Tax Law Program

HLS WordmarkHarvard Law School offers a significant array of courses, seminars, and reading groups in U.S. tax law, all of which are open to students in both the J.D. and LL.M. programs. Law students are often surprised to learn that virtually every financial, business, and organizational decision in modern American life has important tax consequences. The tax courses at HLS explore these consequences by focusing on the applicable legislation, the underlying tax policy considerations, and alternative approaches.

The foundational course is Taxation, which is one of the Law School’s recommended courses for J.D. students. The advanced tax courses are designed not only for J.D. and LL.M. students who find tax issues intriguing, but also for those who are more interested in the relevant non-tax substantive areas, which are myriad. For example, corporate lawyers working on mergers and acquisitions need to understand the tax consequences of such transactions, which are often structured in response to the tax code. Family lawyers need to understand the tax consequences of marriage, divorce, and the transfer of property.

Less obviously, federal regulation of universities, hospitals, charities, and other nonprofit organizations is, somewhat paradoxically, accomplished through the federal income tax provisions applicable to these non-taxable entities. Other examples abound, but the point can be made one last time with regard to international business transactions, which are profoundly affected by tax considerations.

Finally, the Law School awards the Sidney I. Roberts prize each year for the best student paper in Taxation.  Students may also submit papers to the Donald C. Alexander Writing Competition, created by the Federal Bar Association in honor of a distinguished HLS alumnus.