A Tax LLM's Big4 Salary Trajectory

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A Tax LLM's Big4 Salary Trajectory

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Apr 18, 2018 5:42 pm

After creeping on the TIP/TARE 2018 thread (which was a fantastic use of crowdsourcing and I could not find a similar thread from any earlier years that compared [keep up the transparency]), I'm seeing a lot of NYU/GULC grads going into the Big4 making around 135k in major markets to 95k in regional offices.

I'm wondering what is the salary trajectory from there at a Big4. My tax professor told me that you start out making a lot less money at accounting firms than Biglaw, but eventually make more (maybe because people eventually just leave biglaw).

Any insight would be helpful!

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Re: A Tax LLM's Big4 Salary Trajectory

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Apr 18, 2018 6:09 pm

I work at a regional office of a Big4 and heard about similar things. That said, you probably won't earn more than your BigLaw peers until you reach senior manager level and/or above.

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Re: A Tax LLM's Big4 Salary Trajectory

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Apr 18, 2018 6:11 pm

Anonymous User wrote:After creeping on the TIP/TARE 2018 thread (which was a fantastic use of crowdsourcing and I could not find a similar thread from any earlier years that compared [keep up the transparency]), I'm seeing a lot of NYU/GULC grads going into the Big4 making around 135k in major markets to 95k in regional offices.

I'm wondering what is the salary trajectory from there at a Big4. My tax professor told me that you start out making a lot less money at accounting firms than Biglaw, but eventually make more (maybe because people eventually just leave biglaw).

Any insight would be helpful!


It's more like 110k to 125k in major markets.

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Re: A Tax LLM's Big4 Salary Trajectory

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Apr 18, 2018 6:16 pm

I have to say, I took a job straight out of law school in NYC (but in transfer pricing, which I hear pays less), and I feel pretty screwed by these salaries. I'm getting 100k (95 + 5k bonus) and after seeing 135+ salaries, I'm wondering if I should have gone for an LLM...

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Re: A Tax LLM's Big4 Salary Trajectory

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Apr 18, 2018 6:59 pm

I know that managers in bigger cities (DC/NY) are in the low 200s. So, yes, you will be lower than your peers in biglaw, but unless you’re really stupid, you will make manager in an accounting firm in 4-6 years. I heard you really don’t get pushed out of accounting firms and they’ll just keep you at Director forever if you’re a decent worker.

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Re: A Tax LLM's Big4 Salary Trajectory

Postby dabigchina » Wed Apr 18, 2018 10:33 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I work at a regional office of a Big4 and heard about similar things. That said, you probably won't earn more than your BigLaw peers until you reach senior manager level and/or above.

You won't beat law firm earnings until a few years after you make partner. There were fairly senior directors who made about as much as a senior associate.

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Re: A Tax LLM's Big4 Salary Trajectory

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Apr 19, 2018 8:51 am

dabigchina wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I work at a regional office of a Big4 and heard about similar things. That said, you probably won't earn more than your BigLaw peers until you reach senior manager level and/or above.

You won't beat law firm earnings until a few years after you make partner. There were fairly senior directors who made about as much as a senior associate.


"Won't" is a pretty strong word. An MD in my office said she has started to earn more than her law school classmates since a couple of years ago.

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Re: A Tax LLM's Big4 Salary Trajectory

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Apr 19, 2018 10:41 am

Many more people will become directors at big 4 than senior associates at biglaw firms. After probably 6 years, you will be making more simply because your biglaw counterpart has probably left at that point.

Some speciality tax groups have hoardes of directors.

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Re: A Tax LLM's Big4 Salary Trajectory

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Apr 19, 2018 10:52 am

My guess is that there are less people who burn out and go do something random like open cupcake shops. (This may also be because they don't manage to save enough to undertake a venture like this).

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Re: A Tax LLM's Big4 Salary Trajectory

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Apr 19, 2018 11:12 am

I was going to say, I see a lot more directors here who don't seem to actively hate their lives or worry about being pushed out.

I guess the real question at some point is whether a director is likely to make more than whatever exit options are common to biglaw associates, which is highly group-dependent.

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Re: A Tax LLM's Big4 Salary Trajectory

Postby dabigchina » Thu Apr 19, 2018 12:08 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
dabigchina wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I work at a regional office of a Big4 and heard about similar things. That said, you probably won't earn more than your BigLaw peers until you reach senior manager level and/or above.

You won't beat law firm earnings until a few years after you make partner. There were fairly senior directors who made about as much as a senior associate.


"Won't" is a pretty strong word. An MD in my office said she has started to earn more than her law school classmates since a couple of years ago.


Law school classmates in biglaw?
How senior of a director was she?

In either case, what you are saying doesn't contradict what I said at all. A director can make more than a senior associate (although it will take longer to get there). There's very little chance that a senior manager will make more than a senior associate who makes market.

Also, let's dispel the notion that big4 director is some kind of lifestyle position. It's pretty stressful and I know plenty of directors who hate their lives.

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Re: A Tax LLM's Big4 Salary Trajectory

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Apr 19, 2018 12:35 pm

I knew directors who regularly worked from 8-430 everyday. I also knew directors who worked crazy hours all the time. Clearly some are trying to make principal/partner others are not.

You will not find a senior associate coasting with those hours at any larger firm.

However, the former director type I mentioned seems more like an of counsel position.

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Re: A Tax LLM's Big4 Salary Trajectory

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Apr 19, 2018 12:47 pm

dabigchina wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
dabigchina wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I work at a regional office of a Big4 and heard about similar things. That said, you probably won't earn more than your BigLaw peers until you reach senior manager level and/or above.

You won't beat law firm earnings until a few years after you make partner. There were fairly senior directors who made about as much as a senior associate.


"Won't" is a pretty strong word. An MD in my office said she has started to earn more than her law school classmates since a couple of years ago.


Law school classmates in biglaw?
How senior of a director was she?

In either case, what you are saying doesn't contradict what I said at all. A director can make more than a senior associate (although it will take longer to get there). There's very little chance that a senior manager will make more than a senior associate who makes market.

Also, let's dispel the notion that big4 director is some kind of lifestyle position. It's pretty stressful and I know plenty of directors who hate their lives.


Sorry for not making this clear in my first post but yes, she said she's been earning more than her law school classmates in BigLaw.

I did't see any reference to manager in your original response. And I think the statement "senior managers in Big4 make less than senior associates in BigLaw" general holds true, though Big4 salary is not as transparent as BigLaw.

What I heard is totally anecdotal anyways. It is based on nothing but what my MD told me. Assuming she's not lying, "a couple of years back" for her means when she was still a senior manager. That's why I said "you probably won't earn more than your BigLaw peers until you reach senior manager level and/or above.

But if the point you are trying to make is that senior associates in BigLaw should really be comparable to manager/senior manager rather than MDs because of the years it takes to get there, I tend to agree. And again, BigLaw senior associates, as a general matter, is still likely to earn more than managers in Big4 .

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Re: A Tax LLM's Big4 Salary Trajectory

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Apr 19, 2018 9:55 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I have to say, I took a job straight out of law school in NYC (but in transfer pricing, which I hear pays less), and I feel pretty screwed by these salaries. I'm getting 100k (95 + 5k bonus) and after seeing 135+ salaries, I'm wondering if I should have gone for an LLM...


Is it too late/do they not incentivize an LLM? I was under the imporession you needed an LLM, MS in Tax, or a COA to be up for principal/partner.

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Re: A Tax LLM's Big4 Salary Trajectory

Postby dabigchina » Wed Apr 25, 2018 1:11 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I have to say, I took a job straight out of law school in NYC (but in transfer pricing, which I hear pays less), and I feel pretty screwed by these salaries. I'm getting 100k (95 + 5k bonus) and after seeing 135+ salaries, I'm wondering if I should have gone for an LLM...


Is it too late/do they not incentivize an LLM? I was under the imporession you needed an LLM, MS in Tax, or a COA to be up for principal/partner.

It's all about the business case and who can come up to bat for you.

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Re: A Tax LLM's Big4 Salary Trajectory

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Apr 30, 2018 10:31 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I have to say, I took a job straight out of law school in NYC (but in transfer pricing, which I hear pays less), and I feel pretty screwed by these salaries. I'm getting 100k (95 + 5k bonus) and after seeing 135+ salaries, I'm wondering if I should have gone for an LLM...


I think the $135k salaries are few and far between (and, from what I've seen, usually for M&A folks). I have an offer for a regional office M&A. I do not have an LLM. Offer is for $75k. I was told, however, that in 4-5 years when I make Manager that my pay will be = to those with LLMs at ~$150k.

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Re: A Tax LLM's Big4 Salary Trajectory

Postby Anonymous User » Tue May 01, 2018 4:20 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I think the $135k salaries are few and far between (and, from what I've seen, usually for M&A folks). I have an offer for a regional office M&A. I do not have an LLM. Offer is for $75k. I was told, however, that in 4-5 years when I make Manager that my pay will be = to those with LLMs at ~$150k.


Does the pay vary that much across practice groups? And to clarify, do you mean that JDs and LLMs converge at the manager level? As in, while LLMs start higher, JDs would be getting higher raises and finally meet after 4-5 years?

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Re: A Tax LLM's Big4 Salary Trajectory

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Dec 06, 2018 2:22 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:I think the $135k salaries are few and far between (and, from what I've seen, usually for M&A folks). I have an offer for a regional office M&A. I do not have an LLM. Offer is for $75k. I was told, however, that in 4-5 years when I make Manager that my pay will be = to those with LLMs at ~$150k.


Does the pay vary that much across practice groups? And to clarify, do you mean that JDs and LLMs converge at the manager level? As in, while LLMs start higher, JDs would be getting higher raises and finally meet after 4-5 years?


No. JDs and LLMs will never naturally meet until principal level. Your salary increases and bonuses are set by your base salary. So unless the JD was making significantly higher bonuses and raises year to year as a result of his/her higher work output, the LLM will still be making more At manager level than a JD.

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Re: A Tax LLM's Big4 Salary Trajectory

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Dec 06, 2018 10:18 pm

This is not true, at least at my Big4. Salary compression is very real. CPAs, JDs, and LLMs will all *roughly* have the same salary around manager level. Yes, this means that LLMs are not getting large bonuses (even those with high ratings are getting small raises) while CPAs are getting large raises. This may not be the case in all offices/firms, but I am positive it is the case where I work.

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Re: A Tax LLM's Big4 Salary Trajectory

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Jan 12, 2019 12:49 am

Big4 is consistently lower than Biglaw until the partner level. Until this most recent year, when LLMs were hired for $135k for the first time, the progression was something like this.

Year 1 - 115k
Year 2 - 125k
Year 3 - 140k
Year 4 - 165k
Year 5 - 190k
Year 6 - 220k
Year 7 - 240k

Of course, YMMV based on your ratings and the timing of promotions. It’s unclear how the higher salary for new hires will impact salary progression moving forward.

Also keep in mind that your bonus will by WAY lower than in biglaw (something like 5k for a first year and topping out at 15-20k as a senior manager, at least at my Big4).

My frame of reference is M&A tax in a major market.

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Re: A Tax LLM's Big4 Salary Trajectory

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Jan 12, 2019 11:14 am

Anonymous User wrote:Big4 is consistently lower than Biglaw until the partner level. Until this most recent year, when LLMs were hired for $135k for the first time, the progression was something like this.

Year 1 - 115k
Year 2 - 125k
Year 3 - 140k
Year 4 - 165k
Year 5 - 190k
Year 6 - 220k
Year 7 - 240k

Of course, YMMV based on your ratings and the timing of promotions. It’s unclear how the higher salary for new hires will impact salary progression moving forward.

Also keep in mind that your bonus will by WAY lower than in biglaw (something like 5k for a first year and topping out at 15-20k as a senior manager, at least at my Big4).

My frame of reference is M&A tax in a major market.


One thing to note is that reaching Director is an achievable goal. I’ve heard that at the Big 4 I worked at, JD/LLM directors are in the 300+ range and can get a bonus of in excess of 20% of base.

Making Director is significantly more realistic than even being an 8th year associate at a large law firm, it seems.

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Re: A Tax LLM's Big4 Salary Trajectory

Postby Anonymous User » Sat Jan 12, 2019 1:49 pm

I was a JD/LLM at three of the big fours in M&A and International groups in different offices. Made it up to director and exited in-house as Head of Tax in a F500 company.

Big4 salary is dependent on the following factors: credentials, office and group.

Generally, the highest salary offered these days is for: JD/LLM, DC WNTS, M&A group. This can be as high as 140 starting. I’ve heard of someone starting at 150, but this is highly dependent on that individual’s past experience.

Generally, most JD/LLMs in major offices (think NYC, DC, Boston) in a major group (M&A, International) start in the 100-130 range. This is subject to market conditions.

Raises suck for the first few years. There’s a bit of bump when one gets promoted, but even then that’s dependent on performance and rating.

Someone mentioned 300k for a director - I’ve never seen that before. It’s usually low-200s~mid-200s at most. Maybe that figure is true for that one big4 I did not work at. Generally, you get paid the same as a 2nd/3rd year biglaw associate as a 6-8th year (who was fortunate enough to be promoted to director) in the big4.

First year partners might be in the 300k range, but after the buy-in, it can be lower than directors. Partner pyramid is a whole another world. You become an associate again, with many ranks to overcome over years.

Someone said above that becoming a director is much more achievable than becoming 6-8th year associate at a law firm. I would dispute that statement. M&A groups work insane hours. As you go up the ladder it becomes worse, since you are responsible for substantive work, client development and internal coordinations (the sheer amount of admin...). I had to work, as well as all the others in the group, consistent 250-300 hour months. People always exited in droves due to the unsustainable lifestyle. There was a year where I worked 3000+ hours and had to get a disc surgery. International was better, I would say on average 200-250 hours per month. But they also pay you less.

I’m cruising now at a 9-5 job with director level pay, but it came at a lot of opportunity cost. I wouldn’t do it again.

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Re: A Tax LLM's Big4 Salary Trajectory

Postby dabigchina » Sat Jan 12, 2019 8:27 pm

Big4 sucks, no doubt, buy 200/month in intl seems a little high. Intl had pretty decent work life balance when I was at my big4. Granted, I was not a jd

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Re: A Tax LLM's Big4 Salary Trajectory

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jan 13, 2019 11:05 am

I’m in M&A and 50 a week seems like a reasonable estimate. Still much better than biglaw, from what is posted on these boards. Also, it’s very specific to the teams you end up working with. One of my colleagues works consistent 80 hour weeks, and he sits right next door to me. Hard to paint with a broad brush.

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Re: A Tax LLM's Big4 Salary Trajectory

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jan 17, 2019 12:27 pm

I have a JD, I'm a member of the NJ bar and eligible for admission in ~30 other states, I'm finishing my LLM in Tax this May (not at NYU or GULC, but at a school where many Big4 CPAs/JDs are currently enrolled), and I'm clerking for the NJ Tax Court next year. My goal is to go into the Big4 (KPMG or PwC, Philly/NYC, PE or International Tax). How/when do I start applying? Is it unrealistic to think that I could get a summer position with the firm this summer (in between my LLM and Clerkship) and then be able to go back to the firm after my clerkship ends? Would it be better to apply for the full-time position midway through my clerkship next year?



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