Don’t let a small problem become a nightmare. The U.S. tax code is complex, cumbersome, and requires an entire agency of government resources just to maintain and enforce. Similarly, state revenue departments are enforcing increasingly burdensome state and local tax laws.
Our attorneys understand these complexities and their impact on both individual and business taxpayers. That’s why our firm has represented a wide range of clients in resolving tax issues at both the federal and state levels. At Harris Shelton we have decades of experience working with both simple and complex tax issues, including but not limited to the following areas of tax law:
Abatement of Tax Penalties
With an abatement, you may be able to eliminate part or all of your tax penalties, but not the initial base tax amount that caused the penalties and interest. Interest is typically not abated by the IRS, although there are limited exceptions. Eliminating these penalties may lift a huge financial burden off of you. In fact, the penalties often make up 25% of the total tax debt amount owed.
Audit Reconsideration of Tax
If you missed the deadlines for participating in an audit and the deadlines for appealing the audit following receipt of a Notice of Deficiency, there is still hope for you. The IRS has an Audit Reconsideration process whereby a taxpayer is able to request that the Service "reopen" the closed audit to consider items that were not considered during the initial process of the audit. Audit reconsideration is an Internal Revenue Service procedure designed to help you when you disagree with the results of:
- An Assessment the IRS made because of an audit of your tax return;
- A return the IRS created for you because you did not file a tax return, as authorized by Internal Revenue Code § 6020(b).
Back Taxes/Delinquent Tax Returns
Back taxes or delinquent tax returns are a serious issue that should be carefully handled by a tax attorney. If you do not voluntarily file your delinquent tax returns, rest assured that the Internal Revenue Service will likely proceed on their own by filing a return on your behalf that they will have simply made up. They will assess taxes, penalties and interest, and then begin the process of collecting them. This will be done through the legal mechanisms of garnishing your wages, placing a levy on your bank accounts, seizing your home or any other property of value they may discover. The most detrimental aspect of having the issue resolved in this manner is that the IRS rarely takes into account any exemptions or family deductions, deductions attributed to home mortgage interest, or valid business expenses, to name just a few. They will only consider your income as reported to them. Once they have attached your wages and assets, you will not be free of this process until all judgments against you are satisfied.
If allowed to progress to the above mentioned point, a taxpayer can find himself facing tax bills totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars or more, despite the fact that their actual income is significantly lower. Remember, although tax refunds may only be credited to you for a limited amount of time, the IRS can collect any taxes owed at almost any time, if not forever.
Bankruptcy of Taxes
If you need assistance in filing bankruptcy, our office can provide personal, qualified and detailed assistance to you. We focus solely on the tax aspects of bankruptcy and are often able to eliminate personal income taxes.
Our attorneys understand the complexity of our federal and state tax framework for businesses. We have represented hundreds of businesses with resolving both federal and state tax disputes. Taxing authorities, including the IRS, put a significant amount of pressure on businesses to maintain strict tax compliance. When issues arise, the government is often quick to strike, placing liens, levies, and even padlocking the doors of businesses. Our attorneys are skilled at negotiating with the IRS to keep businesses operating while working out a plan to resolve outstanding tax debt and/or challenge disputed tax assessments. Contact us for a free phone consultation.
Challenging the IRS in Court
Some tax issues are forced to be resolved in court. This is often the last resort for taxpayers who have exhausted all appeals requests with the IRS. Once a taxpayer has received a notice of deficiency from the IRS, they can file a petition with the U.S. Tax Court. By filing this petition, the taxpayer can challenge the assessment without having to pay the assessed tax. Alternatively, a taxpayer may pay the assessed tax and sue the federal government for a refund in U.S. district court.
When you are in court with the IRS, you want a proven and experienced lawyer to assist you. Our attorneys understand the stress and high stakes often associated with a trial and zealously advocate on your behalf in order to effectively resolve the issue. If you are facing an issue potentially requiring a court appearance, please contact us for a free consultation on your case.
Criminal Tax Issues
If you have failed to file your tax returns, under-reported your income, or knowingly claimed excess deductions, you may find yourself facing a criminal tax investigation. An IRS criminal investigation is a very serious matter, and criminal tax evasion and tax fraud have the potential to result in a criminal indictment and possibly jail time. If you know or have reason to believe that you are the target of an IRS criminal investigation, your best option is to contact experienced legal counsel immediately.
Do not discuss your situation with IRS or state criminal investigators without legal advice. Legal counsel can make the difference between freedom and time spent in jail. If you are facing a criminal tax issue, please call us for a free consultation on your case.
Currently Not Collectible Status
The IRS can grant you, the taxpayer, Currently Not Collectible (“CNC”) status, when you are found to be unable to pay your back tax debt. When you are granted CNC status, the IRS must stop all collection activities and efforts, including levies (the statutory authority of the IRS, to seize property to satisfy a tax liability without going to court) and wage garnishments.
CNC can provide significant relief to individuals with a tax liability who are essentially harassed by the IRS to pay their back tax debt. After CNC status is granted, the IRS must send an annual statement to the taxpayer stating the amount of tax still owed and to be repaid when the taxpayer is in a better financial situation.
Employment & Payroll Taxes
When payroll tax payments are missed, or when a corporation, partnership, sole proprietorship, or other type of business entity fails to report withholdings, the IRS and state taxing authorities will investigate. If the IRS or state tax agency makes an assessment, your business—and you personally—may incur penalties, related interest, and possible criminal charges. Depending upon the taxing authority itself, assessment as the responsible party may be automatic.
If your corporation or business failed to file or has never paid taxes for certain employees, or the IRS or a state taxing authority has frozen your account, you need an experienced employment tax attorney to guide you through this process to a successful resolution of your case.
Estate/ Wealth Preservation Planning
As Benjamin Franklin once said, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Those words remain true today. Don’t let the government take your hard-earned assets. Let our experienced attorneys assist you and your family with comprehensive estate and wealth preservation planning.
Our firm has experience working with numerous planning areas including but not limited to the following:
- Asset protection planning
- Charitable trusts
- Estate and trust administration
- Estate litigation, including will caveats, spousal dissents and fiduciary proceedings
- Evaluation of tax consequences of financial plans, insurance policies and investments
- Federal and state returns for fiduciary income, estate and inheritance taxes
- Generational transfer of business ownership and management
- Guardianships and plans for the care for children or family members with special needs
- Inventories and accountings
- Personal tax planning strategies
- Planning for and obtaining medical assistance under government benefit programs
- Post-mortem tax planning
- Qualification of personal representatives and trustees
- Wills, trusts, powers of attorney and advance health directives
Innocent Spouse Claims
Many married taxpayers choose to file a joint tax return because of the benefits this filing status allows. Both taxpayers are jointly and individually responsible for the tax and any interest or penalty due on the joint return even if the couple later divorces. This is true even if a divorce decree states that a former spouse will be responsible for any amounts due on previously filed joint returns. One spouse may be held responsible for all the tax due even if all the income was earned by the other spouse.
In some cases, a spouse will be relieved of the tax, interest, and penalties on a joint tax return. Three types of relief are available. Speak with one of our experienced attorneys to find out which option is best for you.
- Innocent spouse relief
- Separation of liability
- Equitable relief
IRS & State Tax Controversies
There is no universal handbook for resolving tax issues with the Internal Revenue Service and state taxing authorities, as each tax problem has unique facts and circumstances. We formulate case-specific solutions and help you exercise your rights to find the best solution to any tax problem. This might include negotiating an offer in compromise, setting up an IRS installment agreement, stopping a tax levy, and other resolutions to your IRS liability. In some circumstances you may simply bankrupt your tax liabilities. The most important step to resolving your IRS or state tax issues is consulting an experienced tax attorney.
IRS and State Audits
When someone receives that dreaded letter notifying you that your return has been selected for an audit, most people fear going to jail. We have represented many clients in both personal and business tax audits. Even if you do not believe that you have done anything wrong or are unsure of why you are being audited, we don’t recommend that you attempt to represent yourself.
We will provide you the experience and professionalism needed when dealing with your IRS or state audit. For a personal audit, it is important to understand that returns are usually selected for statistical reasons. By contacting us we are able to become a buffer between you and the IRS and/or state. If you have a business audit, it is important to understand your rights. Before you allow them to take computers, records, or even enter your place of business, STOP!! Understand your rights and contact us.
Offers in Compromise
The Offer in Compromise (or OIC) program is an IRS program under 26 U.S.C. § 7122 which allows qualified individuals with tax debt to negotiate a settled amount that is less than the total tax owed. The objective of the OIC program is to accept a compromise when acceptance is in the best interests of both the taxpayer and the government.
The overall acceptance rate under the OIC program hovers right around 40% or less each year. Our office will not submit an offer unless we are certain it will be accepted. That’s why our firm’s offer acceptance rate is nearly 100%. Offers in compromise are complex and require the skill and attention of a qualified tax attorney. Contact us for a free phone consultation with one of our attorneys to discuss whether the OIC program is right for you.
Offshore/International Tax Issues
Please refer to our Offshore/International Tax Issues page
Payment Agreements/Installment Agreements
In some situations, a taxpayer may qualify for a payment plan or installment agreement to pay off tax debt. This offers taxpayers the opportunity to make manageable payments and handle their tax debt when making a lump sum payment is simply impossible. The IRS has implemented a streamlined approach to installment agreements and will generally grant them automatically when the total assessed tax is $100,000 or less. For total tax liabilities over $100,000, the IRS requires a detailed financial statement and documentation in order to grant an installment agreement. We will be able to evaluate your financial situation and the type and amount of tax you owe to determine what type of payment plan will apply.
The IRS is not required to accept a proposed installment agreement and may deny your request or may ask for a modification for approval. It is therefore of the utmost importance that your case is properly presented to the IRS. With the assistance of our attorneys, you can rest assured that we will protect your interests and present your financial situation to the IRS in a clear manner that offers you the best opportunity for approval.
Powers of Attorney
A power of attorney (POA) or letter of attorney is a written authorization to represent or act on another’s behalf in private affairs, business, or other legal matter. The person authorizing the other to act is the principal, grantor, or donor (of the power). The one authorized to act is the agent or attorney or, in some common law jurisdictions, the attorney-in-fact. Formerly, a power referred to an instrument under seal while a letter was an instrument under hand, but today both are signed by the donor, and therefore there is no difference between the two.
Representation of Tax Preparers and Tax Professionals
Tax professionals including CPAs, tax attorneys, enrolled agents, and unlicensed tax return preparers are subject to a myriad of IRS penalties in their roles as tax preparers and advisors. Others, such as actuaries and appraisers, can also be subject to IRS penalties. These penalties can be civil or criminal and are often quite severe. Our tax attorneys have reduced or eliminated a significant amount of penalties on behalf of tax professionals accused of misconduct. Contact us for a free consultation.
Revenue Officer Assistance
IRS revenue officers are highly trained to do one thing: collect taxes! They are given many weapons to achieve their task. They can levy your wages, levy your bank accounts, and even seize your property. If you ignore them they can, and often will, appear at your work place or home with no prior notice. One thing you should know is that they are not going away until you have some sort of resolution plan in place.
Our lawyers can get between you and the Revenue Officer and give you relief from the calls and letters sent to you by your IRS revenue officer! Contact us for a free phone consultation.
Sales Tax Audits
With the increasing pressure to close budget gaps, state revenue departments must look for opportunities to revitalize their revenue streams. One way is to increase the number and scope of audits performed on taxpayers, thereby allowing states to collect more revenue without enacting new taxes or increasing tax rates. As a result, taxpayers are becoming the target of sales tax audits more frequently. We have helped thousands of clients in achieving excellent results in their sales tax audits. Contact us for a free phone consultation.
Tax Liens & Levies
Whenever you owe taxes to the U.S. Treasury and don’t pay, a claim against you by the federal government arises by law. (Internal Revenue Code § 6321.) This claim is called a tax lien. The existence of the government’s claim is not public information—at least initially—and so it is sometimes called a “secret” or “statutory” or “automatic” lien. The tax lien automatically attaches to just about everything you own or have a right in. If you owe interest and penalties on the tax, which is often the case, the lien covers these amounts as well.
Recorded tax liens are just notices to the world that an individual or business owes the IRS. No money or property is taken by the filing of a notice of lien. Instead, the IRS collects by seizing your real or personal property through the levy process. Typically, levies are made on money or other financial accounts held for you by others, such as a bank, stockbroker, or employer. Although the IRS usually records a tax lien before levying on property, it does not have to. The IRS makes about four million levies per year.
While every case is different, individuals and businesses with complex finances can often benefit from consulting with a tax planning attorney. Our experienced attorneys and CPAs can help provide our clients the peace of mind of knowing that their tax documents are correct and that they have taken steps to avoid paying unnecessarily high taxes. Our attorneys use their substantial knowledge of tax law and accounting to review your financial information in order to find innovative and practical ways to reduce your overall tax liability.
Our firm also offers help in planning and structuring future transactions and gifts to avoid unnecessary income tax implications. If you own a business or real estate, have investments or other substantial assets or if any other factor makes your finances more complicated than average, you stand to gain a great deal by consulting with an experienced tax attorney.
As part of our holistic approach to our clients’ needs, our firm gladly prepares tax returns. By having an experienced team of tax attorneys and CPAs preparing your tax return, you will ensure proper compliance and have the peace of mind that your taxes are done right. Plus, our firm provides regular tax planning sessions and is always up to date on the law.
A wage garnishment is an IRS enforcement action whereby the IRS sends an official notification to an employer ordering them to withhold a substantial amount of your paycheck and send it to the IRS until back taxes owed are satisfied. Wage garnishments can leave you with as little as $385 per month to live on.
IRS wage garnishments are serious collection and enforcement actions that employers must follow, or they risk being assessed substantial penalties. Don’t ignore tax collection efforts. To prevent a wage garnishment or stop a wage garnishment, get professional tax relief now from our attorneys who are experienced in helping taxpayers facing wage garnishment.