Tax Attorney Vs. CPA – 4 Key Differences

When it comes to managing your taxes, you might find yourself asking whether to seek the assistance of a tax attorney or a certified public accountant (CPA). Understanding the difference between tax attorney vs. CPA can help determine which professional best suits your tax needs. Both have unique roles, qualifications, and responsibilities, but their areas of focus and the services they provide can be significantly different.

Educational Background and Licensing

The first significant difference between a tax attorney and a CPA lies in their educational background and licensing requirements. A tax attorney is a legal professional who has completed law school and has passed a state bar examination. This rigorous legal training and a license to practice law allow them to handle complex legal issues surrounding your taxes.

On the other hand, a CPA has an accounting background. To earn the CPA title, an individual must complete 150 hours of education (which often leads to a master’s degree in Accounting or Taxation), pass a stringent CPA examination, and meet experience requirements set by their state board of accountancy. A CPA’s education and training are focused on the precise and detailed work of accounting, auditing, and tax preparation.

Legal Representation and Privileges

When it comes to legal representation, a tax attorney is your go-to professional. If you face legal issues related to taxes, such as a tax dispute or audit by the IRS, only a tax attorney can represent you best with regard to the complexities, procedures and skilled negotiations needed. If the tax issue cannot be resolved with the IRS, only a tax attorney can represent you in Tax Court. They are qualified to provide legal advice, draft legal documents, and make legal arguments on your behalf.

Moreover, the attorney-client privilege protects communications between a tax attorney and a client, ensuring any information disclosed during your discussion remains confidential. CPAs do not share this privilege. If confidentiality is a significant concern in your case, which it should be, hiring a tax attorney is by far the best choice.

Additionally, tax attorneys and their team can prepare tax returns and strategize with an eye on any potential legal disputes. They can also work with your selected CPA or tax return preparer to assist them and you to avoid legal tax issues.

Specialized Tax Planning

Both tax attorneys and CPAs can assist with tax planning, but they each have a distinct focus. A tax attorney typically provides advice on legal tax issues, such as tax dispute resolution, or advice on tax implications of business deals.

Meanwhile, a CPA’s tax planning services generally revolve around financial accounting matters. They can provide advice on the tax consequences of financial decisions, assist in financial planning, and offer strategies to reduce taxable income through legitimate accounting methods. However, more and more, tax attorneys and their teams are becoming the preferred choice over CPA firms as they have many of the CPA functions with legal knowledge and practice and of course attorney-client confidentiality.

The tax attorney vs. CPA debate doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all answer. The tax professional you choose to work with ultimately depends on your specific needs. If you’re facing legal tax issues or need confidential legal advice, a tax lawyer is your best choice. If you require help with tax preparation and filing, or need advice on accounting-related tax planning, a CPA may be the better option. However, keep in mind that these tax professionals often work together, providing a comprehensive approach to tax problems, tax strategy and financial management of your business and personal affairs.

Text-Image__what-happens-if-you-are-audited-and-found-guilty-1200x628 Blog Archive

What Happens if You Are Audited & Found Guilty?

The IRS takes notice of any circumstances within your federal tax return which may be indicative that something is wrong. These IRS warning signals, also ...
Text-Image__what-is-a-tax-audit-all-you-need-to-know-1200x628 Blog Archive

What Is A Tax Audit? All You Need To Know

Stepping into the realm of tax laws can sometimes feel like venturing into a maze. To add to the complexity, if you’ve ever wondered what ...
Text-Image__4-reasons-to-hire-an-attorney-1200x628 Blog Archive

4 Reasons To Hire A Tax Attorney

Dealing with tax issues can be a daunting task for most individuals, especially when complex situations arise. This is where the experience and knowledge of ...
Text-Image__navigating-the-irs-understanding-the-ins-and-outs-of-irs-installment-agreements-1200x628 Blog Archive

Navigating The IRS: Understanding The Ins And Outs Of IRS Installment Agreements

Navigating the landscape of tax laws can often seem daunting, especially when you find yourself owing taxes to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). If you’re ...

Notice: All information on this website has been prepared for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. -- View full disclaimer here.

Scroll to Top


Federal IRS Practice.  Attorney advertisement. Prior results do not guarantee similar outcomes. (1) Attorneys of Delia Law P.C. are only licensed in the jurisdictions mentioned in their biographies and not all lawyers mentioned or displayed in Website content may be able to assist clients without adding attorneys admitted in the specific jurisdiction; (2) Delia Law P.C.’s only offices are in Maryland and New York. Mentioned other locations are unstaffed virtual locations, by appointment only, that are not designed to suggest or create a permanent presence; (3) Local counsel are independent and not partners or employees of Delia Law P.C.; (4) All clients of Delia Law P.C. will receive additional, written information (about the lawyer assignment/licensing in the case, our fees etc.) before making a decision to becoming a client. All website Terms and disclaimers apply.

Prior results do not guarantee similar outcomes; attorney advertising. All information on this website has been prepared for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. While this information may constitute attorney advertising in some jurisdictions, merely reading this information does not create an attorney-client relationship. Every case is different, any prior result described or referred to herein cannot guarantee similar outcomes in the future. All visitors to this Website are informed that Delia Law P.C. (“Firm”) works with affiliated lawyers (referred to as “Local Counsel”) in various cities and states across the United States. These Local Counsel may assist the Firm on a case-by-case basis, operate their own respective law firms, are independent of Firm, and are not partners, owners, of counsel, or employees of Firm. Clients and prospective clients should be aware that when referencing to Firm’s experience, this experience may combine the knowledge and experience of both Firm and its frequently used Local Counsel in the aggregate. Specifically, if and when Firm cooperates with Local Counsel, Firm will disclose the details to the client in writing for their approval. Delia Law P.C. is headquartered in New York City. References to a particular city or state in any article or anywhere on this website does NOT mean that Firm maintains an office with staff in that location, and it does NOT mean that Firm has attorneys physically located in that city or state. Firm’s lawyers are only licensed to practice state law in the states mentioned in their respective biographies. With few case-by-case exceptions, Firm’s practice is limited to matters and questions of federal law and federal procedure. Firm’s engagement letter and Firm’s website disclaimers provide additional details.