Just last month, the Federal Trade Commission shut down American Tax Relief, a Beverly Hills, California-based company that guaranteed it could settle tax debts for individuals for a fraction of what they owed. The state of California recently filed suit against Roni Deutch, AKA the “Tax Lady”, for a deceptive ad campaign that offers very little proof that the firm’s clients are getting any real-world benefit and overstates claims of winning against the IRS. Suit was also brought against J.K. Harris of Charleston, South Carolina by the state of Massachusetts in conjunction with the attorney generals from 17 other states for false and deceptive trade practices and nonperformance of work. A $1.5 million judgment against J.K. Harris was awarded to the state of Massachusetts and the other 17 states. Are these three isolated cases? Can you believe any firm that says they can help settle your tax debt for less than what you owe?
“These three firms are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to companies claiming to be tax debt relief specialists who say they can settle your tax debt for pennies on the dollar,” said Matthew Previte, CPA, of Matthew J. Previte, CPA, PC and TaxProblemsRUs.com. “The sad part is that tax representation firms like these create a genuine distrust of any company who can genuinely help delinquent taxpayers with tax debt owed to the IRS or their state DOR.”
Previte, whose Natick, Mass.-based tax representation firm has specialized exclusively in representing individuals and businesses with IRS and state tax problems since 1997, says the real problem with companies like American Tax Relief, Roni Deutch and J.K. Harris is that they make promises to clients that they can’t possibly deliver on. Says Previte, “The simple fact remains that approximately 95 percent or more of delinquent taxpayers do not qualify to settle their tax debts through an Offer in Compromise.”
So, what options do Americans who owe the IRS or their state DORs have besides representing themselves? Previte suggests there are plenty of reputable tax representation firms out there but consumers must do their due diligence before selecting a firm, such as:
- Avoid firms that guarantee a settlement – There are four main factors involved in settling your tax debts through an Offer in Compromise. The four factors are: (1) your current financial condition, (2) the tax law and IRS procedure, (3) your cooperation in providing the requested information needed to settle your case, and (4) the competency of the tax representation firm you have chosen. A tax representation firm that guarantees settlement is a major red flag since the first three of these factors are completely outside of their control and can change while in the process of trying to settle your tax debts causing an eligible Offer candidate to become ineligible. Meaning, you could start off as a great Offer candidate but later become ineligible due to changes in your financial condition, tax law and IRS procedures, or your failure to cooperate.
- Use a locally based tax representation firm staffed by licensed tax professionals (CPAs, Enrolled Agents (EAs), or tax attorneys) that practices exclusively in resolving IRS and state tax problems – Negotiating with the IRS or state DOR is a unique skill set unto itself. CPAs, EAs, and tax attorneys, although they perform various tax services such as tax return preparation and tax planning, are rarely well versed in the workings of the IRS or state DORs. It is rare if they handle one tax controversy case a year. You want to work with a licensed tax professional whose firm focuses exclusively in representing individuals and business in trouble with the IRS or state DORs, with a physical, brick-and-mortar location that’s within driving distance to you so you can schedule a face-to-face meeting before engaging them to represent you.
- Ask for references – If you don’t know anything about a particular tax representation firm, ask for references. Most will be more than happy to provide contact information for satisfied clients or conventional tax professionals (CPAs, EAs, tax attorneys) who have referred them clients. You can also research a prospective tax representation firm by going to your state’s society of CPAs web site, state bar association web site, or state society of Enrolled Agents web site. The overwhelming majority of licensed tax professionals working at any reputable tax firm will be members of one of these societies. Also, do a search with your local Better Business Bureau and state licensing board (CPAs, tax attorneys) or IRS Office of Professional Responsibility (EAs) as well as a general Google search. You would be amazed at what you can discover about your prospective tax representative online.
- Work with a smaller firm – When it comes to larger vs. smaller firms, you are most likely to get personal attention when working with a smaller firm. Larger firms tend to assign your case to junior staff and there’s a possibility that a senior staff member might not even review your case. For many larger firms, the focus can be more on selling and collecting retainers than getting actual results. With smaller firms like Matthew J. Previte, CPA PC, the principal reviews every case.
“It makes perfect sense that somebody carrying a huge tax debt would turn to one of these tax representation firms for help with their IRS or state tax problems. What you don’t want is an additional problem, like wasting precious dollars on a tax representation firm that makes promises it can’t keep,” said Previte. “By doing a little research before handing over a retainer fee, you prevent your hole from getting any deeper and can feel rest assured you’re taking a positive step forward in resolving your IRS and state tax problems.”
For more information on Matthew J. Previte CPA PC, please visit www.TaxProblemsRUs.com. To schedule a free confidential consultation, call 877-259-8200.
About TaxProblemsRUs.com and Matthew J. Previte, CPA, PC
TaxProblemsRUs.com is the official Web site of Matthew J. Previte, CPA, PC, a Massachusetts tax firm representing individuals and businesses before the Internal Revenue Service and state taxing authorities. Based in Natick, Massachusetts, Matthew J. Previte, CPA, PC has been representing both individuals and businesses with tax problems for over 23 years. To schedule a free confidential consultation, call 877-259-8200 or, for more information, visit www.TaxProblemsRUs.com.