CPA vs. Tax Attorney: What’s the Difference?

In law and finance, professional certifications and acronyms are plentiful! Whether you’re running a business or your household finances require more than a simple state and federal tax return, you need a team of professionals to protect your assets and help you meet your growth goals. But do you need a tax attorney and a CPA? What’s the difference between these two professions and how do they help you manage your finances?

What is a CPA?

Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) are knowledgeable and experienced tax and finance professionals. When your tax situation requires more help than you can find at a storefront tax-time business like Liberty Tax or H&R Block, it’s time to hire a CPA. With five years of formal training, business degrees, and at least 150 hours of continuing education, these professionals bring a level of expertise that represents the top of the accounting and tax preparation field. 

Building a long-term working relationship with a CPA can be a huge benefit to your business. Experienced CPAs will not only prepare your taxes, they can offer accounting advice and tactics to reduce your tax burden and help manage your business throughout the year. CPAs can help you craft a long-term tax plan and help you with monthly and annual accounting services. With the right CPA, you’ll have a trusted partner to help with creating a financial plan, managing quarterly taxes, and navigating audits.

What is a Tax Attorney?

While both a CPA and tax attorney help taxpayers and businesses, they are distinctly different professions. Tax attorneys are trained legal experts with law degrees who have been admitted to the bar – certified to practice law in your state. Most tax attorneys are experts in the areas of tax controversy and dispute resolutions. Some tax attorneys specialize in trust and estates, business taxes, negotiations with the IRS, or other niche services.

Whether you need a tax attorney – and what kind of tax attorney you need – will depend on your situation. If you find yourself up against the IRS, state government, or other federal agencies, you definitely need a tax attorney by your side. These legal experts can help you navigate the process and can often help halt or mitigate adverse actions against you or your business.

The Major Difference

Generally speaking, CPAs are business finance and accounting experts who can help you run your day-to-day business operations while tax attorneys are legal experts and specialists who can help you avoid potential issues and advocate for you if issues do arise. The major difference between these two professionals is that a tax attorney can represent you in legal proceedings brought by the IRS or other agencies and branches of government. If you find yourself facing back wage garnishments, back taxes, account levies or property liens, negotiating with the IRS, or a complicated unified return, you need to hire a tax attorney to protect your interests and the success of your business. 

When to Hire a Tax Attorney

If you’re engaged in a complicated case or involved in a tax controversy matter, it’s time to hire a tax attorney. If you’ve been assigned a revenue officer by the IRS, you may be close to facing a levy on your wages or bank accounts. Receiving notice that a revenue officer has been assigned to your case is a big sign you need to retain a tax attorney. While a CPA can help you sort out your finances and accounting, an experienced tax attorney is the right choice to handle these matters and represent you in legal actions or negotiations.

Trust the Experts at the Davidson Law Firm

The Davidson Law Firm is made up of experience, courtroom-tested attorneys who are trained to protect your best interests in every case. We work as a team to best serve your business, combining areas of expertise that stretch across corporate law, small business law, estate and probate law, and more. Contact us today for a consultation on how we can help you or your business!


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