky in finding what I found.

I would advise any CPA thinking of going to law school to think, and think again, and think think again, before making such commitment. I'm not saying don't do it. I'm saying that the chance that the financial and other sacrifices involved in going to law school make that course highly risky.

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nubiansage (Oct 31, 2017 - 9:19 pm)

Couldn't agree more, Larry. Like yourself I'm also a tax attorney (JD/CPA). The only advantage that an attorney has in tax law is simply attorney-client privilege which comes in handy if you're handing tax matters with criminal implications. And even then a CPA can work under a Kovel arrangement with an attorney to extend the ACP over to the CPA.

If I was OP I would reconsider the law school route. Because even if you do get your law degree and bar license you will not find yourself working at the tippy top firms unless 1) you've gone to a top 10-15 law school and 2) you have grades in the top 10%. That's not to say that there won't be other less prestigious firms that might be interested but those firms may not pay as much. Some of those firm barely pay $40K to $50K per year. You can easily make more than that as a CPA AND without the heavy debt that comes with the law degree.

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esquire138 (Oct 31, 2017 - 9:29 pm)

I think OP wants to go solo since that is what they are already doing in their current field (if I read it right)

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superfly000 (Nov 1, 2017 - 11:42 am)

A lot to consider and reconsider. Thank you all for your comments.

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