Tax Attorney Salary Guide

Updated September 30, 2022

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Tax attorneys earn higher-than-average wages. Examine factors that have the strongest impact on tax attorney salary expectations and learn how to maximize your earning potential.

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In August 2022, the U.S. federal government passed a bill dedicating nearly $80 billion in funding to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The funding package followed a January 2022 IRS announcement indicating the agency was hiring hundreds of new tax attorneys.

In response to this IRS expansion, taxpayers and companies in the private sector may experience an increased need for specialized representation in the event of tax disputes. These trends may allow tax law to experience strong growth in the coming years.

This guide takes an in-depth look at tax attorney salary trends. It analyzes how factors like education, location, and industry of employment impact a tax lawyer's earning potential.

How Much Do Tax Attorneys Make?

Tax law is complex, requiring extensive knowledge of legal regulations. Consequently, tax lawyers typically earn higher-than-average salaries, a reflection of their expertise in the field. Payscale data from September 2022 shows these professionals earn an average wage of $101,550 per year.

$101,550
Tax Attorneys
Average Annual Salary, September 2022

Source: PayScale

Remember when asking "How much do tax attorneys make?" that the figure above represents only base pay. Payscale data also indicates that tax lawyers have the potential to earn additional income through secondary sources like bonuses and profit-sharing. On average, these sources can each add up to $49,000 per year to a tax attorney's total compensation.

Tax Lawyer Salary by Education

Becoming a tax attorney typically requires a minimum of a bachelor's degree and a juris doctor (JD) degree. Some professionals add a master of science (MS) or a master of laws (LLM) in taxation to their credentials. Other prospective tax attorneys obtain board certification as a tax specialist from a state agency affiliated with the American Bar Association (ABA).

The following table compares average salaries for people who hold these credentials. Note that the data covers all professionals with these degrees or certifications, not just tax attorneys.

Many non-lawyer professionals hold JD degrees, ABA certifications, and MS degrees in taxation. These include paralegals, accountants, and law specialists working in roles that do not require an attorney's license.

The LLM designation carries significant value because it signals advanced knowledge in a specialized legal area. Law schools offer concentrated LLM programs in taxation, which can help qualify professionals for work in tax-related litigation.

Tax Attorney's Average Salary by Experience

Tax attorney salary averages tend to rise alongside experience. The knowledge and skills an attorney accrues during their career improves their job performance, which typically translates into higher salaries, bonuses, and profit-sharing income.

Because Payscale's salary data for tax attorneys specifically has a relatively small sample size as of September 2022, the chart below reports general Payscale data for attorneys at various stages of their careers. Note the significant increase in average salary between the early career and late career stages: seasoned attorneys earn over $50,000 more per year on average than their less experienced counterparts.

Salary of a Tax Attorney by Location

The average salary of a tax attorney also varies by location. Employers based in areas with higher living costs tend to offer higher salaries. Competition within local job markets can also play a role. Supply and demand dynamics usually translate to higher salaries in areas with a strong need for or a limited supply of qualified tax lawyers.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not specifically track tax attorney salary data. Instead, the BLS groups tax attorneys in its broader category for lawyers. Thus, data in the following tables cover all lawyers.

Top-Paying States for Attorneys, 2021
State Number of Attorneys Employed Average Annual Salary
District of Columbia 30,850 $198,820
New York 81,890 $179,060
California 90,120 $176,610
Massachusetts 19,050 $167,980
New Jersey 22,480 $153,800

Source: BLS

Top-Paying Metropolitan Areas for Attorneys, 2021
Metropolitan Area Number of Attorneys Employed Average Annual Salary
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA 5,440 $231,200
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA 16,570 $191,460
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, D.C.-VA-MD-WV 44,250 $186,610
New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA 85,180 $183,870
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA 41,060 $177,550

Source: BLS

Where Should I Work as a Tax Attorney?

Overall, the BLS anticipates above-average job growth rates for lawyers in the 2021-2031 period. The BLS also notes multiple trends impacting the employment outlook for lawyers over the coming years.

First, large companies are bolstering their in-house legal teams in a bid to control costs. This could shift lawyers out of law firms and into permanent corporate positions. Second, hiring rates in the public sector depend heavily on funding. Federal and state governments are reliable employers of lawyers, but their hiring budgets are contingent on funding availability.

This is where the 2022 IRS expansion may have an impact specifically for tax attorneys. The revenue agency's recent funding may lead to a near-term trend of increased job opportunity in the public sector.

The BLS does not track job growth trends specific to tax attorneys. Instead, the data presented below covers all lawyers:

+10%
Attorneys
Change in Projected Employment, 2021-2031

Source: BLS

Best Areas

The BLS employment growth projection of +10% from 2021 to 2031 reflects the national job market. Growth rates for particular locales and job markets may be higher or lower than this overall figure.

Projections Central tracks location-specific job growth data for hundreds of professions. The agency operates as part of the Projections Managing Partnership and draws funding from the U.S. Department of Labor. The BLS provides analytical support.

The following tables summarize the top-employing states for lawyers along with the areas with the highest projected growth rates. Projections Central furnished state-specific projections. Like the BLS, Projections Central groups tax attorneys within its general category for all lawyers.

Top-Employing States for Attorneys, 2021
State Number of Attorneys Employed Average Annual Salary
California 90,120 $176,610
New York 81,890 $179,060
Florida 54,740 $129,390
Texas 43,850 $150,350
District of Columbia 30,850 $198,820

Source: BLS

States With the Greatest Projected Increase in Employment for Attorneys, 2020-30
State Projected Change Percentage, 2020-30 Average Annual Openings
Greatest Projected Percentage Increase
Massachusetts +27.7% 1,830
Colorado +27.0% 1,390
Utah +25.1% 450
Tennessee +23.8% 700
Wyoming +23.6% 80
Most Projected Average Annual Openings
California +12.8% 6,720
New York +17.8% 5,910
Texas +19.3% 3,920
Florida +15.1% 3,700
Illinois +10.7% 2,110

Source: Projections Central

The following BLS data explores metropolitan areas with the highest employment for lawyers. The tables below assess overall employment numbers for all lawyers. They also analyze the density of lawyers in local labor markets.

Employment per 1,000 jobs specifies the number of lawyers who work in a particular metropolitan area for every 1,000 jobs in that area. Location quotient calculates how many more lawyers than average work in a given location. It uses 1.00 as the baseline national average.

For example, a location quotient of 1.38 means that compared to the national average, there are 38% more lawyers working in the specified region. New York; Washington, D.C.; and Miami have particularly high location quotients, as the table below indicates.

Top-Employing Metropolitan Areas for Attorneys, 2021
Metropolitan Area Number of Attorneys Employed Employment of Attorneys Per 1,000 Jobs Location Quotient Average Annual Salary
New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA 85,180 9.82 2.03 $183,870
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, D.C.-VA-MD-WV 44,250 15.09 3.12 $186,610
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA 41,060 7.18 1.49 $177,550
Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI 26,170 6.18 1.28 $153,930
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL 24,760 10.10 2.09 $138,390

Source: BLS

Best Industries

Tax attorneys work in many industries. In the public sector, government agencies employ these professionals to enforce tax laws and represent the government in disputes with individual and corporate taxpayers. In the private sector, tax lawyers advise clients on taxation matters and provide counsel during disputes and court proceedings. Note that though the public sector tends to employ a high volume of lawyers, the average salaries for these positions are typically lower than private sector industries.

The following tables do not specifically summarize tax attorney average salary data by industry. Instead, it covers all lawyers, as the BLS does not specifically conduct industry-based analyses for tax attorneys.

Multiple top-paying industries only employ lawyers in limited numbers. Some of the listed industries may have a stronger need for non-tax legal specialists, such as patent and intellectual property attorneys.

As the data also indicates, law firms employ many attorneys working in the private sector. However, tax lawyers and other legal specialists also hold positions with large companies that have an ongoing need for in-house law expertise. The BLS projects that such work arrangements may become increasingly common in the years ahead.

Top-Paying Industries for Attorneys, 2021
Industry Number of Attorneys Employed Average Annual Salary
Other Information Services 1,670 $235,280
Scientific Research and Development Services 3,730 $230,330
Computer and Peripheral Equipment Manufacturing 500 $227,290
Aerospace Product and Parts Manufacturing 320 $220,720
Engine, Turbine, and Power Transmission Equipment Manufacturing 50 $220,270

Source: BLS

Top-Employing Industries for Attorneys, 2021
Industry Number of Attorneys Employed Average Annual Salary
Legal Services (Law Firms) 417,300 $150,130
Local Government, Excluding Schools and Hospitals (OEWS Designation) 58,510 $113,680
State Government, Excluding Schools and Hospitals (OEWS Designation) 45,360 $101,110
Federal Executive Branch (OEWS Designation) 40,400 $147,100
Enterprise Management 20,080 $198,900

Source: BLS

Questions on How Much Tax Lawyers Make

How much do top tax attorneys make?

Payscale data from September 2022 indicates that tax lawyers in the 90th percentile earn base salaries of $194,000 per year. They can also earn additional income through bonuses and profit-sharing arrangements.

How much do tax lawyers make in NYC?

According to 2021 BLS data, New York City metro area lawyers make an average of $183,870 per year. BLS data encompasses all attorneys, not just tax lawyers.

Where do tax attorneys get paid the most?

Among states and districts, lawyers have the highest average incomes in Washington, D.C.; New York; California; Massachusetts; and New Jersey. Among metropolitan areas, attorneys make the most in the San Jose; San Francisco; Washington, D.C.; New York; and Los Angeles areas.

What is the best industry to work in as a tax attorney?

Federal, state, and local governments employ tax attorneys in high numbers. Many also work in the private sector, especially for firms that offer specialized expertise in tax law.


Reviewed by:

Portrait of R.J. Weiss, CFP

R.J. Weiss, CFP

R.J. Weiss is a certified financial planner and current CEO of the financial education company The Ways To Wealth. Weiss has worked with clients across a variety of fields, including insurance planning, investment planning, income tax planning, and retirement planning. The Ways To Wealth teaches the fundamentals of financial planning to hundreds of thousands of monthly readers.

R.J. is a paid member of the Red Ventures Education Integrity Network.

Page last reviewed September 23, 2022

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