The CPA Board of Accountancy vs. Tax Attorney (Board-Certified)

The CPA Board of Accountancy vs. Tax Attorney (Board-Certified)

What Does Being Board-Certified in Tax Law Mean?

While both CPAs and Attorneys may handle tax matters, becoming a licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPAs) or Enrolled Agent (EA) is not the same as being a tax attorney. The roles of non-legal tax professionals (CPAs and EA) are different than the role of an Attorney — although some tax attorneys are licensed as both Attorney/CPAs or Attorney/EA. Beyond these designations, some tax attorneys who are dual-licensed are also licensed as Board-Certified Tax Law Specialists, which means even if they practice federal tax law (IRS), they are licensed by at least one State Bar’s Board of Legal Specialization.

Recently, we have had taxpayers (and other tax attorneys and CPAs) reach out to us to let us know that they (or their client) had engaged in an initial consultation with a law firm that claims they have Board Certified Tax Lawyer Specialists on staff — only to learn that there are no attorneys at the firm who are licensed as a Board Certified as Tax Attorney Specialists by any State Bar in the United States.

The Firms claims they are ‘Board-Certified Tax Law Specialists’ because they may have a Tax Attorney/CPA on staff and since technically to be a CPA they have to be certified by the ‘Accountancy Board’ — that somehow this magically now means that the firm employs a Board Certified Tax Law Specialist Attorney.

Why is any of this important?

The reason this is important, is because oftentimes taxpayers rely on a lawyer being Board-Certified so that the client can be confident the attorney has experience in the area of tax that the taxpayer is seeking assistance with. When law firms falsely claim to have Board-Certified Law Specialists on staff, can lead to bad results for clients who are relying on their attorney to be a proven specialist in an area of law. 

Let’s look at the difference between a CPA, who is an accountant certified by an ‘Accountancy Board’ vs. a ‘Board-Certified Tax Attorney’

First, How to Protect Yourself

The easiest way for taxpayers to protect themselves when engaging a firm that claims to be have Board-Certified tax law specialist attorneys on staff is to simply ask for the name of the Board-Certified Attorney. Then, the taxpayer can check the name of the attorney to confirm that the attorney is a Board-Certified Tax Law Specialist.

Licensed as a CPA

CPAs are Accountants. There are many different areas of accounting and many CPAs do not practice anything tax-related, but instead focus on accounting.

Let’s take a look at what the California “Board of Accountancy” provides as its main function:

      • The California Board of Accountancy (CBA) regulates the accounting profession for the public interest by establishing and maintaining entry standards of qualification and conduct within the accounting profession, primarily through its authority to license. The CBA currently regulates approximately 115,000 licensees, the largest group of licensed accounting professionals in the nation, including individuals and CPA firms.

An Attorney ‘Board-Certified’ by the State Bar

Being a Board-Certified Tax Lawyer means not only is the Attorney licensed by the State Bar, but they have also met additional requirements to become ‘Board-Certified’ as well. Here is what the California Bar Provides about becoming a Board-Certified Tax Law Specialist:

      • The State Bar certifies attorneys as specialists who have gone beyond the standard licensing requirements.

      • California Rule of Court 9.35 served as the basis for the creation of the State Bar Legal Specialization program. The program was intended to provide a method for attorneys to earn the designation of certified specialist in particular areas of law, increasing public protection and encouraging attorney competence.

      • The program was the first of its kind in the United States, and it has served as a model for other state programs for certifying legal specialists around the nation.

      • The general requirements to become a certified specialist include:

          • passage of a written examination in the legal specialty area

          • practiced law continuously for at least five years, spending at least 25 percent of the time given to occupational endeavors practicing in the specialty area

          • completion of continuing education in the specialty area greater than that required of general licensees of the State Bar

          • demonstration of a broad-based and comprehensive experience in the specialty area based on completion of a variety of matters in the specialty area

          • favorable evaluations by other attorneys and judges familiar with the attorney’s work in the specialty area of law

What if the Attorney is Not a ‘Board-Certified Specialist’ But Claims to be?

Taxpayers who retained a Tax Lawyer who claims to be a Board-Certified Tax Law Specialist but is not Board-Certified in the state they practice should reach out directly to that State Bar to report the Attorney and Law Firm.

Need Help Finding an Experienced Offshore Tax Attorney?

When it comes to hiring an experienced international tax attorney to represent you for unreported foreign and offshore account reporting, it can become overwhelming for taxpayers trying to trek through all the false information and nonsense they will find in their online research. There are only a handful of attorneys worldwide who are Board-Certified Tax Specialists and who specialize exclusively in offshore disclosure and international tax amnesty reporting. 

This resource may help taxpayers seeking to hire offshore tax counsel: How to Hire an Offshore Disclosure Lawyer.

Golding & Golding: About Our International Tax Law Firm

Golding & Golding specializes exclusively in international tax, specifically IRS offshore disclosure

Contact our firm today for assistance.