Choosing A Top-Flight Tax Attorney

 

tax attorney

The prospect of hiring an attorney for a complex tax matter can be intimidating, particularly if you’ve never had to hire an attorney before. A top-flight tax attorney isn’t necessarily the attorney who works as part of a large big-city firm.

A top-flight attorney is an attorney who is familiar with your tax matter, and who is accessible and willing to answer your questions. Their rates are within your budget and they are willing to communicate with you during each phase of your case. Outstanding tax attorneys can be found within tax firms or as sole practitioners.

Knowing what to look for in a tax attorney is the first step in seeking the resolution you need for your tax matter.

Where to start

In addition to Yelp reviews, seek recommendations from colleagues, neighbors or friends that have retained a tax attorney. Contact the state bar association for referrals to a tax attorney in your community. The bar association can also refer you to low-cost attorneys if you are of limited means.

Once you have several referrals, contact each attorney. Some will offer a free consult, while others will charge for their time, even if you decide not to hire them.

Make the most of your free consult time. Focus your questions on the following areas besides your tax matter:

Experience: Besides length of time in practice, has the attorney worked with clients in situations similar to yours? What was the outcome? How many similar cases has he or she handled?

Knowledge: Does he or she specialize in taxation, real estate and/or small business matters? Are they familiar with the precedent cases that pertain to your case, and do they have extensive knowledge of IRS tax code and regulations?

Your attorney’s degree of knowledge will directly affect the outcome of your case, so choose wisely.

Communication, availability and rapport: Will your attorney communicate with you directly, or will your case be managed by a paralegal staff during the initial stages? Will it be easy to reach your attorney quickly if you need to?

Does their communication style and preference match your own (if you prefer email/text communications for non-secure conversations, look for an attorney who is comfortable with those means of communication).

Is your attorney willing to meet with you in person? If you prefer face-to-face interaction throughout all stages of your case, look for an attorney who will be willing to accommodate communication preference.

Are you at ease in speaking with the attorney, or do you feel intimidated or rushed? You want an attorney where there is an easy rapport with clear communication.

Fee structure/affordability

While no two tax attorneys are alike in their communication style or level of experience, there are several fee structures that are common in the legal field:

Flat fee: You will pay the attorney a set fee, based on the nature and complexity of your case.

Payment arrangements: Mutual agreement between you and the attorney whereby you pay a set amount each month until the bill is paid in full.

An ethical tax attorney realizes that legal costs can create a hardship for most consumers. To that end, ask about alternative pay structures such as reduced retainers or applying your tax refund to your legal costs.

If the attorney or law firm is unwilling or unable to accommodate your income limitations, ask for a referral to a lower-cost attorney or firm  or contact the local bar association for a referral.

Facing a complex tax issue that requires legal counsel is stressful and time-consuming, particularly if you’ve never had to hire an attorney. By contacting several attorneys and asking pointed questions, you will find the best attorney for your tax case.

 

 

 

Who Can Prepare Your Taxes?

Who Can Prepare Your Taxes2_

Find the right tax pro for your needs.

Last week, we discussed how to look for an ethical and qualified tax pro. If you’ve decided to not take the DIY approach to tax filing this year and enlist a tax pro, it’s also important to understand the difference between qualified tax preparers. Here’s a look at the various individuals that can file a tax return on your behalf.

PTIN holders: A PTIN holder is an individual that is not a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), tax attorney or Enrolled Agent(EA). While they can prepare and file a return on your behalf, they can only represent you under limited circumstances: With IRS revenue agents, IRS customer service representatives and those in the Taxpayer Advocate Service. A PTIN holder can’t represent you in an audit, appeal or collection proceeding.

Annual Filing Season Program Participants: This new officially program recognizes preparers who are not a CPA, EA, or tax attorney, but who have attended continuing education hours in preparation for each filing season. The IRS will issue them a Record of Completion. As with PTIN holders, a Filing Season Program Participant can’t represent you in an audit, appeal or collection proceeding. They can, however, represent you with IRS customer service agents, revenue agents, and Taxpayer Advocate personnel.

If you have a more complex return (rental properties, business or estate returns, extensive itemized deductions, foreclosure) or are facing IRS collection action, it’s best to work with a tax pro who has more extensive representation capabilities. Enrolled Agents, Certified Public Accountants and tax attorneys can represent you in an audit, collection action, and appeal action in addition to preparing and filing a return on your behalf.

Enrolled Agent(EA): An EA is licensed by the IRS and must pass a three-part Special Enrollment Exam. An EA must also be proficient in tax planning, preparing and filing individual and business returns and must participate in at least 72 hours of continuing education courses every three years.

Certified Public Accountant (CPA): A CPA must have a degree in accounting from an accredited college or university, and must be licensed by the state Board of Accountancy in their state. In addition to passing the Uniform CPA Exam, a CPA must also meet ongoing ethical and character standards in order to continue to practice. Some CPAs specialize in tax planning and tax return preparation.

Tax attorney: Like all other attorneys, a tax attorney has attended an accredited law school, passed the state bar exam, and must meet ongoing ethical standards in order to remain in practice. They have additional coursework in taxation, and can represent you before the IRS. Your tax attorney can represent you in IRS proceedings for an audit, an appeal, or collection matter. You can find a tax attorney either as part of a group practice or as a sole practitioner.

We have tax pros on staff who can help you with just about any tax scenario you can think of, from representing you before the IRS to preparing and filing your return. Just give us a call or click the white “start chat” button at the top of any of our pages and get started today. Approach the coming tax season with peace of mind so you can focus on what matters to you most.

“To Err Is Human,” Your Guide to IRS Penalty Abatement

Marinela Prodan/freeimages
Marinela Prodan/freeimages

“To err is human, to forgive is divine.” In this case, the IRS could be the forgiving party in the equation. The First Time Abatement, or FTA, is available to you as a means of reducing or eliminating a tax penalty altogether.

Guidelines

The IRS will generally consider issuing a First-time Penalty Abatement if you have had no prior substantial tax penalties with the IRS within the past three years.  The IRS may grant you a First Time Abatement (FTA) in one of these two instances:

Reasonable cause would apply if there was a legitimate circumstance that prevented you from filing your tax return on time, such as a serious illness (sorry, having a bad case of the Mondays doesn’t count in this case) or disaster.

Complying with IRS regulations would be  nearly impossible under these circumstances, and the IRS will take that into consideration when deciding whether or not to grant you a one-time penalty abatement.

The IRS may also grant you the FTA if they made an error in calculating the amount of tax you owe. Be careful, though: the burden of proof will be on you in this case, so you’ll need to provide enough supporting documentation to prove your claim.

The FTA is a little-known program that can be of great help to you if you meet the guidelines. After all, why pay tax penalties if they were calculated in error or if circumstances such as illness or disaster prevented you from filing your taxes on time?

Time To Seek Help

As with any other tax matter, the IRS has a myriad of codes, regulations and requirements…in other words, you’ll need to jump through some hoops. In this case, having a knowledgeable tax attorney or Enrolled Agent by your side will help tremendously. They’ll interpret the IRS codes, requirements, and jargon for you, and they will let you know if you qualify for the FTA program.

Facing tax penalties due to circumstances beyond your control or IRS error is one instance where the IRS can be a little forgiving if you file for the FTA. This program can reduce or eliminate your tax penalty altogether if you are able to substantiate your claim with the right documentation.

If you’re facing tax penalties due to illness, disaster, or IRS error, don’t wait. We have tax attorneys and Enrolled Agents on staff who can assist you with the sometimes tricky process of filing for the FTA program. Get started today by clicking the white “Start Chat” button or by giving us a call. Don’t go it alone. We’re here to help.

10 Traits Of A Reputable Tax Resolution Firm

How To Tell The Good Guys From The Bad Guys…

There is no doubt the recession and the ensuing financial fallout left many taxpayers in distress. Maybe you’re one of them.  Maybe you’re haunted by back taxes. Liens, IRS levies, and wage garnishments for unpaid tax to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and state tax agencies can all add to the stress of making ends meet. Dishonest tax resolution firms have emerged in recent years, eager to separate distressed tax payers from their money in exchange for little to no service. Are you in need of tax resolution assistance? Here are 10 traits of a reputable tax resolution firm.

1.  Credibility: A reputable tax firm employs the following staff members: Tax Attorneys, Enrolled Agents, and Tax Consultants. A good firm will also have support personnel such as Case Managers, who will assist you as your case moves from intake to resolution. Beware of firms that don’t have these personnel on staff. Only tax attorneys and Enrolled Agents can negotiate with the IRS or state tax boards on your behalf. You want the best representation possible, and a reputable firm will provide that for you backed by well-trained and educated support staff.

2.  Reputation: You want to ensure your tax resolution firm has a sterling reputation. The Better Business Bureau is an excellent starting point. Personal recommendations from friends and family are also a good source.

3.  Integrity: Beware of any tax resolution firm that doesn’t disclose all fees BEFORE they are rendered. There should be no surprises. A reputable firm can work with you if you aren’t able to pay their full fee upfront.

4.  Service by Licensed Professionals: Your case should be handled directly by a tax attorney, Enrolled Agent and/or a Tax Consultant working in-house. At no time will a reputable tax firm outsource their work to a “back end” company. Ask if your tax matter will be handled in-house. If you can’t or won’t get a straight answer, look elsewhere.

5.  Transparency: Your tax firm should have all information easily available for you, either in person or on their website. You should be able to access full information regarding staffing, fees, hours, and policies. Are you dealing with a firm that won’t disclose or offer that information? Time to find one that will.

6.  Honesty: Some taxpayers may not qualify for an Offer In Compromise, for example. Is your firm honest with you about the extent to which they’ll be able to help you, or are they evasive when questioned? Reputable tax firms will be honest in telling you whether or not they will be able to assist you. Avoid firms that won’t shoot straight with you when it comes to your tax matters.

7.  Reasonable and fair: A reputable tax resolution firm will charge a fair and reasonable fee to assist you with your tax matters. You will be offered an honest assessment of your tax situation, along with a reasonable fee. Fees are influenced by many factors: labor hours in researching your tax matter, outstanding tax/lien balance, the level of staff needed (tax attorney or Enrolled Agent?) among many. Dishonest firms will charge an outrageous sum. Do your homework. Call or email different firms. If the quote seems outrageous, it probably is. A reputable firm won’t strip you of your hard-earned money.

8.  Discretion: If you’ve ever seen any amount of daytime television, you’ve most likely seen those loudly-produced ads for tax debt relief for “pennies on the dollar.” Avoid them. They will most likely charge an exorbitant fee (they need to offset those advertising costs somehow) or will accept your case, even if you don’t qualify. A reputable firm doesn’t employ large radio and TV advertising campaigns. A good firm will rely on word-of-mouth from satisfied clients, an accessible, well-written website and social media marketing for their services. All of those approaches are low-cost and there is no reason to overcharge clients to offset advertising costs.

9.  A Stress-free Approach: A legitimate tax resolution firm won’t leave you feeling like you’ve dealt with a used car salesman. Owing back taxes or being faced with a lien or bank levy is stressful enough without the high-pressure sales pitch. A reputable firm will assess your tax situation, make suggestions, and leave the final decision up to you. Beware of high-pressure tactics to pay a fee or sign up for services that offer pricing “for a limited time only.” Head out the door and to the nearest reputable tax resolution firm.

10. Accessibility: When you call your tax firm representative, are you able to speak with the same person each time, or are you passed from person to person? Do you know your representative’s name? Do they show a genuine interest in you as the tax payer and do they convey an honest desire to help you? Do they keep you informed as your case progresses? All of these are signs of a reputable tax resolution firm, as they hire those who have the utmost integrity and desire to help distressed tax payers.

If you are a distressed tax payer, we can help. We offer service that is fair, reasonable, and suited to your needs. You can contact us by phone at 888-224-3004. If you prefer, you can also reach us via  chat by clicking the white “start chat” button on the upper right hand of our webpage. You can take comfort in knowing your tax matters will be handled discreetly, professionally and with integrity. We are among the “good guys” and  we’re here to help you.