It happens every year in the spring, during tax season. Someone learns I am a tax attorney and they say, “You must be very busy this time of year.” To which I amicably reply, “No, not especially.”
It is a common misconception that a tax attorney must, necessarily, prepare tax returns. Some do, I’m sure, but most of us don’t. We leave that to the certified public accountants who know the ins and outs of all the IRS’s forms. Tax attorneys know the ins and outs of the tax laws, and applying our knowledge of those laws to meet our client’s needs is what we do.
For example, if a client is starting a business, the tax attorney advises on the best way to structure it for tax purposes and makes sure the documents meet the requirements of the Internal Revenue Code. If a client is acquiring or selling a business, the tax attorney advises on the best way of setting that up and helps the client understand the tax consequences of the transaction.
An employer may have a key employee they want to keep around. A tax attorney can help craft a nonqualified deferred compensation plan that will create the right incentives for that employee without creating more of a tax burden than necessary.
Non-U.S. residents, or residents with international interests, will need a tax attorney to help them interpret the many income and estate tax treaties the U.S. has entered into, or to apply U.S. law when those treaties have no effect.
Clients with large estates and federal estate tax exposure can benefit from a tax attorney’s ability to put an estate plan in place that minimizes the impact of those taxes. Such a plan may include an irrevocable trust to hold life insurance, intentionally defective grantor trusts to freeze the value of an estate, or charitable trust planning to implement the client’s wishes to benefit charities and save on estate taxes.
Of course, when the IRS comes calling it’s good to have a tax attorney ready to assist. Whether that assistance is offered at the audit level, appeals level, or taking the case to U.S. Tax Court, the tax attorney’s role is to help the client get to the best possible result. Sometimes that means the client walks away with no tax due, and sometimes it means the client settles for what they can get.
And in case we forget that although Florida does not have a state income tax, there are numerous other taxes people have to deal with here, and a tax attorney can be useful when the Florida Department of Revenue makes an appearance because it thinks sales taxes have not been properly collected, or that more documentary stamp taxes should have been paid on a recent property acquisition. Florida taxpayers have rights in all these circumstances, and a tax attorney can help protect those rights.
If you need assistance with Tax Law, please contact our office at 386-252-1561.