What Is The Difference Between A Tax Attorney And A CPA?

difference between tax attorney and cpa accountant

When handling your finances and taxes, there are certain things that are important to do. For many, one of the most important things for them is that they themselves are not the ones handling them. That is why it is not uncommon for someone to employ the services of a professional. However, there is more than just one type of professional that can be hired, with two of the most common being tax attorneys and a certified public accountant (CPA). One question that often comes up, however, is the difference between these two professions. 

The Difference Between A Tax Attorney And A CPA 

The first thing we will do is learn exactly what these two things are. While tax attorneys and CPAs are not the only financial professionals — not by a long shot — they are two of  the most common options that people take. Neither is better than the other inherently, but depending on your situation, you may prefer one to the other. 

A tax attorney is an attorney whose job is, primarily, to help their clients navigate a complicated tax system. Not only do they work to help ensure that you are in full compliance with tax law, but they also help ensure that you get as much as you possibly can get back from it. This manifests in several ways, including finding every possible thing that can be deducted as part of your tax filings. They will also find whatever legal angle can be employed to justify exempting certain earnings. There are also a number of credits that one can take advantage of, which a tax attorney can help with. Furthermore, in the event that you are involved in a tax dispute, your tax attorney will represent you in court, and can represent both individuals and organizations alike, the latter which they may serve in the capacity of an in-house counsel. At other times, a tax lawyer may only be hired on a case-by-case basis, where their services begin and end based on the length of the tax dispute. 

Tax attorneys can also provide their services to help their clients with estate planning and gifts, such that it does not affect them when they have to file their taxes. Tax attorneys are increasingly needing to be online in order to do their research and find the best solutions for their clients, conducting their legal research through computer databases. They also work with you to get an idea of the evidence at hand, including payroll records, invoices, tax documents, and more. A tax attorney may be involved in a specific niche of tax law; for instance, one may advertise themselves as a criminal tax attorney, while another may advertise themselves as an estate tax attorney. 

CPAs have some similarities to tax attorneys in that they both provide tax services to their clients, but there are many key differences that set them apart. One of the biggest differences is that a CPA is a better fit in the event that the tax situation is more complicated. The main reason is that a CPA goes through... well, quite a lot in order to be a CPA. Not only does a CPA have a five-year business degree under their belt, but they are expected to receive recurring education as part of their career. Every three years, a CPA must complete 120 hours of continuing education. Now, this is not to say that tax attorneys are chopped liver, but CPAs have their specialties. 

The more assets you have, the more valuable it becomes to employ the services of a CPA. Not only that, but a CPA can help you in the long-term as well, preparing you for future tax seasons in the process. They will also provide you assistance to help keep you following a pre-prepared tax plan. They are also a good choice if you have quarterly taxes to pay, or if you are undergoing audits. 

Should I Hire A CPA Or A Tax Attorney? 

There is no one answer to this question, as it is ultimately going to depend on your circumstances. As discussed above, a complicated tax situation would be best done with the assistance of a CPA. On the other hand, if you are dealing with the IRS, receiving debt collection notices, or are dealing with a controversial tax matter, a New York Tax Attorney is going to be the right fit for you. As mentioned in the above section, a tax attorney goes beyond simply helping you with your taxes but can also help you if things look like they are going to go to court. Actually dealing with this part of the process is not exactly within a CPA's wheelhouse. They will represent you against the accusations, as well as represent you during trial, if it winds up going that far. 

A good rule of thumb is that budget notwithstanding, a CPA's specialty lies in preventing things from getting bad. Meanwhile, a tax attorney is an asset in the event that things have already gone bad. You may even find value in procuring the services of both professionals, in order to optimize both prevention with a CPA and intervening with a tax attorney. 

You may still be unsure whether a tax attorney or CPA is the right fit for your situation, and that's all right. A single article on something so complex like choosing an accountant or tax lawyer is not going to teach you the best way to do something the first time you read it. One of the best ways to figure this out is to participate in a free consultation with a tax attorney. They will look over your accounting and IRS situation to get all the details, and help you determine whether a tax attorney works for you.

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