NYU School of Law is one of the most exciting places in the world in which to study tax law. Since 1945, the NYU Graduate Tax Program has been widely viewed as the preeminent program of its kind. Our tax faculty consists of 16 full-time tax law professors and approximately 40 leading practitioners who serve as tax adjunct faculty members. Each year, NYU offers nearly 100 different sections of tax law courses. Throughout the year, the Graduate Tax Program and the International Tax Program host numerous tax panels and social events at the Law School, almost all of which are open to JD students.
But right now, you probably have a much more basic question: “Should I take Income Taxation?” As you will soon learn, tax considerations affect nearly every legal matter, from corporate transactions to divorce negotiations to criminal prosecutions. The tax law is also the primary vehicle through which the government attempts to influence our behavior to achieve public policy objectives, whether by encouraging us to donate money to charitable organizations, purchase health insurance or even ride public transportation to work. Finally, the Income Taxation course features a deep exploration of statutory law, which will force you to question why legislators drafted particular provisions of the tax law the way they did and whether they achieved their intended policy objectives. This experience may whet your appetite for additional courses rooted in statutory law, as opposed to common law. For all of these reasons, every JD student should seriously consider taking Income Taxation during his or her time at NYU.
When should you take Income Taxation and, if you enjoy that course, what other tax courses should you take? This Professional Pathways guide describes (1) suggested tax law courses that you should consider taking during the JD program, (2) the Tax LLM program, (3) tax career events, (4) tax scholarship and fellowship opportunities and (5) extra-curricular tax events and activities at NYU.
I. Suggested Tax Courses
As a JD student, you may be overwhelmed at first by the Law School’s vast array of tax course offerings. This part provides a step-by-step approach to deciding when to take Income Taxation and, if you decide to take additional tax law courses, to designing a schedule of tax courses.
First, take Income Taxation. Income Taxation (4 credits) is offered as a 1L elective during the spring semester and is offered in multiple sections to 2Ls and 3Ls each semester. The tax faculty strongly recommends that you take Income Taxation during your 1L or 2L year, if possible. There are two important reasons for this timing. First, if you plan to work in a law firm during your 2L summer, you will not be able to request a tax assignment or a rotation in the tax group unless you have at least taken Income Taxation before arriving at the firm. Without spending at least some time in the tax group at your 2L summer associate law firm, you may encounter difficulty in obtaining a position in the tax group when you join the firm as an associate. Second, if you decide to pursue tax as a practice area, you should take certain advanced tax courses before graduating from NYU. If you wait to take Income Taxation until your 3L year (especially during your last semester), you will miss out on opportunities to take these advanced tax courses.
Next, take Corporate Tax I & II. If you take Income Taxation and discover, perhaps to your surprise, that you are excited by many aspects of this course, should you consider becoming a tax lawyer? Before trying to answer this question, you should take one more advanced tax course, Corporate Tax I & II (4 credits). This course examines the federal income tax treatment of corporations and their shareholders arising from various transactions including transfers to controlled corporations, distributions, redemptions, liquidations, acquisitive and divisive reorganizations. Because the corporate income tax plays such a significant role in all aspects of tax practice, it is not possible to be a tax lawyer without learning this material. The corporate tax rules are complex, formalistic, arbitrary and, for a student who is truly excited about tax, fun! If you find the “like-kind exchange” material in Income Taxation challenging and stimulating, there is a good chance that you will enjoy Corporate Tax I & II. If you enjoy Corporate Tax I & II, there is a very good chance that will enjoy a career as a tax lawyer. Corporate Tax I & II is offered in at least one section both semesters every year. Students in this class consist of 2Ls, full-time Tax LLM students and, occasionally, part-time Tax LLM students. Because the material in this course is so challenging, students in the Tax LLM program do not possess an advantage over JD students and vice versa.
There are two important points to note regarding Corporate Tax I & II. First, the tax faculty strongly recommends that as a JD student, you should enroll in the four-credit Corporate Tax I & II course rather than the two-credit Corporate Tax I and the two-credit Corporate Tax II course. The latter two courses are offered during the evenings for part-time Tax LLM students who may be practicing during the day. Second, if you already feel strongly that you want to pursue tax as a career path, you should consider taking Income Taxation and Corporate Tax I & II before your 2L summer. If you are able to take these two courses before your 2L summer, you will greatly expand your ability to work on tax matters during a summer associate program at a law firm.
If you are still excited about tax, start to think about tax practice areas. If you have taken Income Taxation and Corporate Tax I & II and are still enthused about the subject, you should consider taking additional advanced tax courses. From the nearly 100 sections of advanced tax courses that we offer each year, you could choose a few that appear interesting to you. A more directed approach to preparing to practice as a tax lawyer after graduation is to think about the type of tax practice that appeals to you and, during your remaining semesters at NYU, to take a few advanced courses that relate to that area. To assist you with this analysis, we have described below several different types of tax practice areas and specific courses that may be accessible to JD students who are interested in each area.
Business Tax. If you plan to work on transactional matters as a tax lawyer at a large corporate law firm or a major accounting firm, you should take two additional advanced tax courses before graduating. First, after taking Corporate Tax I & II, you should take Partnership Tax (3 credits). Many of your future clients may be organized as partnerships rather than corporations (e.g., private equity funds and hedge funds) or may desire to form partnerships when creating new businesses. Second, you should take Survey of International Taxation (4 credits) or International Taxation I, II and/or III (6 credits total). To be clear, these courses do not focus on the tax laws of other countries. Rather, they address the many US rules, regulations and treaties that govern the taxation of the income of nonresident aliens and non-US corporations from activities in the US and the taxation of the income of US taxpayers with investments and business activities in other countries. As cross-border transactions have increased dramatically in recent years, if you plan to advise business clients, you should take at least one course on international taxation.
Government/Policy. If you are interested in serving in government, working at a think tank or pursuing a career in legal academia, you should consider enrolling in one of the several tax policy seminars that we offer each year. The Tax Policy & Public Finance Colloquium (4 credits) offers the opportunity to pursue tax policy and theory, along with related issues of public economics, at an advanced level. Each week, this colloquium focuses on a work-in-progress by a leading tax scholar. The Federal Budget Policy and Process Seminar (2 credits) provides students with the basic tools of the lawyers and analysts who work with the federal budget, while also asking them to delve into theory underlying federal budget policymaking. Finally, Tax Policy (2 credits) examines the legal, economic and political considerations relevant to the formulation of tax policy. Even if you are interested in pursuing a career in government, policy or academia, you should not feel that you have to enroll in all of these seminars. Further, a student who is interested in pursuing a business tax practice may also benefit from taking one of these tax policy offerings.
Individuals/Non-Profits. If you find the tax law exciting, but have little desire to engage in transactional tax planning involving large corporations and partnerships on a daily basis, you may enjoy advising individual, rather than business, clients. Estate and Gift Taxation (3 credits) provides a survey of the federal taxes on donative wealth transfers, including the estate, gift, and generation-skipping taxes. Tax-Exempt Organizations (2 credits) focuses on the tax treatment of public and private charities exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, as well as business leagues, social welfare organizations, social clubs, and other types of tax-exempt organizations. Finally, Tax Aspects of Charitable Giving (2 credits) provides an in-depth analysis of income, estate, and gift tax issues affecting donations to charity.
Tax Controversy. Tax controversy is a practice area that many JD students overlook. Yet this practice area may appeal to you if you are excited about tax, but again, do not have a desire to participate in transactional tax planning involving large corporations and partnerships. This practice area involves the representation of taxpayers, both individuals and businesses, in disputes with the taxing authority (such as the IRS) at the administrative and judicial levels. If you are interested in tax and feel that litigation appeals to you more than corporate work, this practice area may be a good fit for you. To test this possibility, consider taking Survey of Tax Procedure (1 credit) or Tax Procedure (2 credits). If you enjoy these courses, and your schedule will allow it, consider taking Tax Penalties & Prosecutions (2 credits), which focuses on the legal, practical and ethical issues related to the imposition of civil and criminal tax penalties.
As this Part illustrates, the tax curriculum at NYU is large and diverse. To help you visualize how you could pursue the tax courses that we have suggested during the JD program, please see the list below:
Suggested Tax Courses for JD students
- Income Taxation (4 cr.; recommended by end of 2L year)
- Corporate Tax I & II (4 cr.)
- Advanced courses in:
- Business Tax
- Partnership Taxation (3 cr.)
- Survey of International Tax (4 cr.)
- International Tax I, II and/or III (6 cr. total)
- Government / Policy
- Tax Policy Seminar (2 cr.)
- Tax Policy & Public Finance Colloquium (4 cr.)
- Federal Budget Policy and Process Seminar (2 cr.)
- Individuals / Non-Profits
- Estate and Gift Taxation (3 cr.)
- Tax Exempt Organizations (2 cr.)
- Tax Aspects of Charitable Giving (2 cr.)
- Tax Controversy
- Tax Procedure (1 or 2 cr.)
- Tax Penalties & Prosecutions (2 cr.)
The tax courses described in this part represent only a fraction of the total number of advanced tax courses that we offer at NYU each year. As long as you satisfy the required pre- or co-requisite courses, you may enroll in any of these tax courses. You can access a full list of advanced tax courses offered in most years. In addition, even though you may be confident that you plan to pursue a career as a tax lawyer, several courses outside of the tax area may also be helpful to you. Specifically, every future tax lawyer should seriously consider taking Corporations and Accounting for Lawyers.
II. LLM in Taxation
Many students find that it is difficult to fit in all of the important tax classes during their JD programs, and prefer to approach certain topics a structured classroom environment rather than in a piecemeal fashion while first starting in practice. After graduating from the JD program, you may choose to continue your tax studies at NYU by enrolling in advanced tax courses. The LL.M. in Taxation is a 24-credit degree program, which students complete full-time during a one-year period or part-time over a period of study of up to five years. Special rules apply, however, for NYU JD students. If you are interested in pursuing an LLM in Taxation, it is important that you consider these rules, described below, as you design your JD tax course schedule.
JD/LLM in Taxation. If you participate in the JD/LLM program, you must complete 12 credits of advanced tax courses while pursuing your JD degree. An advanced tax course includes all tax courses except Income Taxation and the three-credit Tax Clinic session. If you complete at least 12 credits of advanced tax courses before receiving your JD, you may then pursue your LLM in Taxation by enrolling full-time at NYU during the fall semester following your graduation from the JD program. You will be able to “double-count” the 12 credits of advanced tax courses that you completed as a JD student toward your LLM in Taxation. During the additional fall semester following your JD graduation, you must complete 12 additional credits, at least 8 of which must consist of credits for advanced tax courses. All JD/LLM students must complete at least one course in tax procedure and one course in tax policy. Upon successful completion of this additional semester, you will earn an LLM in Taxation in addition to your JD degree.
Part-time LLM in Taxation. After graduating from your JD program, you may not wish to spend an additional semester full-time at NYU. But if you have taken advanced tax courses, you may still pursue your LLM in Taxation on a part-time basis. You may take as long as five years to complete the LLM in Taxation requirements. The five-year period begins to run from the semester in which you took your first advanced tax course as a JD student. If you enroll in this program, you will be able to double-count up to 12 advanced tax credits taken during your JD program toward your LLM in Taxation. You do not have to complete 12 credits of advanced tax courses as a JD student to enroll in the part-time LLM in Taxation program following graduation from your JD program. For example, if you take eight advanced tax credits as a JD, you will be able to double-count these credits toward your LLM in Taxation on a part-time basis (subject to the five-year rule). All JD students who pursue the part-time LLM in Taxation are required to complete at least one course in tax procedure and one course in tax policy.
Finally, as a part-time LLM student, as long as you complete 12 advanced tax credits by taking tax courses on campus (including the credits that you take during your JD program), you may complete the remainder of your LLM in Taxation by taking online tax courses. The NYU Graduate Tax Program offers many advanced tax courses in an online format each year. As a student in one of these classes, you participate by viewing videos of a course that is being offered on campus during that semester or that was recorded during a previous semester. You complete the same exam as all other students, both on-campus and online, who are enrolled in the course. The availability of online tax courses offers significant flexibility to our students who are practicing or who work in other cities. For example, you could complete 12 advanced tax credits during your JD program at NYU, move to Chicago following graduation, and complete the remaining 12 advanced tax credits by enrolling entirely in online courses during the five-year period described above.
Every March, the Graduate Tax Program hosts a special meeting for all JD students who are interested in learning about the JD/LLM in Taxation program, the part-time LLM in Taxation program and related scholarship opportunities. If you are interested in applying to the LLM in Taxation program, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to request more information.
III. Career Advice
Despite the abundance of tax law course offerings at NYU, you may still be unsure of the type of tax practice that you would enjoy most. This dilemma may be especially overwhelming after you complete Income Taxation, but before you have gained experience as a summer associate or intern. To help you explore different tax practice areas, you should participate in the tax career events that the Graduate Tax Program and the Office of Career Services present throughout the year. The following programs are open to all Tax LLM and interested JD students.
Graduate Tax Program Lunch Series. In this lunch series, the Graduate Tax Program hosts roundtable discussions with prominent alumni of the Graduate Tax Program and small groups of students (up to 25). This program is moderated by Professor Blank. Rather than focusing on substantive tax issues, we ask the guests what they do on a daily basis and how they have chosen their professional paths. This forum is a unique way for students to learn about different career paths and for our alumni to have a chance to meet our students. Sandwiches and refreshments are served. We host at least six lunches each year.
Big Four Accounting Firm Panel. Each October, the Office of Career Services and the Graduate Tax Program host a panel on career opportunities at the Big Four accounting firms (Deloitte, E&Y, PWC, KPMG).
Tax Careers Luncheon. Each February, Tax LL.M. Alumni from a variety of organizations attend this event to speak to students about various practice areas and practice settings for tax attorneys. Participants will have the opportunity to rotate through tables organized by practice area: Corporate Tax, International Tax, Estate Planning, Employee Benefits, and State and Local Tax. The Office of Career Services hosts this event every February.
Estate Planning Brownbag Lunch. Every March, the Office of Career Services hosts a brownbag lunch event with a speaker who practices in the estate planning area.
International Tax Program Lunch Series. Each year, the International Taxation LL.M. program hosts approximately 15 speakers for a lunch discussion on international tax issues. Lunch is provided, and faculty, members of the tax press, and all law school students are invited. The events are listed on the Law School calendar, and serve as a valuable learning and networking opportunity.
IV. Tax Scholarships and Fellowships
At the end of your 2L year, you may apply for a Tax Law Review Scholarship for your 3L year. The recipients of these scholarships serve as Graduate Editors of the Tax Law Review, the premier law school journal for tax policy scholarship in the United States. Recipients of this scholarship receive half-tuition scholarships for the 3L year and the LL.M. semester. The other editors are Tax LL.M. students. The Graduate Editors assist in cite-checking and proofreading the journal. The selection of new student editors occurs each spring.
To apply, please submit the following items to Professor Deborah Schenk in Vanderbilt Room 416 by the end of spring semester classes of your 2L year: (1) a letter indicating your interest; (2) a resume; (3) transcript of grades (an unofficial transcript is fine); and (4) a writing sample. The writing sample can be a lawyering assignment, a memo written for a summer job, a paper written for class, etc. For further information, contact Professor Schenk at Deborah.Schenk@nyu.edu.
In addition, under the Tax Policy Internship and Fellowship Program, one or two 3L J.D./LL.M. (in Taxation) candidates will be selected to spend six months as an intern at The U.S. Dept. of the Treasury or the Staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) during the summer and fall after the J.D. degree is awarded. Each fellow receives a stipend to cover living expenses during the four to six months of the internship. The stipend has traditionally been $20,000 for a full 26 weeks, though the stipend is reduced (pro-rated) for shorter internships. The typical internship is often 4-5 months, as students take the bar exam over the summer and begin the internship in August. The candidate will then complete the LL.M. (in Taxation) during the spring of the year following her J.D. graduation and must enroll in the Tax Policy Colloquium during that semester. Students who complete the colloquium during their J.D. studies are sometimes able to arrange to complete the bar in the summer, the LL.M. semester in the fall, and then work for a full six months during the spring semester.
The tax policy fellow pays no tuition during the LL.M. semester and will receive a living support stipend during the LL.M. semester. Registration, health insurance, and other fees are not covered. Tax Policy Fellows apply in the spring semester of their 3L year and are chosen based on academic record, interest in tax policy, and ability to work well at the Treasury or the JCT.
To apply, 3Ls must first apply to the full-time J.D./LL.M. program, and then submit the following items to John Stephens, the Director of the Graduate Tax Program, in Furman Room 344: (1) a letter indicating your interest, including your preference in agency; (2) a resume; and (3) a transcript of grades. An unofficial transcript is acceptable. The fellowships have been very competitive in recent years. The deadline to submit your packet to Mr. Stephens is the same as the deadline to apply to the full-time program, in early April each spring. We welcome students to submit materials earlier. You can submit by email at email@example.com or you can stop by Furman 344 to drop off your packet if you have any questions.
V. Tax Events and Activities
A unique aspect of studying tax law at NYU is that you can learn about the subject both inside and outside of the classroom. This is true whether you take 12 credits of advanced tax courses during your J.D. program or simply take Income Taxation. Each semester, the Graduate Tax Program hosts substantive programs and events that are designed to reinforce concepts that you are learning in class, address topics that do not receive significant exposure in class and provide a forum for debate and discussion regarding important tax policy issues. These events are open to the entire NYU School of Law community. You will receive information about these events by e-mail and you can read more about them on the NYU Law Tax Blog, which you can access by clicking here. Several regular events are described below.
Graduate Tax Program Lecture Series. Each semester, the Graduate Tax Program hosts multiple panels on timely tax topics, which feature members of the NYU tax faculty, leading scholars from other universities, government officials and prominent practitioners. In the past several years, this series has included programs such as: Checking Up on Health Care Tax Reform; Innovation and Capital Gains Tax Policy; Meet the Tax Press; Offshore Accounts, Tax Amnesties and Compliance; The Future of Corporate Tax Reform; Anti-Abuse Tax Rules: A Global Perspective; and Federal Payroll Taxes: Why Should We Care? What Should Be Done?
Graduate Tax Program Practice Series. This series of programs consists of panels and presentations that address issues that you will likely encounter in tax practice in different work environments. Recent programs include: Understanding the Separation Agreement; The In-House Tax Function; Accounting for Tax Uncertainty; and Beyond the Code: How to Distinguish Yourself in Tax Practice.
Tax Policy and Public Finance Colloquium. Every week during the spring semester each year, a leading scholar discusses a work-in-progress at the Tax Policy and Public Finance Colloquium, co-convened by Professor Daniel Shaviro. Even if you are not enrolled in this course, you are welcome to attend the public discussion of the paper with the author each week. During the Spring 2013 semester, these sessions will take place on Tuesdays from 4:00 PM to 5:50 PM in Vanderbilt Hall Room 208.
NYU/UCLA Tax Policy Symposium. Every other year, the NYU/UCLA Tax Policy Symposium takes place at the Law School. The conference is intended to provide a forum in which leading scholars, policymakers and practitioners offer expert perspectives on complex tax policy questions and options for reform. In October 2012, the symposium celebrated the 100th anniversary of the income tax in the United States.
Tillinghast Lecture on International Taxation. For students interested in international taxation, the David R. Tillinghast Lecture on International Taxation is one of the high points of the academic year. This program, which is organized by Professor David Rosenbloom and the International Tax Program, takes place each fall at the Law School. It features a prominent scholar, practitioner or government official, and provides a forum in which leading international tax lawyers and educators from around the world offer ideas on the cutting edge of the transnational tax arena.
Social Events. One of the best ways to learn more about potential career paths in tax is to meet Tax LL.M. students who are currently practicing and tax lawyers who have graduated from the NYU Graduate Tax Program. Each year, the Graduate Tax Program hosts several receptions to which students, including J.D. students, are invited. Every April, the Graduate Tax Program hosts an annual Tax Movie Night!, at which we screen a tax-themed movie, participate in a discussion following the film with a panel of tax experts and enjoy popcorn and other refreshments. Even though you are not enrolled in the Graduate Tax Program, you are absolutely welcome to participate in all of these social events and, hopefully, to start to develop your own network of tax colleagues.
If you have any questions regarding the tax curriculum or career paths in tax that you would like to discuss, please feel free to contact Professor Steven Dean, faculty director of the Graduate Tax Program, at firstname.lastname@example.org or John Stephens, director of the Graduate Tax Program, at email@example.com. You can also access the contact information for all members of the tax faculty at the Tax area of study.