What is a Board-Certified Tax Law Specialist?

What is a Board-Certified Tax Law Specialist?

Board-Certified Tax Law Specialist Summary

Board Certified Tax Law Specialist: When an Attorney refers to themselves as a Tax Law Specialist, it does not mean they are Board Certified in Tax. The term “specialist” when it comes to tax connotes that a person handles that specific area of tax exclusively; in other words, they specialize exclusively in a type of tax law such as offshore tax disclosure. By stating you are a tax law specialist, you are making representations to the general public that you have extensive experience in an area of law.   The specialist exam for Tax specifically, is known to be notoriously difficult. And, in addition to passing the exam, in order for a person to be Board-Certified — they must also meet rigorous ethical and experience requirements as well. Unless a person is a “Board-Certified Tax Law Specialist” and designated a ‘Board-Certified Tax Law Specialist’ by at least one State Bar (even if they practice federal law) chances are they are just using a marketing gimmick to try to fool the general public about their true experience level.

Becoming a California (Board-Certified) Tax 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, 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 Board-Certified Tax Law 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 that 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.

Is Your Lawyer Falsely Representing They Are a Board-Certified Tax Lawyer Specialist?

While both CPAs and attorneys may handle tax matters, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or Enrolled Agent (EA) is not the same as a tax attorney. The roles of non-legal tax professionals (CPA and EA) are different than the role of an Attorney. Beyond these designations, some tax lawyers are also licensed as Board-Certified Tax Law Specialists, which means they are licensed by at least one State Bar’s Board of Legal Specialization.

Recently, we have had taxpayers let us know that they had engaged in an initial consultation with a law firm that claims to 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 Tax Attorney Specialist by any State Bar in the United States. 

The firms claim they are “Board-Certified Tax Law Specialists” because they may have a CPA on staff. Preposterous. The only way to become a “Board-Certified Tax Law Specialist” is for an attorney to complete additional years of specialized tax education, pass a rigorous examination, and officially receive the designation from the State Bar. Many CPAs have no background at all in tax and just because a lawyer obtains a CPA designation does not mean they can call themselves “Board-Certified.”

Why is any of this important?

Board certification is not easy to achieve. Obtaining a specialized designation is quite difficult and clients can be confident that their attorney has completed the necessary training and testing. Designations are earned. How can you trust an attorney who is lying about their background? If a lawyer is willing to make false claims about these types of designations, then perhaps they are also willing to take some unethical leaps with billing?

Tax Attorney Marketing Gimmicks

Here are some common tax marketing gimmicks to be aware of.

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 actually do.

In fact, the IRS position of Tax Law Specialist” is 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” despite having 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 such as an “IRS Agent or Examiner” for the IRS does not qualify a person as an Offshore Disclosure expert or specialist.

“Specialize in IRS Voluntary/Offshore Disclosure” 

Anyone can represent that they specialize in IRS Voluntary/Offshore Disclosure, but some 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.

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 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.

Examples of recent cases we had to take over from less experienced Attorneys can be found by Clicking Here (Case 1) and Clicking Here (Case 2).

“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.

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.