Who to Contact for Tax Questions: Tax Lawyer or Accountant?
Once you know you want to seek professional tax advice, you'll next have to consider whether to approach a tax attorney or an accountant. Answering this question will likely depend on what type of assistance you need. Of course, there's no prohibition against speaking with both a tax lawyer and an accountant. In some cases, you'll find both in one as many tax lawyers are also certified public accountants.
Below are some things to keep in mind as you decide who to contact for tax questions.
Factors to Consider
The similarities. Knowledgeable accountants and tax attorneys will be able to provide tax advice and planning strategies to individuals and businesses. The U.S. Tax court allows attorneys and certain non-attorneys, including qualified accountants, to represent clients in cases.
The differences. The training of attorneys, which includes an emphasis on studying case law, legal writing and research, may equip attorneys with an edge on specialized tax litigation and appeals and issues related to liability. The training of accountants in financial planning, and tax regulations and codes may give them an edge in financial strategy.
Consider your needs. Are you looking for simple tax preparation assistance, or are you planning an incorporation strategy for a new business you're starting? For straightforward tax advice or assistance with filing income taxes you may save money and time in contacting a tax accountant. Additionally, an accountant may be the right fit if you are contacting an attorney primarily for planning or preventative purposes for you or your business.
If, on the balance, your questions are more complex, involve possible litigation or liability issues, and/or involve multiple parties or organizations, you would probably be best served by contacting an attorney. This is especially true if you find yourself in the position of receiving and responding to tax claims or audits against you, your family, or your business.
Best of both. Can't decide? Consider choosing both. There are a growing number of accountant-lawyers who have studied and are certified to practice in both fields. These practitioners will likely be highly specialized in a particular area of tax law and, while they may charge higher rates, may be invaluable in addressing your unique legal issues.
Knowing who to contact with tax questions is the first step. However, it's just as important to know what questions to ask when you meet with a tax professional. You can find out more about U.S. tax law and procedures to help guide your questions by reviewing the additional resources below.
Get Legal Help with Your Tax Questions
As you are figuring out how to address your tax issues, you should always be armed with the most updated legal information and how the law can impact your specific situation. A skilled tax attorney can answer your questions about tax laws or would like information legal advice about your specific situation.