Taxation with Representation: Tackling Tax Debt Relief

With the economy in the doldrums and lingering rates of high unemployment, a large number of Americans find themselves in trouble with the IRS. If you are among those who are seeking tax debt relief, there are a number that you should consider when selecting a good professional to work with. Whether you intend to take the IRS to court over your tax dispute or are simply seeking reassurance and the sage advice of a reliable expert, you should take care to avoid the pitfalls and scams that all too often await honest people.

No matter what your circumstances, you should approach any tax debt relief professional with as much knowledge about your situation and their services as possible. The range of experts whose work involves helping those with tax debt is very wide, but their services are more specialized. Therefore, in order to identify what type of tax expert can do the most to help you resolve your debt issues, you should first assess your own situation. Do you have debtors in multiple states or foreign countries? Has the IRS contacted you about your problems? If so, when/how did they take action? Perhaps most importantly, how long have you been aware of the full extent of your troubles, and what have you done so far?

Given that different types of tax professionals provide different services, the answers to the above questions can help you identify what type of adviser you should approach. Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) are useful resources if your primary problem relates to tax organization. However, if your wages are being garnished, you have debts in multiple places, or there is a possibility of conflict with the IRS, it is advisable to contact a tax debt attorney.

As with all financial services, tax debt counseling & advocacy are performed by some professionals who are competent and some who are not. Most tax professionals will give potential clients a free consultation, which gives you an opportunity to assess the strengths and weaknesses of what they offer when you first meet your potential advocate. This meeting is important, not just because it’s free and introduces you to one another, but also because it is your best chance to assess how much you can count on your prospective attorney. Beware of tax debt relief law firms that advertise high success rates without further details. Furthermore, tax professionals who make universal guarantees without looking at individual cases should not be trusted.

You should also take this meeting as a time to set the terms of your relationship with your lawyer. Make sure you can ascertain means of contact (you should know whether your attorney will communicate with you primarily via phone, email, etc.) and be forthright about your situation as possible. This will give your attorney an idea of what they are getting into and how much they can do on your behalf. Don’t be afraid to ask about the best and worst-case scenarios. It’s better to have that knowledge from an expert rather than let uncertainty linger.

Also be aware of your advisor’s certifications and what such terminology means. Whether you hire a CPA or a tax debt attorney, you should make sure he or she is a Certified Tax Resolution Specialist. This accreditation is given by the American Society of Tax Problem Solvers and those who have passed it have full training in how to work directly with the IRS.

All of us understand the need to treat our financial affairs with as much concern as possible. Dealing with the IRS is no different. In order to select the right professional, first take stock of your tax problems and learn what options are available. Tussling with revenue officials over debt is messy enough; don’t let it become any more taxing than it already is.

Siddarth Nagaraj

Siddarth Nagaraj is a junior at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. He is currently pursuing a double major in Global Studies and Political Science with a minor in Geography. Originally from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, he is interested in socioeconomic inequity and cultural diversity in developing nations. He is also a Section Editor for The Hill, UNC’s only nonpartisan political review, and has written multiple articles on international affairs for the quarterly publication.

Since the summer of 2010, he has volunteered as a Savings Officer for the Community Empowerment Fund (CEF) in Chapel Hill, which seeks to promote financial literacy and help fiscally strained individuals achieve self-sufficiency. Apart from writing, Siddarth enjoys reading, travel, and watching British television programs. Upon graduation, he plans to earn a graduate degree and seek employment in the field of international development.

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