If you’re starting a business, have an especially complicated tax picture or the Internal Revenue Service is investigating you, it may be a good idea to hire a tax attorney. Here’s how you can find the right professional for you.

Where to look

Start looking for a tax attorney by asking professionals you trust. Check with your banker, accountant or a lawyer you’ve worked with on another matter. If you can’t get a referral, you can always check with the local bar association for specialists in your area.

Are they qualified?

At a minimum, a tax attorney must have a Juris Doctor, known as a J.D., and a license to practice. You can check both credentials with your state bar. However, many practitioners also have a Master of Laws in taxation, so it may be a good idea to look for a specialist with extra training. In some cases, it’s possible to find a lawyer who is a certified public accountant as well, which may come in handy for certain types of issues.

Are they right for you?

Once you find a tax attorney you like, that doesn’t mean you’ve found the right person to help with your particular case. Before you sign on as a client, it’s important to ask if the lawyer has experience dealing with the issues you face. That might mean paying a consultation fee and explaining your situation in some detail. After that, the lawyer should be able to tell you if they have experience in this area. If they don’t, it’s a good idea to ask for a referral.