Representing Myself vs. CPA vs. Tax Attorney: Who Should Represent Me?

Should I represent myself in an auto? Should I have my CPA represent me? Or Should I hire a tax attorney? My answer to this question depends on the level of risk that you're gonna face in the audit however in my experience taxpayers tend to underestimate the amount of risk that they face when dealing with the IRS think of it this way there's a reason you're getting audited.

The IRS has selected your return for on it because it has limited resources and it feels your return in particular is going to yield an adjustment that's going to give additional tax back to the government and so chances are the reason at least the reason that they believe your return is getting audited is significant in my experience having a CPA defend you in an audit often creates a conflict of interest if it's the CPA that prepared the return if in going through the course of the audit the auditor finds a mistake with the preparation of the return and ask the CPA you prepare the return whose fault it is CPAs don't often in my experience throw themselves under the bus in the course of audit the reason for this is the IRS often issues preparer penalties to CPAs who cause tax deficiencies so having the CPA that prepared the return defend you is not really a good use of resources having another CPA defend you it may not be the bad it may not be a bad thing the reason for this is CPAs and auditors both have a pretty good knowledge of tax law your CPA is going to be able to take the numbers on the return and be able to speak to the auditor in my experience though a lot of CPAs have a deficiency when it comes to tax procedure they may understand how the law works but what they don't understand is how that law is enforced in the context of an auto when I look at a return from a tax attorney perspective not only and I'm in my check and they return out to make sure it's accurate but I'm thinking about how this return will play out when it goes to the manager or when it goes to the territory manager or when it goes to appeals or if I have to drag it in a tax court so I'm looking at this from a procedural standpoint.

Which is something that a CPA may or may not do if they've got a background in controversy most experiences most experienced CPAs though don't have a background in controversy defending audits is something they may do only occasionally if at all most CPAs don't make controversy a primary area of their practice so if you don't think you have any risk and if you think the confident the return is going to come out clean then maybe the CPA is the best choice to represent you in the audit CPAs are certainly going to be probably lower cost than tax attorneys in most cases however what I wouldn't recommend that you do is put yourself in front of the auditor directly and represent yourself doing so allows the auditor a free shot to cross-examine you and unlike a third party representative an attorney or a CPA.

You're not going to be able to avoid questions that you don't want to answer better to have somebody act as a buffer between you and the auditor and to present the return in a way that's going to make the most benefit to you and we yield you the best result in my experience the investment and a representative being an attorney or a CPA is usually the best way to go depending on the level of risk the investment in an attorney is probably more worth it's worth depending on the level of risk the investment an attorney is usually the way to go.


Sam Brotman, JD, LLM, MBA

Owner and Director of Legal
Brotman Law