The decision to hire an IRS attorney is one that should not be taken lightly. Attorneys can be extremely cost prohibitive and complicate matters unnecessarily when they can be resolved relatively easily. In general, I am a big proponent of self-help legal solutions, especially given the variety of informational material that can be found online (including much of what I have published on the subject of taxation). However, there are certain types of matters where I believe an IRS attorney is not only a benefit, but much of the time is an absolute necessity. Here is a quick checklist of the matters that I believe that an IRS attorney should be hired for.
1) Anything with Possible Criminal Consequences
Let’s be entirely honest for a second. Criminal charges and criminal investigations can destroy lives and carry very serious consequences. Anyone who has spent time in prison can fill you in on the realities of prison life, but criminal charges often have a much more punitive effect that many people fail to consider. Social stigma from friends and family is often an unexpected consequences as many people harbor hostility toward criminal actions and those who commitment. Criminal charges can also carry additional civil penalties (well beyond what is typical for civil tax matters). These are just some examples of the damage that even just a criminal charge can bring (whether or not a successful conviction is ultimately obtained). My point is that when anything potentially criminal arises, even if you are just a potential witness to the matter, you need a seasoned IRS attorney to represent your interests against the prosecuting agency. Many prosecutors are nice people, but tend to have tunnel vision when going after a potential criminal. Some may stop short of nothing to obtain a conviction. This is one instance where you always need an IRS attorney watching your back.
2) Technical Tax Matters
There are many parts of an IRS attorney’s job that are seemingly routine. Most collection matters are handled in roughly the same way (even though each taxpayer’s circumstances and goals are different). Most audits follow the same pattern and, with proper preparation, an IRS attorney can work to mitigate the damage. Where we earn our stripes though is on technical tax matters, which put our full skill set to the test. What is a technical tax issue? That is a difficult question to answer, but the best way I would describe it are matters that require the professional judgment of an IRS attorney to resolve properly. There are numerous topics that I cover here on the blog that I think professional judgment is not necessary, but there are many topics that are impossible to give a straight answer because of the fact dependency of the situation. Anything that possesses this “fact dependency” as I would call it, you are going to want to bring in an attorney to consult with. Even if you do not retaining the services of that attorney, an expert point of view when dealing with technical tax matters can go a long way toward understanding issues and resolving them in an appropriate manner.
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