Sunday, April 15, 2012

‘Tax battlers’ fighting — for your cash

They’re the surest thing after death and taxes — those pesky ads from tax lawyers and accountants that flood TV and radio every year at this time.

You know the ones. They claim to offer unique services to battle the IRS and to be able to cut your out-sized tax bill by tens of thousands of dollars.

Well, you should avoid them like a third piece of pie. They are a waste of money, local accountants claim.

“I believe that those who advertise that they can get you a special deal with the IRS are misleading their prospective clients and fraudulently advertising their services,” said Kenneth Morris, a Long Island CPA, who claims these professionals offer no special powers.

“These lawyers can’t get you any special deals with the IRS. They often take your money and you still have the problem,” warns Bernard Kiely, a CPA in Morristown, NJ.

Kiely cites Roni Deutsch, the so-called “Tax Lady” of late night television who offered to “get in between you and the IRS.” Her California law firm declared bankruptcy last year after state authorities charged she resolved only 10 percent of her clients’ tax problems.

“The facts of each particular situation are the facts, and no lawyer or others can change or dance around the facts,” Morris says.

Kiely’s advice for those who believe they have tax woes: Help yourself and avoid the lawyer’s steep fees. Deal directly and honestly with the IRS. It will save you money.

No, really.

“The IRS has the power to waive penalties, and I have seen them do it,” Kiely says. Morris agrees with Kiely that the taxing authorities will negotiate.

“Believe it or not, the IRS, or Treasury Department, is run like a business and is willing to make compromises on tax liabilities due from taxpayers. It will do whatever it takes at the least amount of cost to them to collect as much of the tax liability due from a taxpayer in the least amount of time,” Morris says.

But if you or your spouse have neglected to file taxes in years, make peace with the IRS, Kiely says. Don’t let the IRS come looking for you.

Edward Karl, vice president with American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), says taxpayers should take several steps before contacting the IRS — including, perhaps, hiring legal counsel or a financial adviser.

“Don’t choose based on emotion. See if you can find someone who has a reputation as a trusted adviser and maybe is recommended by a friend or relative,” Karl says. Then examine the person’s record. Ensure that the adviser does have years of experience in resolving disputes with the IRS.

Also, establish at the outset the range of the adviser’s fees. “It doesn’t make sense to pay $10,000 to someone when you already have a $10,000 bill to the IRS,” Karl says.

Kenneth Morris, Bernard Kiely, Roni Deutsch, tax lawyers, American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, taxes, Kiely

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