Do You Need a Tax Attorney?
A common belief among people who owe money to the IRS is that they cannot afford to hire a tax attorney. Maybe that’s what you think, too. But the truth is, many people can’t afford NOT to hire a tax attorney.
A reputable tax attorney has the skills and the experience to negotiate a more favorable tax settlement than you can negotiate on your own.
Of course, you can fight this battle on your own, without enlisting the help of a tax attorney, CPA, and or an enrolled agent, they are the tax relief specialists. Self-representation is your right as a taxpayer and plenty of individuals and business owners exercise this right.
But be forewarned: Dealing with the IRS is not for the faint of heart. It’s scary. It’s intimidating. It’s confusing. It’s complicated. It’s time-consuming. And you will encounter plenty of mistake-making opportunities that could abruptly halt your tax relief efforts or result in a tax settlement that benefits the IRS more than your bank account.
Tax relief self-representation is a risky venture for the uninitiated. That’s why so many people turn tax negotiation over to tax attorneys and enrolled agents who have dedicated their careers to resolving every type of back tax issue imaginable. These professionals welcome the opportunity to challenge and hopefully beat the IRS at their own game.
How a tax attorney works
An experienced tax attorney or enrolled agent will start by reviewing your particular IRS problem. Since every case is unique, he or she needs to know every detail, including a complete timeline of action – or inaction – you’ve taken. Remember, the tax attorney is on your side, so leave nothing out. If your records are a tangled web of confusion, now is the time to sort it all out.
Once the tax attorney is familiar with your IRS predicament, he or she can determine which of the available tax relief strategies makes most sense to pursue. Some of the strategies a tax attorney or enrolled agent may recommend include:
- An offer in compromise
- A payment installment plan
- An appeal
- A petition to reopen an audit that has been closed
There may be other available strategies, and each will have specific qualification criteria. An experienced tax attorney is familiar with these criteria and won’t waste your time or your money pursuing a strategy that doesn’t make sense based on the details of your situation. An ethical and honest tax attorney will also tell you up front if you do not qualify for tax relief.
Once retained, a tax attorney will be the main point of contact with the IRS, taking over all oral and written communication and handling all tax negotiation. The importance of this cannot be understated since what is presented to the IRS and how it is presented can make the difference between getting the tax settlement you desire or getting stuck with the tax settlement the IRS demands.
The tax attorney will also complete and file all required forms on your behalf, and will appear in court if necessary. Basically, a good tax attorney will stay with you until the end with the goal of getting you back on track so you can avoid future run-ins with the IRS.
How to choose a tax attorney
An internet or phone book search will produce plenty of people claiming to be tax attorneys. Unfortunately, some will take your money and run, or charge exorbitant rates for minimal work, or pull the old “bait-and-switch” trick and hand your case off to someone less experienced in tax law.
As you would when hiring a contractor, it is imperative to do your research before contracting the services of a tax attorney or enrolled agent. Be sure to learn about:
- The length of time the individual has spent negotiating and resolving IRS-related issues
- The education, experience and qualifications of the individual that will be handling your case
- The payment structure
- The tax attorney’s track record of winning and losing IRS cases similar to yours
- Any complaints made against the tax attorney.
If the tax attorney offers references, contact them. And most important of all, be sure to consider value and experience over price when choosing a tax attorney or enrolled agent. You’ll be glad you did!