Having a tax issue can be very intimidating. That said, once you have decided to take action, you will have completed the most difficult step in facing your tax problem(s).
While you may have a tax issue you can handle by yourself, it’s often the case that you will need the help of a tax attorney to guide you safely through.
Once you have determined that you need to hire a tax attorney, you will want to be certain that he/she has the right skills, training and experience to handle your case. You’ll also want to know that their billing and work-style fit with your preferences, needs and resources.
To determine if a particular tax attorney is qualified to handle your case, there are some crucial questions you should ask before signing a fee agreement or contract. They are listed in this and in two more entries to follow.
Read on to learn what you should ask during your first consultation with a prospective tax attorney. By the end of these blogs, you will understand the information you need to determine whether or not the attorney in question is right for you.
This first installment will list questions dealing with the attorney’s qualifications.
(This list of questions is in no particular order)
Key Insights We Will Discuss:
6 Qs to ask tax attorneys before you hire them.
These questions pertain to the attorney’s qualifications
(1.) As an attorney, what is your area of expertise?
(2.) Does your firm deal exclusively with tax issues or other areas of law as well?
(3.) How much experience do you have with cases like mine?
(4.) Can you help me with my case?
(5.) How long has your firm been in business/how long have you been practicing?
(6.) What made you go into this line of work?
1.) As an attorney, what is your area of expertise ?
Most attorneys – the best ones anyway – have a specific area of focus. These are the attorneys you want to seek out to find one that specializes in the resolution of tax problems. Many tax attorneys specialize in helping their clients avoid paying taxes, but not in helping them to deal with their tax problems. It’s a distinction that is vitally important for you to understand.
2.) Does your firm deal exclusively with tax issues or other areas of law as well?
This question goes hand-in-hand with the previous one so in the interest of saving time, I won’t go into too much detail. All I will say here is that just as you want your specific attorney to specialize in tax law, it is important that the firm he or she works for does too. Oftentimes, when it comes to tax controversy or tax resolution issues, your attorney may require assistance from other people at the firm. This includes support staff, paralegals, and in some cases – CPAs and other attorneys (if the case is rather complex). You want to be sure that everyone who works on your case has been specially trained to work on tax matters as everything will go much more smoothly.
3.) How much experience do you have with cases like mine?
At the very least, you’ll want your attorney to be familiar (and comfortable) with cases like yours. You want to make sure they have encountered a problem such as yours and aren’t flying by the seat of their pants. It would also be a good idea, here, to ask them how those cases went. The attorney, of course, won’t be able to disclose any personal identifying information about the client (nor do you need to know that information), but they should be willing to tell you results of cases similar to yours. Asking this question should give you a sense of how confident and experienced the lawyer is with dealing with your tax issues.
4.) Can you help me with my case?
This may seem like a silly question to ask but it is of the upmost importance. None of the qualifications or skills in the world will matter if the attorney in question cannot do anything for you. And while you may think that the attorney will likely just lie to get your business, they legally cannot. They have a fiduciary responsibility to act in your best interest. That extends to them being honest about what they can (and cannot) accomplish for you. Do not, however, mistake this for any sort of guarantee on their part. Sometimes even the best laid plans go awry. If they are unable to perform the task, ask them for a referral to another qualified attorney who may be able to help.
5.) How long has your firm been in business/How long have you been practicing?
This question is important for a few reasons. Let me tackle the obvious one first. It goes without saying that you want to go with a reputable law firm and/or attorney who has been practicing for at least a few years and has some experience under his or her belt. A more experienced attorney is likely to have more confidence, better negotiating skills, and contacts within the IRS.
The other reason you want to ask this question is because oftentimes these so-called “tax resolution” companies you have undoubtedly heard about through their heavy advertising are nothing more than shameless snake-oil salesmen targeting innocent people and cheating them out of their hard earned money. Without going into too much detail here (we have covered the topic extensively in prior blogs), one way to identify these tax resolution scams is that they seem to have come from out of nowhere and quickly disappear without a trace. They employ the same model a carnival does where they skip town before anyone gets wise to the fact that they have just been swindled. An established firm or attorney with deep roots in their community is far less likely to be classified in the same group as these charlatans.
6.) What made you go into this line of work?
I saved the best question for last. This may be one of the most important questions you ask; and while there is technically no right or wrong answer, it is a very good way to suss out what the attorney’s character is like and where their priorities lie. In addition, you will get a better understanding of what his or her philosophy is on tax resolution.
Do not be surprised if the attorney is at a loss for words when you first ask this, as they will probably be caught off guard. But when they finally do answer, good attorneys will touch on how working in this field provides them with the opportunity to help someone who may be going through one of the most difficult times in their life. Unlike other areas of tax law (such as tax prep and/or planning), working in tax controversy is about helping people when they are (likely) at their lowest and have nowhere else to turn. These people are extremely vulnerable and perhaps even close to breaking down completely; it is very common (almost guaranteed) for these types (tax/financial) of issues to snowball and invade other areas of their life (personal relationships, home life, marriage, etc.).
If the attorney doesn’t list one of his or her key motives as: helping people get through this difficult time, find someone else. You want a representative who cares enough about you and your matter to give it the gravitas it deserves and is not driven by selfish motives.
This list of questions will give you the information you need to separate the sheep from the goats where tax resolution attorneys are concerned. More specifically, these questions will teach you a lot about the attorney’s qualifications, experience, confidence and character.
Tax matters can be pretty severe – at the very least, they are emotionally and financially draining – and you should not task just anyone with resolving them for you. You should take care to shop around and interview tax attorneys until you have found the one that makes you feel as if you have finally found your footing and are standing on solid ground again; one that makes you rediscover hope about your financial (and oftentimes personal) future.
Contact an Attorney
If you are facing tax issues that need effective and creative solutions, contact the attorneys at Ayar Law. We offer FREE, no-obligation tax advice. We’d love to fight for you! 800.571.7175
– Dealing with your tax issue(s) is stressful enough as it is. The task of finding the right representation, however, doesn’t have to be. Ask the following questions to better guide you on your quest to find the right tax resolution attorney.
– These questions will give you a better understanding of the attorney’s qualifications and skills in dealing with tax matters such as yours.
6 Qs to ask prospective tax attorneys before you hire them
(1). As an attorney, what is your area of expertise?
(2). Does your firm deal exclusively with tax issues or other areas of law as well?
(3). How much experience do you have with cases like mine?
(4). Can you help me with my case?
(5). How long has your firm been in business/how long have you been practicing?
(6). What made you go into this line of work?
– I cannot stress enough how invaluable this information is when it comes to choosing the right IRS tax resolution attorney.
– Keep a lookout for our next installment of this mini-series where we will discuss the proper questions to ask regarding your (potential) working relationship with the attorney in question.
– Contact the attorneys at Ayar Law for FREE, no-obligation tax advice 800.571.7175