Why Do Tax Attorneys Specialize in a Single Area of Tax Law?
If you are considered a U.S. Taxpayer, you may have many different tax obligations to the IRS (Internal Revenue Service).
You may have to pay tax on personal income, business income, foreign income, and other income to the United States.
Whenever foreign, offshore or international issues are involved, the matter becomes infinitely more complex.
Tax Law can be a very difficult subject. Oftentimes, when a person comes to Golding & Golding with a tax problem, there are many facets to the tax problem that must be explored.
Important questions we receive about hiring a Tax Attorney:
- What type of experience does the Tax Attorney have?
- Is the Tax Attorney a Board Certified Tax Specialist?
- How long has the Tax Attorney been in private practice?
- How many areas of tax law (and other law) do they advertise?
- Do they have a Master’s Degree in Tax Law (LL.M.)?
- Are they an Enrolled Agent (EA) or CPA?
For example, in our specialty (International Tax) there are many questions to consider when analyzing an international tax matter from the outset, including:
- Undisclosed foreign accounts, assets and income
- Willful vs. non-willful
- Foreign passive investment analysis
- Foreign corporate or partnership interests
- Is the person under criminal investigation?
- Are they under an eggshell or reverse eggshell audit?
- What are seeking from our representation?
In order to properly evaluate these cases, most experienced International Tax Attorneys will have:
- Have around 20 years experience representing their own clients as Lawyers
- Completed a Master’s Degree in Tax (LL.M)
- Achieved either the Enrolled Agent Credential or a licensed CPA
- Preferably a State Board Certified Tax Law Specialist (Less than 1% Nationwide)
People Can be Whomever They Want to be Online
And that is the problem. In recent years, we have had many clients come to us after being horribly represented by Tax Attorney Generalists in the field of International Tax. While we are sure it is a problem is many fields, it seems to run rampant in international tax.
They are usually a small firm that practices in 10 different areas of tax law (domestic, international, employment, sales tax, etc.) and even practice outside of tax.
International tax is complex enough for experienced practitioners who focus exclusively in the area of law, never mind relative newcomers who are trying to handle 10 areas of tax law and non-tax law simultaneously — while marketing and advertising themselves as “Experts.”
IRS Voluntary/Offshore Disclosure is a Specialty Practice
International Tax law involves hundreds of treaties, deferred prosecution agreements, specific international laws, and of course – thousands of exclusions, exceptions, and limitations.
Most experienced attorneys in this area of law limit their specific practice to Voluntary Disclosure, and will typically have
- Around 20 years experience representing their own clients as an Attorney
- Completed a Master’s Degree in Tax (LL.M.)
- Achieved either the Enrolled Agent Credential (EA) or are a licensed CPA
- Preferably a Board Certified Tax Law Specialist (Less than 1% Nationwide)
You Want it Done Right!
How is a small firm with only a few attorneys going to claim they specialize in IRS Voluntary/Offshore Disclosure, while also claiming they can (effectively) represent a client in court for probate, then talk to an employer about complex employment law, develop a comprehensive estate plan, discuss business taxes with another client …and have any time to keep up with your highly sophisticated international tax matter?
As the old saying goes, “Jack of all trades, master of none.”
You have to be careful which firm you place your trust in for handling your Offshore Disclosure matter.
Think of it this way: you could probably get a decent chicken sandwich at some hamburger joints, but why wouldn’t you just go to a chicken sandwich restaurant if you wanted a chicken sandwich, right?
In International Tax (or any area of life), more complex issues (and International Tax is always complex) requires that you engage a specialist to best assist you.
Helpful Tips to Assist you with Hiring a Tax Attorney
Are they a Board Certified Tax Law Specialist?
Having a Board Certified Tax Law Specialist as your attorney is not a requirement.
But, if the attorneys are not Board Certified but are advertising themselves as “experts,” “specialists,” “leaders,” “innovators” “champions,” “world renowned,” “globally sought after,” “impeccably dressed,” “gleefully cheerful,” “most likely to succeed,” or whatever else they come up with – remember this is a form of advertising.
And, remember that these Attorneys are coming up with these fun adjectives on their own, to describe themselves…
Review their Website (Read their Blogs)
Do they have one blog, or many blogs? Do they seem to write about issues involving the industry you require representation in…or do they seem like they handle any case that comes through their door? Are they writing their own blogs, or just posting blogs already posted by a news feed?
This is important, because you want to retain an attorney that is keeping up with the area of law that you are seeking assistance in.
How Many Websites do they Have?
A law firm should not have different websites under different names. A law firm should have one law website, with their firm name as the domain.
For example, if they have multiple websites, each dedicated to different area of tax law (and even areas outside of tax law) then chances are the websites are misleading, and are only being used for advertising/marketing — and not because it is an area of specialty the firm practices in.
The Beloved “Free” Consultation
We know…who doesn’t want something for free, right? Hiring an attorney is not the same as grabbing a free sample at the local grocery store (and even those samples are a form of marketing, right?).
Under most circumstances a Free Consultation is little more than a chance to bait you in using fear tactics and scaremongering.
They get you to divulge confidential information, which makes you feel compromised and dependent on the firm, and then quickly get you to sign a retainer in order to keep you out of jail.
Don’t fall for it.
They Worked for the IRS
Some attorneys (typically those with only a few years of entry-level experience at the IRS, or practicing in a field different than the department they worked in at the IRS) really push this as part of their marketing.
Yet, when we speak with clients who come to us after having consulted with these Attorneys, they are confused as to how the Attorneys got it so wrong, even after they worked for the IRS.
If you are going to hire an Attorney for your matter, and are relying on the fact that they are touting prior IRS experience, be sure to ask them the following:
- Did the Attorney work as an Attorney for the IRS?
- Did the Attorney work in the department relevant to the tax matter you are hiring them for?
- Did the Attorney litigate or appear in tax court on behalf of the IRS?
- How long as the Attorney been in private practice for?
“Super Lawyers,” Rising Stars,” “Top Lawyers,” and More
These are not credentials that an Attorney earns. Rather, these are forms of marketing and advertising — and various ethics committees warn attorneys about the representations they make regarding the nature of these “awards.” As provided by the New Jersey Supreme Court Committee on Attorney Advertising:
Some of these awards are the result of popularity contests – the lawyer “wins” the award when enough people email, telephone, or text their vote.
Other awards are issued for a price or as a “reward” for joining an organization. Still others are generated based in large part on the participation of the lawyer with the conferring organization’s website.
Go with Your Gut
If it doesn’t feel right, or something feels off – you should continue your search. When you retain a Tax Lawyer, it should a Tax Specialist in the area of law you are seeking assistance with.
There are plenty of Tax Attorneys, and a bit of research and investigation can save you lots of money and time in the long run.
We Specialize in Safely Disclosing Foreign Money
We have successfully handled a diverse range of IRS Voluntary Disclosure and International Tax Investigation/Examination cases involving FBAR, FATCA, and high-stakes matters for clients around the globe (In over 65 countries!)
Whether it is a simple or complex case, safely getting clients into compliance is our passion, and we take it very seriously.
Examples of areas of tax we handle
- Unfiled Tax Returns
- Unreported Income Penalties
- International Tax Investigations (FATCA and more)
- FBAR Investigations
- International Tax Evasion
- Structuring Investigations
- Eggshell and Reverse Eggshell Audits
- Divorce and Offshore Accounts
- Foreign Mutual Funds
- Foreign Life Insurance
- Fixing Quiet Disclosure
- Foreign Real Estate Income
- Foreign Real Estate Sales
- Foreign Earned Income Exclusion
- Subpart F Income
- Foreign Inheritance
- Foreign Pension
- Form 3520
- Form 5471
- Form 8621
- Form 8865
- Form 8938 (FATCA)
Who Decides to Disclose Unreported Money?
What Types of Clients Do we Represent?
We represent Attorneys, CPAs, Doctors, Investors, Engineers, Business Owners, Entrepreneurs, Professors, Athletes, Actors, Entry-Level staff, Students, Former/Current IRS Agents and more.
You are not alone, and you are not the only one to find himself or herself in this situation.
Sean M. Golding, JD, LL.M., EA – Board Certified Tax Law Specialist
Our Managing Partner, Sean M. Golding, JD, LLM, EA holds an LL.M. (Master’s in Tax Law) from the University of Denver and is also an Enrolled Agent (the highest credential awarded by the IRS, and authorizes him to represent clients nationwide.)
He is frequently called upon to lecture and write on issues involving IRS Voluntary Disclosure.
Less than 1% of Tax Attorneys Nationwide
Out of more than 200,000 practicing attorneys in California, less than 400 attorneys have achieved this Certified Tax Law Specialist designation.
The exam is widely regarded as one of (if not) the hardest tax exam given in the United States for practicing Attorneys. It is a designation earned by less than 1% of attorneys.