Taxation law is a legal speciality that involves assisting clients to navigate the complexities of various tax codes. This allows them to identify, minimise and allocate the tax risks faced by their clients. To succeed, tax lawyers are required to perform large amounts of legal research and identify all legislation relevant to a specific transaction. There are an array of tax types in Australia, including personal income tax, capital gains tax, inheritance tax, and customs duties. These are enshrined in a variety of documents, from the Australian Constitution to pieces of legislation such as A New Tax System (Goods and Services Tax) Act 1999 (which introduced GST). Tax lawyers spend most of their time in the office, though may participate in occasional off-site meetings or meet with barristers to brief them before court appearances.
Tax law boasts one of the more stable working schedules in the legal profession. Typical hours - from nine until seven - are rarely violated, and all-night efforts are more uncommon still. For this reason, many tax law practitioners may find it easier to establish, and defend, a healthy work-life balance than their colleagues in, say, commercial or criminal law. However, longer hours are often required when working on a significant transaction or on an important tax litigation matter. The flipside of working in taxation law is that it offers relatively few opportunities to travel. The primary exception is for consultant lawyers may occasionally work on secondment at client companies. Of course, some graduates may find the idea of a job with a fixed location quite appealing.
Because taxation law is such a research-intensive specialisation, graduates can expect a higher degree of supervision than their colleagues in other areas of law. The good news is that graduates are rarely expected to have a detailed understanding of taxation law before beginning their careers. Instead, they should be ready to learn on the job, carrying out legal research and even drafting tax documentation, until they’re in a position to begin advising clients directly. Unlike some other areas of the law, there is a general expectation that tax practitioners will complete a Master of Laws with a specialisation in Tax. The alternative is to complete the Chartered Tax Advisor program with The Tax Institute.
Taxation lawyers work primarily on transactions involving private groups, individuals or large businesses. They can also participate in tax litigation, or Part IVC litigation, which generally follows from an internal review by a government revenue authority and has a separate specialised set of rules. During a recession, the number of these transactions tends to decline, which can affect the availability of work for tax lawyers. Having said that, some companies may deal with a recession by restructuring or seeking additional tax deductions, both processes which require expert tax advice. Finally, it should be noted that a career in taxation law prepares you for a range of comparatively stable jobs, such as in the public service or the in-house divisions of large corporations. For these reasons, your career prospects in taxation law will be varied and reliable.