why i became a tax attorney

(Note: I originally wrote this in 2002. Rescued from the Internet Archive, reposted here for posterity.)

Short Answer:  PricewaterhouseCoopers offered me a job.

Longer Answer:
"Anyone may so arrange his affairs that his taxes shall be as low as possible; he is not bound to choose that pattern which will best pay the Treasury; there is not even a patriotic duty to increase one's taxes."
                 -- Justice Learned Hand1
One of the side effects of being an attorney is that people frequently ask me what type of attorney I am. They are probably hoping for something interesting, like death row appeals, civil rights, or environmental law. When I say "I’m a tax lawyer," I immediately see their eyes glaze over with boredom. 
It’s true that there is not a lot of glamor to tax law. Most of my time is spent analyzing the tax code and court cases and administrative rulings that have interpreted the tax code. It is my job to apply these resources to my clients’ situations, to minimize the amount of money that they have to pay to the government. 
I think that job is very interesting, and a challenge which I enjoy. I believe that people have a duty not to pay any more taxes than the government can legally demand. Otherwise, we are not challenging the government’s powers. When we fail to keep those powers in check, we surrender our liberty. My career allows me to put that belief into practice every day. 
The Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution established the Federal Income Tax in 1913. Since its inception, there have been many court cases which affirmed and reaffirmed the obligation of citizens to pay tax to the government.2 However, citizens also have a right not to pay any more taxes than what they legally must pay. U.S. Supreme Court Justice George Sutherland said that, "The legal right of a taxpayer to decrease the amount of what would otherwise be his taxes, or altogether to avoid them, by means which the law permits cannot be doubted."3 
Western jurisprudence has created a judicial presumption of immunity from tax unless it is clearly imposed, and the freedom of taxpayers to arrange their tax affairs in such a way as to minimize tax is a right, provided that the means used are effective at law and they do not seek to conceal or misrepresent the true situation. 
The duty of tax lawyers and the role of accountants is to defend that right, and to ensure that the citizens are not forced to pay any more taxes than the government can legally claim they are obligated to pay. 
In the words of Judge Learned Hand, "Over and over again courts have said that there is nothing sinister in so arranging one's affairs as to keep taxes as low as possible … for nobody owes any public duty to pay more than the law demands. Taxes are enforced exactions not voluntary contributions."4 
That is why I am a tax attorney.
1. Helvering v. Gregory, 69 F.2d 810 (1934).
2. Brushaber v. Union Pac. R. Co., 240 U.S. 1 (1916); Bowers v. Kerbaugh-Empire Co., 271 U.S. 170 (1926).
3. Gregory v. Helvering, 293 U.S. 465, 469 (1935).
4. Commissioner v. Newman, 159 F.2d 848, 850-51 (2d Cir. 1947).

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