Election could boost tax law work

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz wants to eliminate the IRS and introduce a 10 percent flat tax on income.

Democrat Bernie Sanders is proposing significant new and increased taxes, along with a payroll tax to fund single-payer health care.

Donald Trump’s plan calls for tax cuts across the board, with most benefiting the richest, but causing trillions more in federal debt during the next decade.

And PolitiFact reports most Americans would probably see the fewest changes in the tax code under Hillary Clinton’s proposal, which calls for modest increases.

The wide array of tax plan proposals by this year’s presidential candidates is as dramatic as it’s ever been. Not until November will we know who will move into the White House, and even then, it’s unclear how and if our next president would be able to push major tax changes through Congress.

“There has never been a more exciting time to be a tax lawyer,” said Paul Caron, professor of law at Pepperdine University School of Law and the publisher and editor of Tax Prof Blog.

Dramatic revisions would be good for the tax business, and even an abolishment of the IRS would require the creation of an agency that would collect revenue to fund government operations, he said.

Employment prospects are currently and will likely remain high, compared to other areas of law, making the specialty area a fairly safe one to enter. Tax law is not subject to the booms and busts like real estate, Caron said.

“There are always tax needs, and tax professionals need to meet those needs,” said Caron, also Pepperdine’s associate dean for Research and Faculty Development. “It’s never really a booming practice, but the upside is it’s never really a down practice area.”

Not ready to practice tax law? The good news is that there are 57 graduate taxation programs, more than any other specialty. And that is because the specialty is more complex than most and that requires advanced knowledge. 

New York University School of Law’s taxation programs are among the most highly regarded in the country. The school offers MSL and LL.M. programs in taxation, international taxation, as well as an E-LL.M. program, which allows students to complete coursework exclusively online.

Established in 1945, the Graduate Tax Program covers theoretical and policy issues extensively, “because a narrow, mechanical approach to tax problems is neither responsible nor practical,” NYU says. “The program is rigorous because no other approach can effectively address the complexity of the tax laws.”

Taxation programs offered by Georgetown University Law Center and the University of Florida Fredric G. Levin College of Law are also among the top three, Caron said. 

“The three best programs offer very different experiences,” he said.

Students should consider if they want the advantage of being near New York City’s financial industry or Washington’s government, or if they want a more intense academic experience.