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Protecting Yourself From Tax Relief Scams

Wednesday, May 18th

Protecting Yourself from Tax Relief Scams

There are few things in life scarier than owing money to the Internal Revenue Service.

Taxpayers who are faced with a lien being placed against their property - or wage garnishment - can panic and find themselves being lured into scams designed to take their money without providing any tax relief.

Tax-relief scams run amok on the internet, where anyone with a smooth pitch and a fancy website can attract unsuspecting victims who are just looking for some help with back taxes. The only thing worse than owing a large sum of money to the IRS, is losing even more money to crooks that have no intention of actually helping you.

But for every tax-relief scam out there, a legitimate tax-relief service exists. The hard part is determining which is which. Let's discuss a few ways to determine whether a company can really help you, or if they just want to help themselves to your money.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Consumer Protection, the biggest warning sign of a tax-relief scam is an agency which overstates its success rate. This can include a misrepresentation of the expertise and skills of staff members at the agency. Consumers should be wary of this type of approach, especially if an agency claims it can successfully help you before it has even seen the details of your case.

Another huge red flag is if the agency asks for money up front. These fees can amount to thousands of dollars. Agencies often claim these fees will be used to help secure a deal with the IRS, with a small portion going to cover their administrative costs. The IRS does not charge fees to work out a repayment deal, so anything paid to a firm like this likely will go directly into the agency's pocket.

So what can consumers do to protect themselves from tax relief scams?

First and foremost, it is important to know the difference between a Certified Resolution Specialist and some guy sitting behind a desk, claiming to know what he's doing.

The American Society of Tax Problem Solvers issues certifications for resolution specialists. It is a non-profit agency consisting of professionals who represent taxpayers before the IRS. It only gives certification to agents who are able to pass a written exam, provide evidence they have experience in the tax industry and be a licensed certified public accountant or tax attorney.

One option that can be used to provide tax relief is through an installment agreement. This allows the taxpayer to repay back taxes in pre-determined payments.

Another option that can be utilized is what's known as an "Offer in Compromise" (OIC). An OIC allows taxpayers to settle their debt for less than the full amount that is owed if they can prove that paying in full would cause a financial hardship for them. Qualified candidates for this option must meet specific criteria as determined by the IRS, and must provide documentation supporting their ability to pay, income level, current expenses and asset equity. Anyone who currently is in the process of bankruptcy does not qualify for this option.

The Best Tax Relief Companies Compare Tax Relief Companies Compare Tax Relief Company Reviews What are the best Tax Relief Companies Best Tax Relief Company Reviews

Tax Relief Company FAQ

Tax relief is a means of reducing what you owe to the IRS and state in back taxes. Your debts can be negotiated and payment plans may be established to help you pay it in a more manageable amount and timeframe.
You'll probably need to owe at least $10,000 in state and/or federal taxes to be eligible for tax relief. There usually aren't any other requirements.
You could work directly with the IRS to work out a 3-year payment plan, but that usually only applies if you've filed all of your previous years' tax returns and you owe less than $10,000 in taxes. Using a tax relief service eliminates the guesswork and walks you through the entire process from start to finish. Plus, you don't have the stress of meeting with the IRS: your representative at the tax relief company does all of that for you!
Most services offer a free initial consultation, to determine which of their plans (if any) are the right fit for your situation. Once you've chosen a tax relief strategy, the provider will probably charge up to 20% of what you saved in debt as a service fee, but that varies from one company to another.
Your representative will go to work on your behalf, using a variety of methods to work with the IRS and state taxing authority. These may include Offer in Compromise, Penalty Abatements, Tax Lien Subordination and more. Some services will assign you a dedicated representative who will keep you updated on your case's progress.
As you'd expect, it depends on the complexity of your situation. However, a general rule of thumb is between two and six months for a tax relief plan to be fully executed.
Some tax relief services offer their customers a satisfaction guarantee - but it's often a very small window of time compared with how long it takes to see a significant change in your tax debts. It's a good idea to look at the reputation of any service you're considering, to see what previous clients have said about the effectiveness, and reliability of the programs offered.
Most of them are. It's not difficult to find tax relief partners that have been helping consumers for decades. That being said, there are opportunistic scammers who would like nothing more than to convince you that they're legit and then take your money without offering any tax relief whatsoever. You should research the provider before signing on the dotted line, which includes looking up their rating from the Better Business Bureau.

Compare Tax Relief Companies

Select any 2 Tax Relief Companies to compare them head to head

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  • CuraDebt
  • Optima Tax Relief
  • Community Tax
  • Jackson Hewitt
  • Direct Tax Relief
  • Tax Relief Inc
  • Enterprise Consultants Group
  • 97tax
  • Fidelity Tax Relief
  • Tax Defense Partners
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