FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
HOW CAN I SCHEDULE A FREE INITIAL CONSULTATION WITH A TAX ATTORNEY?
Call us at 248-246-1154 or e-mail us at email@example.com to schedule a conversation with our Managing Attorney, Goldie Greenstein, about your situation. We're here to listen and to figure out how we might be able to help you. Our normal office hours are 9 AM to 6 PM Eastern Time, Monday through Friday, but we may be able to schedule an after-hours or weekend appointment with you.
HOW MUCH DO YOU CHARGE FOR YOUR SERVICES?
An initial consultation with a tax attorney is entirely free of charge. During this consultation you'll have a chance to tell us about your situation and so we can figure out how we can help you and what it will cost. We will also explain the different choices you have to pay us. Give us a call at 248-246-1154, or send us a message right now at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know how we can reach you. We'll set up an appointment as soon as possible at a time that's convenient for you. Again, this initial consultation is free and does not establish an attorney-client relationship.
DO YOU TAKE CASES ON A CONTINGENCY BASIS?
Title 31 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Subtitle A, Part 10, explicitly forbids tax attorneys who represent clients before the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) from accepting contingent fees, except in limited circumstances. Therefore we don't work on contingency. However, we do offer three other ways you can choose to pay us—you decide what works best for you. We realize some clients may be under financial stress, and we will work with you to structure our fees in a way that allows us to start helping you improve your situation.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO COMPLETE AN OFFER IN COMPROMISE?
Each person's particular circumstances are different. Taxes are complicated because life is complicated. People often get behind on their taxes because of major life challenges like divorce, job loss, or medical expenses. These challenges can sometimes delay the process of resolving tax debts. That said, on average it will take a year from the time you begin the process of preparing an Offer until the point when that Offer is accepted and the debts are resolved. It will typically take 4–6 weeks to prepare and file the Offer, followed by 6–9 months of waiting for the IRS to assign your case to an Offer Examiner, followed by additional requests for information, revisions to the Offer amount, signing the settlement, and then waiting another month or so for that settlement to be approved and processed. One small silver lining: if the IRS fails to make a determination about your Offer within two years of receiving it, it must accept your offer automatically!
WHY DOES IT TAKE SO LONG TO RESOLVE MY FEDERAL TAX ISSUES? AND WHY IS IT SO HARD TO GET SOMEONE ON THE PHONE AT THE IRS?
In a nutshell, the IRS is extremely understaffed and has been for many, many years. Congress has repeatedly cut its budget to the point where it can barely function. Some people think this is great: fewer auditors means fewer audits, right? Unfortunately, severe under-staffing also means that when taxpayers need help with a tax problem, there is often no one around to take the call. If you submit an Offer in Compromise, it will take many months before anyone at the IRS is even available to look at it. An IRS examiner may be so overloaded with work that she or he may simply reject a taxpayer's initial offer in order to punt the case off to an appeals officer—who is usually also overwhelmed. As a result, the entire administrative resolution process can be very, very slow. This is one reason to hire an experienced tax attorney who knows how to navigate the system efficiently and effectively. Our expertise can save you time and money.
I JUST GOT A LETTER THAT THE IRS IS GOING TO SEIZE MY ASSETS! CAN YOU HELP ME?
Yes, we can help. In case of a tax emergency like a lien or levy, please leave us a message at 248-246-1154, even if it's after hours or a weekend, and we will return your call as soon as possible. We recognize that time is of the essence, and therefore offer expedited, same-day service for liens and levies.
IF I'M NOT FIGHTING THE IRS IN COURT, WHY DO I NEED TO HIRE A TAX ATTORNEY?
CAN'T I JUST DO THIS ALL ON MY OWN?
In most cases, you can—at least in theory. The IRS provides a plethora of publications to explain tax laws, regulations, and procedures, and to advise taxpayers of their options. There is even an independent Taxpayer Advocate Service within the IRS that can help you free of charge. The problem is that taxpayers often find these free resources complex and confusing, particularly when they are facing a serious tax issue like an audit, FATCA non-compliance, a lien or levy, or hundreds of thousands of dollars in back taxes, interest, and penalties. It is easy to become overwhelmed by stress and fear: similar to student loans, some kinds of tax debt cannot be discharged in bankruptcy, and failing to address your situation promptly and correctly can literally destroy your financial life forever. You can think of tax resolution a bit like auto repair: yes, in theory with the right manuals and parts you could overhaul your own engine, but in practice it's much safer, easier, and more efficient to pay an expert to fix it for you. It's not cheap, but it's money well spent. Also keep in mind that many tax issues are adversarial by nature, and if you choose to represent yourself against the government (for example in an audit, or in U.S. Tax Court), you will be an amateur facing off against highly trained civil servants with many years of tax code expertise. The best way to protect yourself is to hire an experienced tax attorney to represent you.
I THOUGHT I FILED MY TAXES CORRECTLY, BUT TODAY I GOT A PHONE CALL TELLING ME THAT I OWE BACK TAXES TO THE IRS AND THAT IF I DON'T PAY THEM WITH A GOOGLE PLAY GIFT CARD RIGHT AWAY, THEY WILL SEND THE POLICE TO MY HOUSE TO ARREST ME. I THINK IT MIGHT BE A SCAM, BUT I'M NOT 100% SURE. MY CALLER ID SAID "IRS." IS THIS FOR REAL?
No, it's definitely some kind of scam run by criminals, almost certainly in another country; just ignore them. The IRS will never call you to demand immediate payment, will never require you to use one specific method of payment (besides, the U.S. Treasury doesn't accept gift cards!), and will never threaten to have you arrested or deported for not paying taxes. Under normal circumstances the IRS will contact you with a letter (not a phone call or e-mail) about any tax issues. They might follow up this letter with a phone call, but usually they leave it to you to initiate phone contact with them. (IRS letters will have a phone number on them that you can call to follow up.) Trust your instincts. If you suspect a scam, it probably is. If you're not certain, you can always go to the official IRS website, get the official IRS phone numbers, and call them to check if you have actual tax debts or are facing other tax problems.
I GOT A LETTER FROM THE IRS THAT I'M BEING AUDITED. THE GUY WHO DOES MY TAXES EVERY YEAR SAID HE'LL TRY TO HELP ME OUT. IS THIS A GOOD IDEA?
Generally speaking, no. There are a few reasons why it's best to hire an experienced tax attorney to counsel you through the audit process, rather than relying on your tax preparer or accountant, no matter how much you like them as a person.
First, if you hired someone to prepare your tax return and you're now being audited by the IRS or state tax authority, it is possible that the audit was triggered by some error, omission, or misrepresentation by your tax preparer. (It is also possible that you're being audited for some other reason, such as a random statistical audit.) You should get a second set of expert eyes to review your return, supporting documents, and business records (if applicable) to determine what issues are likely to be explored during the audit and how you might support or strengthen your position.
Second, unless you've been working with a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), your tax preparer may have no little or no education, training, or experience in accounting or taxation, since "tax preparer," "tax professional," "bookkeeper," and "accountant" aren't legally defined job titles and don't require a state license. (For example, one famous tax preparation chain states on its website that its tax preparers don't need a high school diploma or GED. That's right: someone who couldn't pass 9th grade math can call themselves a "tax professional," and it's perfectly legal.) Your tax preparer could make errors during the audit process that undercut your position and cause you to lose time and money.
Related to this, some tax preparers will suddenly become hard to reach or unavailable as soon as you tell them you're being audited, or might even encourage you to ignore an audit notice, which is a very, very bad idea. (Yes, we've had multiple clients tell us this happened to them.) Why? They're trying to avoid the consequences of their mistakes or "creative accounting." They can do this because tax preparers, bookkeepers, and accountants aren't fiduciaries and aren't required to to put their clients' interests first—unlike tax attorneys, who have a legal duty of loyalty to their clients.
Lastly, your tax preparer could be compelled (or even volunteer) to give evidence against you before the IRS or in court. In contrast, attorney-client communications are legally privileged. Only a tax attorney can hear your complete side of the story in strict secrecy and help you protect your rights and options before, during, and after an audit.