December 7, 2015

When it comes to taxes or dealing with the IRS, there’s no such thing as being too careful. If you’re seeking tax advice, consulting with a tax professional can help ensure that you’re on the right track and give you peace of mind.

Accountants and tax attorneys can both offer valuable assistance to taxpayers, as they are able to provide individuals and businesses with sound tax planning strategies and advice. But how do you know which type of tax professional is best suited for your needs?


 Accountants must have a bachelor’s degree in accounting or have equivalent work experience in the field, as well as having passed a state-administered exam. They may pursue various levels of education—from a tax preparer certification to a Certified Public Accountant designation.

 Tax attorneys possess both a bachelor’s degree and a Juris Doctor degree, as well as an admission to the state bar. They must also be able to meet other requirements set by state bar associations.


Accountants often assist individuals and businesses with tasks such as general bookkeeping, financial planning, tax planning, audit assistance, and preparing and filing tax returns. Accountants are capable of providing straightforward tax assistance and advice, and are qualified to legally represent clients before the IRS.

Tax attorneys, on the other hand, have a deeper understanding of tax laws, and are are often sought for more complex cases involving multiple parties or possible litigation. They handle issues such as criminal charges, penalties, estate planning, and dealing the IRS.

Negotiation Skills

A tax attorney often possesses great debating and negotiation skills. If you are facing hefty penalties or an audit, a tax attorney may be the best able to negotiate with IRS officers, attorneys, and judges on the behalf of you and your case.

Accountants are not generally well-versed with the legalities of tax law, and may not be able to help you deal with the court system.


If confidentiality is a factor in your situation, it may be best to go with a tax attorney as any communication between a taxpayer and his or her attorney is protected by law. This attorney-client privilege means that your lawyer cannot give testimony against you, and that any provided information to him or her cannot be given to third parties—including the IRS and state and federal courts.

Since accountants generally work with a limited confidentiality privilege, they may be forced to disclose information if a client is suspected of any criminal activities.


 While rates may vary, CPAs generally charge far less for their services than tax attorneys. Of course, there may be a difference in costs and services offered depending on the type of accountant you need.

Some tax attorneys are also CPAs, allowing them to perform both the duties of a legal tax advisor and an accountant. Given their specialization, they often charge rates that are higher compared to other accountants or tax attorneys.

Note that rates of both accountants and tax attorneys depend on their level of experience and the complexity of the case.



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