How Much Help is your Tax Preparer?

Can your tax preparer help you if you run into trouble with the IRS? It depends on what kind of trouble, but generally your everyday, average tax preparer cannot do everything necessary to resolve your tax issues.

If your tax preparer is either an enrolled agent, certified public accountant, or tax attorney, then you will likely have all the authority you need in your corner to address whatever the problem might be. Although attorneys are often better suited for assisting with collection, litigation, and tax court matters. The IRS sees these three categories of tax professionals as having “unlimited representation rights.”

But if your tax preparer does not possess one of these three credentials, then the amount of help he can provide is very limited. Tax preparers who are not EAs, CPAs, or attorneys (also known as “unenrolled preparers”) may only represent taxpayers on issues having to do with returns that they personally prepared. And even then, if the issues escalate to the level of the IRS Collections Department, IRS Appeals, or beyond, they must turn it over to an EA, CPA, or attorney (or the taxpayer may try to handle it on his own). If the dispute cannot be resolved administratively and makes its way up to US Tax Court, then it should certainly be handled by an experienced tax attorney, but it can also be handled by an EA or CPA who has been admitted to practice before the Tax Court. And, of course, the taxpayer still has the option to go at it alone as a “pro se” litigant in Tax Court.

It is one thing to say that someone has the authority to help you, but it is quite another thing to say that they have the skills, experience, and desire to help you. I have met a number of Enrolled Agents that are qualified to represent their clients in audits and IRS disputes, but who simply do not choose to do that as part of their business.  And those who make the decision to pass on those types of cases, never gain the necessary experience and skills to represent a taxpayer competently in such matters. Unenrolled preparers are even less likely to include IRS representation as part of their repertoire.

Although nobody anticipates getting into trouble with the IRS, and it can’t really be predicted, these are a few things to keep in mind when selecting a tax preparer. And according to the IRS, November is a good time to make that decision.

How to Expedite Non-profit Status

One study related to the IRS scandal showed that non-profit groups with legal representation were subjected to fewer probing questions and experienced fewer obstacles during the non-profit application process than groups without legal representation.  Interestingly, many groups that began the application process without an attorney noticed that their applications were quickly approved right after hiring an attorney.

This is probably not all that surprising to attorneys.  We, of all people, believe that our services are valuable.  One can typically expect a better result and smoother legal process by hiring a lawyer, although not everyone is convinced of this.

In this day and age it is easy to obtain information about any legal topic.  Many people feel that as long as they are well informed and educated about their specific legal predicament then they can handle the issue on their own.  In a down economy it is even more common for individuals to try resolving legal problems on their own, thinking they can save a buck.

The answer to the question, “Do I really need an attorney for this?” is almost always “no.”  But knowing the law is only half the battle, and an attorney can bring so much more to the table than just information:

  • ability to strategize
  • ability to organize information
  • ability to present information (verbally and in writing) in a logical fashion
  • superior persuasion skills
  • ability to apply the law to a specific set of facts
  • real life experience

It’s one thing to know rules in the abstract, but it’s quite another to have seen how the rules play out in practice.  This is particularly true in the world of Federal Tax Resolution where the IRS is inconsistent and unpredictable in the application of the rules.  It is the difference between book smarts and street smarts, and tax lawyers typically have both.

Yes, of course you need to do your own research.  And, yes, you need to be careful and thorough in the process of hiring an attorney.  But you should also be well aware of what you may be giving up by representing yourself in an important legal dispute.

Know Your Taxpayer Rights

Taxpayer rights are listed in Publication 1 as follows:

  1. Privacy and Confidentiality
  2. Professional and Courteous Service
  3. Representation
  4. Payment of Only the Correct Amount of Tax
  5. Help with Unresolved Tax Problems
  6. Appeals and Judicial Review
  7. Relief from Certain Penalties and Interest

There are actually 8 taxpayer rights, but the first one is a complete farce.  The first is entitled “Protection of Your Rights” in Pub 1, and it is described as follows:

IRS employees will explain and protect your rights as a taxpayer throughout your contact with us.

If that were really true then you would not need right #3 — you would never need a tax attorney — because the IRS would have your back every step of the way.  You wouldn’t need right #5 because there would be no unresolved tax problems.  And you wouldn’t need rights #6 or #7 because the IRS would always get it right the first time.

The truth is the IRS’ top priority is to collect 100% of the tax due, not protect your rights.   And they will make this abundantly clear throughout your contact with them.  That’s why the most important right is to have professional representation — just as tax relief is not automatic, your taxpayer rights are not self-enforcing.

Tax Relief Available for the 2012 Tax Season!

Montgomery & Wetenkamp are ready to help you this tax season!  See 2012 Tax Season press release.

The tax attorneys at Montgomery & Wetenkamp, personally handle all aspects of their tax relief cases. Unlike other tax relief firms, the tax attorneys at Montgomery & Wetenkamp do not employee a sales force, legal assistants, or other intermediaries which may increase client fees and diminish the client experience. From the first time a client calls Montgomery & Wetenkamp, they will be speaking directly to one of the tax attorneys who will personally resolve their IRS tax debt.

“The IRS is a very powerful and unforgiving collection machine. This tax season, it is now easy and affordable to be prepared and have an organized and systematic plan for tax relief rather than getting stuck in the bowels of the IRS collection machine. The IRS has several tax relief options available for taxpayers who cannot pay their taxes. Such options vary from allowing additional time to pay a tax debt to reducing the total amount of the tax bill to an affordable amount

~ Christian Montgomery, Tax Attorney

Most tax relief options are driven by a taxpayer’s unique facts and circumstances, and how well and organized those facts and circumstances are advocated to the IRS. The tax attorneys at Montgomery & Wetenkamp are experienced in tax relief matters and will design and implement a systematic resolution to their client’s IRS tax problems.

Contact Montgomery & Wetenkamp now for your free consultation.