Tax Lawyer Credentials
In the age of the internet, people can be whomever they want, right? If you want the general public to believe you are an expert or specialist in tax, then all you have to do is write it on the interest, and poof!
Over the past few years, we have been inundated with client inquiries from consumers who previously used other counsel.
Each time, the client was assured by the “tax professional” that they were an expert or specialist. Either the practitioner claimed they had an expertise that they did not have, or they claimed to specialize, when that was not true.
Each time it turned out not to be nothing more than a marketing gimmick.
Many of these attorneys actually “specialize” in several areas of tax law. Some even continue to have careers outside of law.
How to Evaluate a Tax Attorney
Tax law is incredibly complex.
To be a tax lawyer who specializes exclusively in a single area of tax takes takes nearly all of the practitioner’s time and resources. It is not something an attorney just dabbles in.
Here are some quick and easy ways to evaluate a tax attorney’s credentials.
Attorney Licensed in at Least One State
The main component of hiring an attorney is for the attorney-client privilege. It is nearly airtight, so that you can tell your attorney anything about your tax case, and it is protected.
In order to be a Tax Attorney, even if all they practice is federal tax law, the practitioner must be licensed in at least one state.
While Enrolled Agents and CPAs may handle tax matters, they are not licensed attorneys, and there is no attorney-client privilege.
Are they a Board-Certified Tax Law Specialist
Becoming a Board-Certified Tax Specialist is a tough feat. The specialist exam for Tax specifically, is known for being extremely difficult.
There are more than 200,000 attorneys in California alone, and tens of thousands of them practice in some area of tax.
Whether they are full time tax attorneys or they practice tax law as part of a bigger practice such as estate planning, real estate, divorce, corporate and business law, or acting as outside counsel — tax law is everywhere.
Less Than 350 Tax Specialists in California
In California alone, there are less than 350 Board-Certified Tax Specialists. Why? Because the test is brutal.
It covers many different areas of tax, oftentimes areas which are not even included in the practitioner’s daily area of practice. Tax Specialist Exam study materials are scarce at best, and basically the practitioner has to rely upon is his or her experience to complete the full day exam.
And, in order for a person to be Board-Certified — the applicant must also meet rigorous ethical and experience requirements as well.
Less than 1% of Tax Attorneys Nationwide Are Certified Specialists
Sean M. Golding is one of less than 350 Attorneys (out of more than 200,000 practicing California Attorneys) to earn the Certified Tax Law Specialist credential. The credential is awarded to less than 1% of Attorneys.
The exam is widely regarded as one of (if not) the hardest tax exam given in the United States for practicing Attorneys.
He is frequently called upon to lecture and write on issues involving IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure.
Advanced Tax Law Degree
Nearly all experienced tax lawyers will have earned an LL.M. or a “Master’s in Tax Law.” Tax Law is incredibly complex and continues to evolve. Therefore your attorney should have this advanced credential.
Do They Specialize in One Area of Tax?
Anyone can represent that they specialize in a single area of tax. For example, we specialize exclusively in IRS Offshore Compliance. Some other firms will say that they specialize in this area of law, and yet according to their website, they handle other different types of tax, such as general audits, collections, offers-in-compromise, etc. They have different websites for the other area of law they practice, and still more websites for businesses they claim to handle outside of law.
Yes, technically in some states, a person can market that they specialize in an area of law, but many times it is just a marketing ploy designed to build confidence to a potential client, when the attorney is actually not qualified to do so.
This is a misrepresentation to the public and since the public relies upon attorneys to handle very complex situations, it is important to try to work through the marketing ploys of attorneys and find actual board certified attorneys who can assist you properly in the particular area of law that you need help in.
Dually-Licensed Attorney Team Leader
In addition to having 20 years of attorney experience, being a Board-Certified Specialist and having earned a Master’s of Tax Law, the lead attorney should also be a licensed Enrolled Agent or CPA, and the attorney’s team should handle the entire matter, in-house — flat-fee, full-service.
Marketing Gimmicks to Be Aware Of
Here are a few common marketing gimmicks:
Attorneys who call themselves “Experts”
Attorneys are not experts and state bars across the country have very strict rules about making these types of misleading statements to the general public. If your attorney is calling himself or herself an Expert, you should be careful.
“Tax Law Specialist” or “IRS Tax Law Specialist”
Anyone can hold themselves out to be a specialist, but unless they are a Board-Certified Tax Specialist, oftentimes it is just smoke and mirrors designed to make the general public believe they have more experience than they do.
In fact, the IRS position of “Tax Law Specialist” is oftentimes an entry-level position that does not require any tax background, or even a law degree.
“Previously Worked for the IRS”
Some attorneys tout experience at the “IRS” even though they have no experience in IRS Offshore Disclosure. The IRS has nearly 100,000 employees. Most of these positions do not require any tax, legal, or accounting background. Just being a prior employee of the IRS does not qualify a person as an Offshore Disclosure expert or specialist.
“Super Lawyer” “Rising Stars,” “Best Lawyers” and others…
These are not credentials an attorney earns. These are “awards,” and most states require very specific limitations on advertising these awards. Numerous grievances have been filed nationwide by unhappy clients, when the legal representation by a Super Lawyer did not end up being so…super.
State Bar Resources Available
If you believe you were misled into believing an attorney was a specialist due to false or misleading advertising, you should contact your local state bar for assistance and resources.
Golding & Golding: About Our International Tax Law Firm
Golding & Golding specializes exclusively in international tax, and specifically IRS offshore disclosure.
We are the “go-to” firm for other Attorneys, CPAs, Enrolled Agents, Accountants, and Financial Professionals across the globe. Our attorneys have worked with thousands of clients on offshore disclosure matters, including FATCA & FBAR.
Each case is led by a Board-Certified Tax Law Specialist with 20 years of experience, and the entire matter (tax and legal) is handled by our team, in-house.
*Please beware of copycat tax and law firms misleading the public about their credentials and experience.
Recent Golding & Golding Case Highlights
- We represented a client in an 8-figure disclosure that spanned 7 countries.
- We represented a high-net-worth client to facilitate a complex expatriation with offshore disclosure.
- We represented an overseas family with bringing multiple businesses & personal investments into U.S. tax and offshore compliance.
- We took over a case from a small firm that unsuccessfully submitted multiple clients to IRS Offshore Disclosure.
- We successfully completed several recent disclosures for clients with assets ranging from $50,000 – $7,000,000+.
How to Hire Experienced Offshore Counsel?
Generally, experienced attorneys in this field will have all the following credentials/experience:
- Board Certified Tax Law Specialist credential
- Master’s of Tax Law (LL.M.)
- Dually Licensed as an EA (Enrolled Agent) or CPA
- 20-years experience as a practicing attorney
- Extensive litigation, high-stakes audit and trial experience
Interested in Learning More about Golding & Golding?
No matter where in the world you reside, our international tax team can get you IRS offshore compliant.
Golding & Golding specializes in FBAR and FATCA. Contact our firm today for assistance with getting compliant.