What do Tax Attorneys Do?
While taxpaying is a universal obligation, many people often find it hard to deal with concerned regulatory bodies such as the IRS. Consequently, such individuals usually resort to seeking the services of tax attorneys to assist in the resolution of tax-related issues. This is particularly understandable, given the complexities and jargon that are closely associated with the field of taxation.
Some of the services that taxpayers can access from a tax defense attorney include:
• Elimination or wavering of penalties – regulatory bodies usually impose penalties on tax defaulters, resulting in an inflation of tax debt. Tax defense lawyers can, however, work a mechanism of reducing or removing the penalties in entirety.
• Paying in installments – when debts accrue over time, taxpayers might find it difficult to pay the amount in a single installment. Therefore, the tax defense negotiates and identifies the most appropriate installment payment option.
• Alleviation of tax debt – in a scenario where the taxpayer is unable to raise the amount they owe the tax-man, the defense attorney can file for a reduction.
• Postponement of tax payment – if a taxpayer qualifies for the Currently Not Collectible (CNC) status, the IRS has to withhold tax collection activities concerning the involved taxpayer temporarily. Usually, tax experts determine if an individual satisfies the prerequisite for this CNC status.
• Elimination of federal tax lien and levy – after a prolonged period without paying taxes, the IRS has the right to impose liens and levies on taxpayers. This gives them the authority to seize any property or asset belonging to the taxpayer. Enlisting the services of a tax defense expert averts the possibility of such events.
When Do You Need A Tax Attorney?
As noted earlier, the IRS maintains a tight leash over matters regarding tax collection. Typically, their area of operation encompasses all aspects of the economy, including individuals, business, estates, and so on. The following situations require the input of a qualified tax attorney:
• A taxable estate whose owner is deceased – by definition, a taxable estate is a property whose value exceeds $5.49 million for a single person, and $10.98 million for a couple. Notably, these thresholds appreciate on a yearly basis. Heirs to such property are obligated to pay 40% of the balance over these amounts. Therefore, a tax attorney can assist in the drafting of strategies that can ensure that the property remains below the exemption threshold and subsequently avoid losing a portion of the property to taxes.
• A new business – regardless of the preferred setup, any new enterprise always has its tax implications. A tax expert can offer advice about the expected tax treatment depending on the chosen type of business.
• International businesses – tax ramifications for the cross-border enterprise are usually different from those for local businesses. Therefore, professional help is needed, particularly in the securing of licenses, contracts, and other legal documents.
• Litigation involving the IRS –whether you are planning to sue the IRS or the IRS is investigating you, the input of a tax attorney is invaluable. This is because legal counsels have the upper hand over other tax professionals such as accountants. In addition to being familiar with the law, they are not obligated to share their client’s confidential information with the US Tax Court.
Qualities of a Commendable Tax Attorney
Since tax attorneys are lawyers, they should possess the bare minimums for practicing law. These include a Doctor of Jurisprudence degree, commonly known as the J.D., and be an accredited member of the state bar. On top of these, a tax attorney must have specialized training concerning taxation, preferably a Master’s degree in Law (LL.M).
In some cases, a tax attorney may also possess accounting skills. Such individuals often concern themselves with the legal consequences of tax issues. Hence, if you are in a situation that requires sound knowledge in both fields, it is recommendable to enlist the services of lawyers who are also accountants, although they often charge higher fees.
Tax Defense and Criminal Liability
The law obligates every citizen to declare their sources of income to the IRS. Failure to adhere to this rule has consequences, including an investigation which may lead to either simple misconduct charges or criminal prosecution. The result of this auditing process often depends on the conduct of the accused during the inquiry.
During the initial stages, a well-crafted response may result in mere civil liability or even the dismissal of charges. If civil liability charges are imposed, the taxpayer is only required to pay a civil fraud penalty or serve a relatively short time in prison. However, if the responses or demeanor of a taxpayer is suspicious, the IRS has the mandate to involve the CID department, transforming the case into a criminal investigation. Such a scenario often ends with hefty fines or long jail terms, or both. Moreover, the incarceration usually takes place in high-security facilities.
Irrefutably, the consequences of tax fraud are unbearable, especially if criminal prosecution charges are imposed. It is therefore advisable for taxpayers to indulge qualified and preferably experienced tax attorneys at the civil investigation stage. This is because they have the nous and tactics of mitigating the chances of civil investigation transforming into a criminal one. Thus, they are invaluable to any individual facing a date with IRS investigators.
Routine civil investigations are conducted by highly-trained IRS officials, who often closely examine the behavior of taxpayers. Aspects that are regularly checked include, nervousness, sweating profusely, respectfulness, evasiveness, and other body language traits. If these characteristics check out, the IRS concludes that the subject being interrogated is a suspect of committing tax fraud.
On the other hand, contacting an experienced tax attorney significantly reduces the chances of a criminal referral emanating from a civil investigation. This is because such lawyers listen to the client’s case, and offer advice on whether to speak candidly or remain silent during the investigation. Tax defense lawyers will often issue reassurances, calming the nerves of the taxpayer. Also, a good criminal tax attorney will inform you of the critical constitutional protections such as the fourth and fifth amendments.