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Types of Tax Practitioners

            In general, tax attorneys and paralegals handle planning issues, which involve arranging an individual’s or business’ future events to minimize taxes.  Tax attorneys also deal with tax controversy or litigation, which involves settling a dispute with another party, usually the IRS. Tax compliance work is commonly left to the accountants, who ensure that their clients file the correct returns and forms, report the proper information, and pay the requisite amount of tax owed under the law.
            There are three types of tax attorneys who handle planning issues. The first is the all-purpose, general tax attorney (some people think of them as business tax attorneys). These attorneys usually deal with corporate, partnership, and income tax issues in the business context. Often, they will work in conjunction with corporate and securities lawyers to design deals, structure entities, and handle any corporate matter having major tax consequences. In addition, tax attorneys will work with lawyers in a variety of other areas of law where tax becomes a significant concern. For example, a tax attorney may help a healthcare attorney who represents a 501(c)(3) healthcare entity looking to merge with another healthcare entity that is not a non-profit. On another day, that same tax attorney may assist a bankruptcy attorney with the tax implications of a Chapter 11 reorganization. So, as you can see, because of the “long arm” of federal and state tax laws, tax attorneys are often viewed as “consultants” to many other groups within a firm. 
            The second type of “tax attorney” in law firms is the estate planner. He or she focuses on the estate and gift tax portion of the Internal Revenue Code and usually works with individuals and families. Clients will come to estate planners to provide guidance as to the most appropriate type of trust(s) and/or will(s) to meet their succession and tax goals, as well as for preparation of the required documents. Estate planners will also handle probate and  trust administration (as applicable) once a client dies. For wealthier clients, an estates attorney may, among other more sophisticated forms of planning, establish a private foundation to act as a tax shelter and as a charitable-giving device.
            The third type of “tax attorney” is the “ERISA” attorney. These attorneys handle pension and benefit work and crossover issues between tax and employment law.