When should I hire a tax attorney to represent me in my IRS tax debt dispute?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 14, 2021

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Every wage earning American is required to file an annual tax return. Every business is required to file quarterly employment taxes. Americans are taxed on every dollar made, won, and bartered. This is simply the law. It is Constitutional and the penalties for refusing to pay taxes can be as severe as public humiliation and incarceration. While most negotiations can be handled by the average American taxpayer, there are some instances where an attorney is both necessary and beneficial.

Lines of Communication

If you’ve ever received a notice from the IRS, you know the feeling that comes with it. An even worse feeling is when the IRS seemingly ignores your response or even refuses to acknowledge your questions or claims. There are deadlines where issues must be resolved to avoid further penalties and the poor lines of communication with the IRS do not help in the resolution of your issues. If the IRS ignores your attempts to correct the mistakes, it is time to contact an attorney. An attorney can draft your letters to the IRS in a more direct way that is guaranteed to get the IRS’s attention. Additionally, most tax attorneys have direct contact information for the necessary branches of the IRS where matters should be handled and can negotiate matters over the phone instead of through writing, effectively ending the communication issues.

Offer in Compromise

If you are unable to pay your federal tax debt, the IRS offers a way to get a new start called an Offer in Compromise. The Streamline Offer in Compromise program is straightforward with specific criteria and open lines of communication. This program is very manageable for any taxpayer to handle themselves. However, those who do not qualify for the Streamline Offer in Compromise program should consider hiring a tax attorney to handle their IRS negotiations. The IRS has up to two years to accept or reject an Offer in Compromise and the higher your total amount owed, the less likely the IRS is to accept your settlement offer. An attorney can better negotiate with the IRS and help them fully understand your financial situation, framing it in the way that the IRS needs to hear for offer acceptance. Additionally, an attorney is invaluable if you are using the Offer in Compromise as a fresh start due to medical hardships because they will handle the IRS phone calls and gather the information, leaving you to focus on getting well.

Tax Evasion or Tax Fraud Charges

Tax evasion and tax fraud are criminal offenses that the IRS charges citizens with when they refuse to file tax returns, pay taxes, or reveal all of their sources of income. These criminal charges bring with them fines, interest on tax owed, prosecution fees, incarceration, and public humiliation. Your name, city, state, and crime are all published on the IRS website. If you have been negotiating with the IRS and two agents come to your office or home to ask further questions, it is time to hire an attorney. Remember that once a formal investigation is opened with the IRS, any information you give them could be self-incriminating. Do not attempt to handle these serious charges without an attorney who can protect your rights and frame your arguments in the most favorable way.


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