LLM: Tax Law

Taxation is the most popular subject area for LLM programs in the United States. Taxes were one of the central material issues that led to the founding of the United States, and have remained as a controversial political and economic debate ever since. It should come as no surprise that a major topic for the upcoming 2012 presidential election is the United States tax code, which candidates agree must be simplified and reduced, but disagree as to how and how much. The incumbent President Obama has also made taxes a focus of his political battles; in recent speeches the president has called for an increase in taxes on millionaires. The revelation that Mitt Romney pays a tax rate of roughly 15% became a major talking point for candidates and pundits alike.

For as large a role as taxes play in the lives of American citizens, they still remain a mystery to most. LLM programs focusing on tax law are the proverbial keys to the kingdom when it comes to taxes. Although law students working towards a JD may be able to take a certain number of courses in tax law, an LLM in taxation in recognized as a sign of true expertise in the field of taxation. Tax lawyers are in constant demand for the services of both individuals and businesses, and can often make a significant difference in the amount people owe the government each year when April rolls around. Furthermore, both online LLM programs and traditiona LLM programs last only one year in duration, making an LLM in taxation an easy way to boost a legal career.

There have been recent reports of law students struggling to start legal careers – a very important issue for new lawyers, given the staggering price of legal education – but no stories about a decrease in demand for tax lawyers. No matter the price of law school, no matter the job market for recent graduates, people will still be paying their taxes. As the saying goes, the only two certainties in life are death and taxes. As long as that’s the case, people will need tax lawyers, making an LLM in taxation a good bet.

Tax Law Career Options

Tax law careers for attorneys, as with so many practice areas, primarily break down into private and public positions. Governmental tax attorney positions are available at any level, from cities to states to the federal government itself, and can be specialized (e.g. import/export duties) or more general (e.g. income taxes). Private tax attorney positions are available at almost any firm, and tax attorneys typically work closely with corporate departments as well as wills, trusts and estates attorneys.

International tax law careers are also quite robust, as most international transactions will touch on the issue of taxes or will indeed have taxes as a central issue. In addition, many business people residing in high-tax jurisdictions will reach out to local practitioners in low-tax jurisdictions in order to pursue strategies to lower their yearly tax liabilities.

Here is a sampling of some tax law career options:

Tax Attorney
Estimated Salary: Not listed

This position with the non-profit organization the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops primarily involves maintenance of the organization’s tax-exempt status and handling of related issues. Other tasks include litigation, advising on tax policy matters and even employee benefits issues.

General Attorney
Estimated Salary: Not listed

This governmental position with the Office of Chief Counsel for the U.S. Internal Revenue Service is what many will think of when they imagine life as a tax attorney: working for the largest taxing authority in the country. Duties include administration and enforcement (via litigation) of U.S. tax laws. This job in particular is with the International Business Unit and will deal most likely with cross-border revenue issue analysis.

Tax/Bond Attorney
Estimated Salary: Not listed

This law firm position at Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch LLP primarily involves issues relating to issuance of tax-exempt bonds. In particular, this job covers issuance of such bonds by traditional tax-exempt lenders as well as non-profit organizations seeking to get involved in similar transactions.