Do you find yourself on Google searching for “a tax attorney near me” and aren’t sure who to go with?
Many taxpayers are overwhelmed with choices when seeking the right tax professional for their IRS matter.
Here are some tips that might help you with your search.
- 1 Do you need a tax attorney?
- 2 Situations where a tax attorney can help
- 3 4 tips for finding a reputable tax attorney
- 4 How to find tax lawyer near you
Do you need a tax attorney?
In some cases, you may not need a tax lawyer. An Enrolled Agent (EA) or Certified Public Accountant (CPA) might be able to assist you.
Enrolled Agent (EA)
An enrolled agent is authorized by the IRS to represent taxpayers before the IRS for audits and collections. EAs can advise and prepare tax returns. While there is no educational requirement to become an EA, there is a short exam administered by the IRS that a person must pass in order to become an EA.
Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
The educational and licensing requirements for obtaining a CPA are:
- 5 years of education (bachelors and usually a masters)
- A passing score on the CPA exam
A CPA is a great choice if you are current on your taxes and do not have outstanding tax issues.
Tax Attorney (JD)
The requirements for a licensed attorney are as follows:
- 7 years of education (bachelors and juris doctorate, JD)
- Passing score on the bar exam
Attorneys can specialize in estate planning, personal injury, criminal law, bankruptcy, immigration, and more. Some may decide to specialize in two or three areas. There is no formal requirement for an attorney to call themselves a “tax attorney”. As with CPAs, you want to ensure that the attorney has experience in the specific area of tax for which you are seeking help. Tax is probably the most specialized of the different practices. Some lawyers will take an additional 1 year of law school to earn a tax LLM in order to learn this specific body of law. However, for attorneys that have tax experience, an LLM is unnecessary.
Attorneys are trained to advocate for your legal rights and will fight to ensure that your rights before the Internal Revenue Service are protected. A good tax attorney should have a solid understanding of IRS procedures for tax controversy cases.
Situations where a tax attorney can help
Tax debt – For small tax due balances (under $50K) and where a Chapter 7 is definitely not a option for you, an EA or CPA specializing in tax debt cases should suffice. However, for larger balances, it helps to have a licensed tax attorney representing you.
Tax return delinquency – If you have not filed your tax returns for many years, you could be subject to fraudulent failure to file penalties and even criminal prosecution in extreme cases.
Audit representation and tax litigation – An EA, CPA, or tax attorney can represent you in an audit, but only an attorney can litigate your case in tax court if needed.
There are some exceptions whereby an EA or CPA can take an exam administrated by the US tax court, but only a 100 have passed nationwide in the past 16 years.
Cases are very rarely litigated and are usually settled in IRS Appeals; however, the IRS knows that if you’re represented by an attorney that the case has the potential to go to litigation.
The IRS is required to consider the hazards of litigation in determining an appropriate settlement. You have much more leverage with attorney representation.
Potential fraud – If you need attorney-client privilege to discuss a potential tax fraud issue.
Attorneys can maintain attorney-client privilege and cannot be forced by a third-party, including government entities, to provide confidential information.
Under federal law, CPA/accountant-client privilege is not recognized. Enrolled agents may have limited privilege in connection with a tax audit or collections, but it does not extend to tax return work-papers or to criminal proceedings.
In order to resolve your issues it is important that you are able to discuss freely with a tax professional without worrying whether the information you provide may be used against you by the IRS, whether in a civil or criminal investigation.
4 tips for finding a reputable tax attorney
#1 Verify the attorney is licensed
If you want to verify that your attorney is licensed, you can Google search “State bar of [enter attorney’s state] attorney lookup.” The first or second search result should take you to the state bar’s attorney lookup page.
The attorney’s bar page should also indicate if there have been any disciplinary actions taken against the attorney.
#2 If you need face-to-face consultation, make sure your attorney is local
Some taxpayers are okay with having their representative halfway across the country from them.
Others will want to verify that the attorney working on their case is local to them.
#3 Check reviews
Remember that restaurant with a thousand 5 star reviews on Yelp that turned out to be horrible? Unfortunately it’s very easy to create fake online reviews.
Be sure to look at not just all the positive reviews online, but also complaints. If you notice similar complaints, the firm might have issues. One way to search for negative reviews online is to enter the name of the firm and then type ‘complaints’.
On the other hand, a few complaints should not dissuade you from hiring that company. They may have assisted thousands of clients and have a dozen complaints – not a bad record.
#4 Interview prospective attorneys
You want to ask questions such as:
- Have they handled cases like yours before? And how was the outcome?
- Will they be working on your case, or will the case be assigned to someone else in the company?
- What kind of fee structure do they have? And what is a range of the total fees to expect?
How to find tax lawyer near you
You’ll find listings for tax attorneys throughout this site.
You can also Google search for tax attorneys.
Finally, you can search 3rd party attorney directories such as Avvo, Martindale, or Lawyers.com.