Finding A Good Tax Attorney, Tax CPA, or Tax EA to Fix Your IRS Tax Problems

By Matthew J. Previte CPA
July 6, 2011

Finding a competent tax attorney, tax CPA, or tax EA to represent you before the IRS can be a daunting task. Fixing IRS tax problems is a tricky business left to those who do it full time year round. Although any attorney, CPA, or EA (enrolled agent—takes 2 day test on federal taxes given by the U.S. Treasury) is legally allowed to represent you before the IRS, not every attorney, CPA, or EA is qualified or competent enough to do so. IRS tax problems are a specialty requiring full time dedication to learning how the IRS works and how to work within that system to fix IRS tax problems.

Very few attorneys have any experience in dealing with the IRS on a daily basis much less a few times a year. Although some attorneys pursue and obtain a Master of Laws degree (LLM), this does not necessarily mean they know how to resolve IRS tax problems since most Masters programs in Taxation have but one general survey course on IRS practice and procedure. A good tax attorney will have represented hundreds or thousands of people with IRS tax problems before the IRS and rarely will they practice in this area less than full time.

CPAs and EAs are also legally able to represent taxpayers before the IRS. Although most are competent in preparing tax returns, most CPAs and EAs do not have any experience in fixing IRS tax problems on a regular basis. They are lucky if they see one or two cases a year. CPAs and EAs greatly shy away from taking on an IRS tax problem client because they have no experience resolving messy complicated IRS tax problems or they fear they won’t get paid since the client owes huge amounts of money to the IRS.

One of the first things you should do in searching for a competent tax attorney, tax CPA, or tax EA is Google their name. See if there are any negative articles or postings on websites about them. If you find a lot of complaints or bad reviews, beware! A good tax attorney, tax CPA, or tax EA should have very few if any complaints out there. Check also with their state licensing board to see whether any complaints have been filed against them.

Second thing you should do is make sure they have a current license. This is easy enough to check out online as most state licensing boards post the names of licensees and whether or not their license is current or has expired. If you are researching an EA, you will have to call the IRS Director of Practice in Washington D.C. or look on their website (

Next, I would check out their website. What type of content do they have. Do they give you their address, phone number, and email address. Many tax resolution firms on the net only have a contact page for you to email them your name and address and a description of your IRS tax problem. They have no information about who they are, key officers or employees, where they are located, etc. This should be a tip off that you’re dealing with a fly by night operation. If their site has little content or makes guarantees about what they can achieve, even without getting any information from you, watch out! There are a lot of scam artists and snake oil salesmen on the internet. Caveat emptor. Let the buyer beware.

The size of the organization should also be a clue as to how you will be treated. Large national tax resolution firms usually operate on volume. Their goal is to sell as many people as they can usually with little or no regard to actually providing good service and most importantly fixing your IRS tax problems. Their salespeople are almost never tax attorneys, tax CPAs, or tax EAs but unqualified sales reps who haven’t the foggiest idea of how to fix even the most basic of tax problems. Oh sure, they will tell you all the right things to make you believe their tax resolution firm can make all your IRS tax problems go away. Problem is, they haven’t a clue as to nature of your IRS tax problem and how to fix it since they have absolutely zero experience fixing IRS tax problems. They’re sales reps! A small tax resolution firm will have experienced tax attorneys, tax CPAs, and/or tax EAs on staff to answer calls from prospective clients. This assures that the prospective client with the IRS tax problem is speaking with a licensed tax professional who understands IRS tax problems and how to fix them.

The quality of service that large tax resolution firms offer tends to be haphazard, inconsistent, and unreliable. Small tax resolution firms are much more suited to providing great service since they are able to respond quickly without clients getting lost in the shuffle. Without all the layers of management and bureaucracy that large national firms have, small tax resolution firms can deal with issues in a more timely manner. Large national firms often give you an unlicensed “case representative” as your point of contact instead of the licensed tax attorney, tax CPA, or tax EA who is actually representing you. This is a big red flag. If you can’t have access to the licensed tax professional actually representing you, run away as fast as you can. You WILL experience frustration since you will almost never speak, if at all, with the licensed tax professional representing you.

One other issue that should be discussed is the location of the tax resolution firm. There are national firms and local firms. Which would you rather hire, a firm hundreds or thousands of miles away or a local firm you can actually meet with face to face. There is nothing like looking someone in the eye to get a sense of their honesty and integrity. Seeing their office in person will tell you how they run their operation. Does it appear to be smoothly operating or in a state of chaos. A local firm is also much more accountable since they live and work in the community or state where you live. Maintaining their reputation is far more important than a firm thousands of miles away. I would exercise extreme caution hiring anyone you can’t hop in the car and meet with face to face. That doesn’t mean work can’t be done via fax, phone, email, and Fedex. However, meeting your tax representative face to face at least once before you hire them tells you a lot about them, their firm, and how you can expect to be treated after you hire them to fix your IRS tax problems.

So before hiring any tax attorney, tax CPA, or tax EA to help you fix your IRS tax problems, check them out carefully and spend the time to look in depth at their track record, any complaints on the web or with state licensing boards (the IRS Director of Practice if an EA). And, use your gut. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Do your due diligence and get educated on the different types of resolutions available to people with IRS tax problems. That way, you will be able to sort out the scam artists and snake oil salemen from the good competent licensed tax professionals out there.

A taxing situation…With the new IRS, coming forward is the best option for late filers, non-filers, and delinquent payers.

By April 15, 2010, 84 percent of Americans filed their tax returns on time. That means 16 percent didn’t. That omission translates to a figure somewhere near $345 billion in taxes owed to the U.S. Treasury Department. With a budget deficit in the trillions and rising, the IRS is expected to increase its audits of both personal and business tax returns as well as pursue greater enforced collection action against individuals and businesses using levies, liens and seizures.  And that puts late filers, non-filers and delinquent payers on notice: Uncle Sam wants you now more than ever.

So, what’s a non-filer or delinquent payer to do? Many will delay dealing with the problem, literally hiding from the IRS. Yet according to Matthew J. Previte, CPA, a local taxpayer advocate expert and owner of, the IRS will get its money and then some from non-filers and delinquent payers in penalties and interest. The key is to be proactive and face the music.

“When we’re children, our parents said if we told the truth, things would be far easier on us than if they found out later. That may sound rather simplistic, but it’s the same with the IRS and your state’s DOR,” said Previte. “There are a number of options that you can work out with the IRS and your state to address your situation.”

Besides a lack of funds, pride, procrastination and a number of other reasons, most people are quite intimidated by the IRS and hesitant to come forward before the IRS comes to them. Since 1997, Previte’s Natick, Mass.-based tax firm has specialized solely in representing individuals and businesses with federal and state tax problems, including audits, non-filers, and delinquent payers.

“What most people do not realize, and that includes many CPAs and tax attorneys, is that dealing with the IRS and state DORs is a specialty unto itself,” said Previte. “We can provide our clients with resolutions to very sticky situations not only because we’re licensed tax professionals but because we have successfully worked with both the IRS and state tax agencies full-time on a daily basis for many years and we know how they work.”

So what are some of the options available to people who owe taxes? Some options include:

  • Offer in Compromise program – This little known program enables qualified taxpayers to negotiate a settlement for a fraction of what they owe. Who qualifies? Those taxpayers who can demonstrate an inability to pay their delinquent taxes in a short period of time.
  • Payment plan – Many people are able to pay their tax debts but just need a little time to pay it off. Negotiating payment terms you can live with is the key. Unfortunately, penalties and interest will continue to be charged on your outstanding balance as you pay the debt off. However, you may qualify to have the penalties removed or abated if you can show reasonable cause for filing late or paying late. For those unable to pay their tax debts in full over time, a Partial Pay Installment Agreement may be available. Under this option, payments are made until the collection statute expires. Any unpaid balance at the end of the collection statute expires and becomes legally uncollectable, leaving the taxpayer free from paying the remainder of any balance due.
  • Bankruptcy – Did you know that taxes in many cases can be discharged or wiped out in a bankruptcy. Many people, as well as attorneys, are not aware of this. For those who qualify, bankruptcy often times can be the solution to resolve their crushing tax problems. Proper pre-bankruptcy planning—for Chapter 7, Chapter 11, or Chapter 13—is key to determining if bankruptcy is or can be a viable solution.
  •  Uncollectible status – Every year the IRS puts many taxpayers into the “Uncollectible Status” category or classifies them “Currently Not Collectible” (CNC). What essentially this means is that the IRS will not proactively seek back taxes from a taxpayer that owes because of validated economic hardship. If their finances improve (as they will monitor) collection efforts will resume.
  • Penalty Abatement – The IRS charges penalties for filing late, paying late, underpaying your estimated tax payments if you’re self-employed, negligence if you make mistakes in preparing your tax return, etc. Many citizens could pay off their tax debts if it weren’t for penalties that double, triple, or quadruple their tax bill. The law does allow taxpayers who have “reasonable cause” to file for a Penalty Abatement.
  • Lien SubordinationSome taxpayers could pay off their tax debt if they could get a home equity loan. Unfortunately, these taxpayers can’t get home equity loans to pay off their old tax debt because the IRS has filed Federal Tax Liens against their property. A Lien Subordination allows the IRS to reduce its Lien priority and give your bank superior Lien priority protecting their loan in exchange for the proceeds from the loan. This way, the IRS gets the equity it had a Lien against and your bank is protected by their superior Lien.
  • Innocent Spouse Relief – When married couples sign a joint tax return, they both become liable for the taxes on that return. If at some future time the IRS audits that joint tax return and determines that additional taxes are due, both spouses become liable for the taxes. Unfortunately, these additional taxes are sometimes due to the misdeeds or fraud committed by one spouse. Sadly, the Innocent Spouse also gets saddled with the tax debt. Innocent Spouse Relief was designed to alleviate unjust situations where one spouse was clearly the victim of fraud perpetrated by their spouse or ex-spouse. If you qualify for Innocent Spouse Relief, you may not owe any tax.

“These are just a few of the scenarios where having a qualified licensed tax professional represent you can literally save you thousands of dollars and dramatically reduce the stress and anguish that comes with having tax debt hanging over your head—and your family’s for that matter,” said Previte.

For more information on, please visit To schedule a free confidential consultation, call 877-259-8200.