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” is a pretty strong term. 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” chances are they are just using a marketing gimmick to try to fool the general public about their actual experience level.

Becoming a Specialist in Tax Law

State Bars across the country (as well as the ABA) strictly prohibit false advertising, but some tax attorneys try to circumvent the rules and mislead the public. 

Even a Board-Certified Tax Lawyer rarely if ever would claim they were an “Expert” in the vast area of Tax Law.

Unfortunately (especially in the areas of International Tax Law and IRS Offshore Disclosure), many less experienced attorneys are falsely touting themselves to the public as “specialists” and “experts” — putting unsuspecting individuals at serious risk for IRS penalties.

Tax Law is Hard

Tax law is a very difficult area of law, mainly because tax law is so vast with what seems like an infinite amount of information.

Almost all activities involve some form of tax, whether it is income tax, employment tax, sales tax, excise tax, or any number of other types of different federal, state, or local tax.

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 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. 

Sean has more than 20 years of legal experience and earned a Master’s in Tax Law.

He has served as a contributing author to the NOLO legal book series on issues involving U.S. and International IRS and State Tax matters for individuals and businesses.

Sean is frequently called upon to lecture and write on issues involving IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure.

Why Does This Matter?

It matters because oftentimes, the public will rely upon statements an attorney makes regarding his or her qualifications. Sometimes, you only get one chance at handling or resolving a legal issue.

The problem is – if you use an inexperienced attorney who falsely holds themselves out as a specialist and they make a rookie mistake or two, it could have negative consequences on your matter that may cost you significant amounts of money to try to fix, if that’s even possible at that point.

For example, at our firm, we specialize in IRS Offshore/Voluntary Disclosure of unreported income, assets, accounts, and investments.

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, more general types of tax — and even non-tax related matters. They purchase multiple domain names with specific “keyword-friendly” domain-names in order to try give the appearance that they “specialize” or are a “specialist.”

International Tax 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 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” 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 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 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.

Examples of recent cases we had to takeover 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.

Voluntary Disclosure is a Specialized Area of Law

IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure is ALL we do. While our lead partner, Mr. Golding has been practicing for more than 20 years as an attorney, and has extensive experience in complex, high-stakes Eggshell Audits, Reverse Eggshell Audits, Criminal and Civil Litigation, we limit our practice exclusively to IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure.

We are the Offshore Disclosure/Voluntary Disclosure Attorneys that other CPAs, Attorneys (and even current and former IRS personnel) contact when they need help.

Avoid Marketing Gimmicks

When a person says they “specialize” or tout that they worked at the IRS but have not earned the Board-Certified Legal Specialist designation, there is the concern that they are not really specialists. They have not met the board requirements for being a specialist. In other words, they want their cake and eat it too – without meeting the rigorous requirements of becoming Board-Certified.

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 more than 20-years of legal 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.