Do I have a tax audit or controversy problem requiring legal help?
If you are asking the question (and reading this website), you likely do have a problem. The easiest way to answer the question is to speak with a tax professional. The Bassin Law Firm can usually answer that basic question quickly. Just call Stu Bassin at 202/895-0969 for a short complementary telephone consultation. Even better, send a scanned copy of any documents you have received from the IRS or state tax authority to Stu at email@example.com in advance of your call.
What are some common situations where I might need professional help?
Tax audits and controversies can arise in many situations. Some of the most common are— -- The IRS sends you a letter asking for further information or documentation regarding a filed tax return. - The IRS sends you a letter or notice proposing to make an adjustment to your filed tax return increasing your tax liability. - The IRS sends a notice of intent to file a tax lien or otherwise threatens to seize your money or property. - The IRS letter or notice involves a matter involving more than $1000-2000. - You are losing sleep because of an inquiry or notice from the IRS.
Will the IRS eventually leave me alone if I ignore its inquiries?
Highly unlikely. The IRS is the world’s largest bill collection agency and it rightly has a reputation for doggedly pursuing collection of tax liabilities. Once IRS has identified you and your return as raising questions, it has very effective procedures for making sure that those questions are answered. If you do not respond to the inquiry, the IRS will typically assume that they have found a problem and that you have no adequate response to the IRS concern. They may not send frequent follow-up inquiries; they do not have to. You are more likely to awake one day to find that the IRS has resolved their doubts against you and are insisting upon payment of additional taxes, interest, and penalties. The law gives the IRS a very long time to collect tax liabilities and delays in the IRS collection efforts will generally not excuse non-payment. The passage of time will, however, increase the amount of interest and penalties assessed against you. Even worse, you may have missed opportunities to challenge the IRS actions or file appeals.
Should I try to solve the tax audit or controversy problem myself?
Probably not. Think about how you deal with a persistent back ache or the continual banging sound you hear coming from your car’s brakes. Your home back remedy might work or you might be able to find a solution when you look under the hood. But probably not, and most of us find that the problem is likely to get worse while we try a do-it-yourself solution. The route to a solution more likely involves consulting with a doctor or an auto mechanic. Tax audit and controversy problems are much the same. Tax law and procedure are incredibly complicated; the Internal Revenue Code itself contains over one million words, there are thousands of tax forms covering differing situations, and communications from the IRS tend to be confusing. Detailed procedural rules govern your dealings with the IRS and your rights can be lost if you do not submit the correct document or miss an important deadline. You can try to solve the problem yourself, but your chances of success are not high.
What will happen if I try to take care of the problem myself?
Most communications from the IRS describe some (but not all) of your options and provide a “customer service number” you can call. You can try to call the IRS and taxpayers occasionally solve their problem with a phone call. However, few taxpayers find that their first call to the 800 number solves their problem, even after they wait on hold for 30-60 minute. In most cases, the IRS representative who takes your call does not have any familiarity with your specific concern and does not even have access to the relevant documents. Even if the representative understands your concern, that person usually does not have authority to resolve your problem. There will be no record of the promises made by the representative, those promises cannot be enforced, and you must still wait for a written response typically written by an IRS employee who is unaware of your telephone conversation. You might succeed, but probably not.
What type of tax professional should I hire?
While selecting the right professional to handle your tax problem can be daunting, a call to The Bassin Law Firm is your best first step. Stu regularly works with a network of accountants, return preparers, and tax planners to ensure that the professional with the correct expertise is working for you. Call Stu first and he will ensure that your question is handled by the appropriate professional.
A tax return preparer or CPA prepared my initial tax return. Can they take care of my audit or controversy?
Maybe. If the IRS has raised a preliminary, straight-forward question regarding the documentation used to compute a number on your tax return, the preparer is probably your best bet. However, most tax disputes are not that simple. If a question arises regarding whether a particular deduction or credit is allowable under the tax law, whether you have used the proper forms, or whether you have followed the correct procedure, you probably need a tax audit lawyer.
Why should I hire a tax audit lawyer to handle my tax problem?
In almost all areas of your life, you hire a lawyer to solve your legal problems. Taxes involve a particularly complex area of law enforced by a huge agency which operates under a byzantine set of policies and procedures. So, hiring a lawyer to navigate this legal maze just makes sense. - Stu Bassin is an expert in tax law and procedure. He has spent more than 30 years working in this narrow arena; he does not provide bookkeeping and financial services on the side. He knows the obscure “tricks of the trade” and his decades of government service have provided him with valuable insights into the workings of the IRS and the courts. - Tax lawyers like Stu Bassin are the only tax professionals who can challenge an IRS action in court. The “threat” that a taxpayer’s representative has the ability to take the IRS to court provides taxpayers with extra leverage with the IRS that produces better settlements. And, if a matter does need to be litigated, Stu Bassin has a long record of success in matters which have been decided by the courts. - The Bassin Law Firm is devoted to maintaining low overhead. It does not employ a large staff or have expensive offices to support. Most of the firm’s operations employ the latest computer technology and clients from outside the Washington, DC area are often serviced via phone and email. All of this translates into lower fees for the firm’s clients; those charges compare very favorably with the big name firms.