How to Hire a Tax Resolution Company You Can Trust
We have all read the headlines: Tax relief scams and IRS phishing schemes are on the rise. As a result of a weakened economy, the IRS is more aggressive than ever to collect and tax-burdened Americans are seeking professional help in solving their IRS problems.
The tax debt relief industry has seen dramatic growth over the past 5 years as many companies have entered the arena to offer help to taxpayers impacted by a sharp increase in IRS tax compliance enforcement. But lately, many of these so-called tax resolution firms have been making headlines for misleading consumers with deceptive advertising and false claims that they can settle taxpayers’ debt for “pennies on the dollar.” Consequently, many firms have been exposed for taking advantage of people seeking tax assistance. For a fee, they promise to help taxpayers, but instead leave them with their original tax debt, plus additional interest and penalties.
So how do consumers choose from the large number of companies out there that offer tax relief assistance? And more importantly, how do they know they won’t end up getting ripped off?
Be leery of demands that the company be paid in full upfront . Trust is a two-way street. If you can trust that the company will provide the services as promised in their agreement, they in turn must trust that you will pay them and begin working 100% for you upon receiving a “good faith” retainer.
Decide on the type of company you want to work with . There are 3-main types of companies that can assist you.
- Tax Attorney / Certified Public Accountant (CPA) – These are typically boutique companies that will be in your local area. They typically are the most expensive and also carry the best credentials. Make sure that they not only have the credentials, but they have experience in this niche part of the tax industry. Tax lawyers and CPAs can be very helpful if you have an extremely complicated situation if they specialize in this type of tax assistance.
- National Resolution Firms – These companies typically offer less customized service and many times you will deal with junior associates on the phone and the person with the credentials is behind the scenes working. This type of company can be good for you if you can’t afford the tax attorney or CPA, but make sure you vet them carefully as there are many companies in this group that care only about their bottom line and not your tax resolution.
- Software Based Companies – Just like filing your current tax year returns has been automated by software, so has the delinquent tax industry. There are fewer of these companies out there, but they can be a good solution for those who don’t have an extremely complicated situation, which is probably most of us. This solution is usually the cheapest but will require you to do more work. The software should walk you through the process from start to finish. If it doesn’t, keep looking.
Ask for the names of the owners of the company . Any hesitation by their representatives is a definite cautionary red flag that they don’t want you to know who is behind the company and ultimately responsible for your case.
Ask, “How long has your company been in business? “ Most new companies (no matter what the business is) never make it due to a wide variety of reasons. In today’s difficult financial climate you don’t want to get stuck with a company that hasn’t been in business for at least five years. Otherwise, they might not even be in business six months from now.
Ask “What is the firm’s success rate”? As a rule, the firm’s track record is the best objective indicator of how that firm will manage your case. How many Offers in Compromise has the firm successfully settled? What is the total dollars negotiated in settlements divided by total dollars in tax, interest and penalties owed? Additionally, the credentials should be substantiated by an independent third party, like the Better Business Bureau. You can also ask the firm if they have been designated a Certified Tax Resolution Specialist.
Do not feel pressured to hire the company. Be especially cautious when dealing with high-pressure sales people. They are usually working in a “boiler room” where they’ve been trained to prey upon a taxpayer’s fears.
Run if a company “guarantees” specific results. A taxpayer with a troubling problem should turn and run the other way if a company “guarantees” specific results. They are telling you what you want to hear, whether or not it’s really possible. Know that there are no sure fire ways to reduce your liability and that contrary to some companies’ claims, not everyone qualifies for the IRS Offer In Compromise program. Companies must obtain your background information and proper documentation before evaluating your situation and determining your options. An honest company will ask you lots of questions upfront in your initial consultation in order to understand the precise needs and specifics of your case.