CPA Vs. Tax Attorney: 7 Key Differences

Tax law is complex, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. When facing a difficult tax situation, it’s important to understand the differences between a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and a tax attorney. While both are experts in the field of taxation, they take different approaches and offer different services. This blog will explore the seven key differences between CPA vs tax attorney to help you decide which approach is best for your situation.

Education Requirements

CPAs are licensed by the state and must have at least 150 credit hours of college education, including a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in accounting. They must also pass the Uniform CPA Exam and meet their state’s licensing requirements. Tax attorneys must have a Juris Doctor (JD) degree from a law school. They must also pass the bar exam in their state and meet other licensing requirements.

Services Offered

A CPA primarily provides tax advice and services, including filing tax returns, preparing financial statements, and helping with audits and appeals. A tax attorney’s primary responsibility is to provide legal advice and court representation. They can also provide advice on tax law, but they are not typically responsible for filing tax returns or preparing financial statements.


CPAs often provide more personalized and accessible communication than tax attorneys. CPAs work more closely with clients since the court’s regulations do not limit them. Tax attorneys are often more formal and less accessible due to their involvement in the legal system.


When it comes to representation, CPAs may be better suited for clients who are only facing simple tax matters. In these cases, the CPA may be able to assist in filing a tax return and offer advice on how to minimize liability. However, a tax attorney may be the better option if the tax issue is more complex. Tax attorneys are often more experienced and knowledgeable in dealing with complex tax matters such as audits, IRS negotiations, and litigation.

Professional Conduct

Regarding professional conduct, Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) and tax attorneys must abide by a certain set of ethical standards. CPAs must adhere to the Code of Professional Conduct established by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). This means CPAs are expected to have high integrity and professional behavior when providing client services. On the other hand, tax attorneys must adhere to the Rules of Professional Conduct set forth by their state bar associations. These rules are often more stringent than the AICPA’s Code of Professional Conduct, requiring tax attorneys to be truthful, impartial, and honest with their clients.


Generally speaking, CPAs are more affordable than Tax Attorneys. CPAs are trained to handle various tax issues, while Tax Attorneys specialize in more complex tax matters. As such, their services tend to be more expensive. CPAs typically charge an hourly rate, whereas Tax Attorneys might charge a flat fee or a percentage of the money saved on taxes.

When it comes to cost, it’s important to consider the complexity of your tax situation. A CPA is likely your best bet if you have a fairly straightforward tax return that does not involve complex legal issues. However, if you have a more complicated tax matter requiring legal expertise, hiring a Tax Attorney would be worth the additional cost.


The specialization of CPAs and tax attorneys varies depending on their experience and area of expertise. CPAs are typically more specialized in accounting and taxes, while tax attorneys may specialize in various areas, such as estate planning, tax litigation, or corporate tax.

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