In cases where retention of a tax attorney is advisable, simply – no, an accountant is not the answer. Accountants are wonderful people and talented professionals, and they excel at ‘crunching numbers’, tracking inventory and depreciation, preparing tax returns and financial statements, etc. But an accountant is not trained in matters of procedure – if your case involves an ongoing dispute with the federal or state tax authorities, including audit or collection matters, an accountant is not trained to address the various legal and procedural issues you face. Unfortunately, many accountants’ market themselves as able to handle tax procedural issues merely on the basis that they have ‘worked with taxes a lot&rsquo.
Even with respect to the correctness of a tax position, a tax attorney is better able than the accountant to provide conclusive and well-supported advice – the tax attorney is trained to analyze the background statutes and law, including case law, in order to judge the correctness of a tax position.
There are certain things an accountant absolutely cannot do, such as represent you in a U.S. or Minnesota Tax Court case.