Tax Attorney vs CPA: What’s the Difference?

April may seem like a long way off, but it’s never too early to get ready for tax season. The IRS estimates that a single Form 1040 takes 16 hours to complete. Of course, this estimate increases for more complicated tax situations. 

Although preparing your own taxes may seem like a cheaper solution, it comes with a sunken cost of time and stress. You also may be missing out on tax credits or deductions that a professional would catch. Americans without strong math skills should seriously consider professional assistance. 

If you want to get a jump start on your taxes for next year, read more about hiring a tax attorney vs. CPA to see what suits your needs.

What Is a Tax Attorney?

A tax attorney is effectively a licensed attorney who specializes in tax law. Not only much they earn an undergraduate degree, but they must go to law school and earn a Juris Doctor degree. They must even pass the bar exam and earn a license to practice law. 

Although a CPA can represent a client during an audit, they don’t have the same power to do so in a court of law.

What Is a CPA?

CPA is an acronym for Certified Public Accountant. The title alone conveys that this career has a very different educational path than a tax attorney; however, both are specialized experts in their respective fields. 

A CPA must earn a 5-year business degree, complete a minimum of 150 hours of experience, and pass a CPA exam to practice. Like a tax attorney, a CPA must also pursue continued education to stay up-to-date in their field.

Hiring a Tax Attorney vs. CPA

A tax attorney and CPA both deal with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and tax law, so there is some overlap in their knowledge domains. However, in practice, their services often differ dramatically. 

Essentially, a CPA is best for preventative tax maintenance. They help structure either personal or professional finances, help with accounting tasks, and maximize deductions for excellent tax results.

Since a tax attorney is licensed to represent clients in court, it follows that one is necessary when there is trouble with the IRS. They even have the added benefit of attorney-client privilege. Any business should have a tax attorney on staff, although individuals may also have to call upon their services as well.

The Silver Tax Group’s guide has more information on how businesses can benefit from hiring a tax attorney.

The Next Steps

When choosing between a tax attorney vs. CPA, consider your needs. If you find that your needs overlap the two professions, you can search for a dually licensed CPA attorney. In fact, a dual-licensed CPA attorney can do both preventative tax work and clean up any issues that may, inevitably, arise — simplifying the process and minimizing the confusion that can happen when dealing with two different professionals.  For more useful finance guides like this one, make sure to check out our page.