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Having tax issues is stressful, and suffocating. The IRS and/or State taxing authorities have the power to garnish, levy, and more in order to ensure the required taxes are paid. Hold times are longer than ever and in the case one relies on advice provided by the IRS verbally, in case it is wrong, it cannot be used as a defense for the mistake.
In just the year 2015, the USA tax code is over 70,000 pages.
The good news is that there are legal tax solutions to ensure that you pay the minimum amount of taxes legally required based on your financial situation, unique situation and taxes owed.
It is very important to work with a professional because when information is provided to the IRS or State taxing authorities, they hold an individual to the same standards as if the information was provided by a tax attorney. Financial information has to be presented accurately, forms filled out properly, the right information disclosed, and a variety of other factors correctly evaluated. Mistakes are very costly and in some cases doing the wrong things can be impossible to solve; doing things right the first time is essential.
When you decide which tax resolution company to work with, to get the best results for yourself, it is important to review 22 critical items.
Akin to getting surgery, you want to evaluate as many important options and choose the company with the highest OVERALL rating in order to ensure the greatest possibility of success. And much like surgery, tax work should be done right and done correctly the first time.
Criteria that are VERY IMPORTANT are marked as VERY IMPORTANT.
Criteria that are EXTREMELY IMPORTANT are also highlighted in yellow.
See the points that follow:
Company General Info
1 . 95 or more 5-star ratings with ShopperApproved.com
Customer Lobby is a 3rd party rating organization where clients post reviews of companies.
The company is based out of Utah and Florida and enjoys an excellent online, unbiased reputation.Ask the company you are considering if they are listed with Shopper Approved with over 95 five star reviews.
2. Top rated Tax Relief Company in Top Consumer Reviews for 2016.VERY IMPORTANT
When you are evaluating any review or rating site, make sure to evaluate the age of the site and also evaluate the review site by going to Google and typing in [name of site/organization] + “ABC” (to see what has been reported on the ABC news station) and a second search typing in [name of site/organization] + ”Time.com” (to report what appeared on Time magazine.) Then after watching the videos or reading the news articles that are returned, you can decide what seriousness to give to their evaluation of a company.
Top Consumer Reviews has been reviewing companies since 2006 and has an excellent reputation online in ABC and Time.com. Checking their site for company ratings is highly recommended. Make sure the company you choose to work with is top rated, ideally #1 rated.
3. Top Rated by IRS.COM
4. Has over 650 Five Star reviews on CustomerLobby.com. VERY IMPORTANT
Customer Lobby is a 3rd party rating organization where clients post reviews of companies. The company is based out of California and enjoys an excellent online, unbiased reputation.
Ask the company you are considering if they are listed with Customer Lobby with over 650 five star reviews.
5. Member of NetCheck with No complaints. VERY IMPORTANT
NetCheck was founded in 1995 and offers real-time services to determine whether merchants are trustworthy or not online. When a company offers debt relief services nationwide, make sure the company is a member as listed with, “Our file history shows that no unresolved consumer complaints have been reported to Netcheck on this company. The company you have requested information on is a registered Member of The Netcheck Commerce Bureau.”
NetCheck is also a fair rating organization in that membership fees are flat rate per company and not based on the number of employees. This ensures that there is no greater monetary influence in terms of ratings from a company with 1000’s of employees versus one that has fewer employees. Additionally when looking at reviews of this rating site, there is positive reviews and lack of negative TV programs or News shows on their company.
6. Member of the Online Business Bureau (OBB) in ‘Good Standing.’ VERY IMPORTANT
Here is some information about the OBB: http://www.onlinebusinessbureau.com/index.cfm
For a company that provides nationwide services, we feel that the Online Business Bureau serves as the most reputable rating system because:
a. The membership dues are a flat rate per company and not based on the number of employees. That means that each company receives a rating and a larger company has the same (balanced) influence as a company with fewer employees. This is very important because in some rating organizations that charge membership fees based on employee count, where letter grades are provided, large credit card companies have thousands of complaints yet retain an excellent letter grade while small companies with a handful of complaints have their grade affected.
b. Positive press online. One of the main competitors to the OBB has numerous negative news articles, complaint blog sites, and TV news shows that cite issues in their grading systems. The OBB has generally only positive feedback online.
c. The ratings are universal regardless of where the company is located. This is, in comparison, to another rating organization that has different policies based on where the business is located. E.g. you want to know the company is a recommended company or not.
Make sure you ask any company you are considering working with if they are members of the Online Business Bureau (OBB) AND are listed in “Good Standing.”
7. Experience of more than 15 years nationwide. VERY IMPORTANT
Much like if you were choosing a surgeon for a life-saving operation, you would want to select one who had the most experience (as opposed to selecting one who just completed his residency).
With this said, the caveat is that the company has nationwide experience because the laws are different in each state. There are also different credit unions and other lending institutions that operate in each locality.
The more years of experience a company has nationwide, the better.
8. Top rated debt relief company.
Many people have unsecured debt in addition to tax debt. Make sure the company assisting you with tax debt also can determine if it’s more important to resolve the unsecured debt or tax debt first. Then they should be able to help you with it.
1. Flat fee. VERY IMPORTANT
Many companies bill on an hourly basis. With tax issues, this could result in as high as tens of thousands of dollars of billing. When dealing with solving tax issues, it is critical you get flat rate based pricing where you pay for a clear deliverable.
2. Minimum Debt Owed.
Many companies will require a minimum debt amount of $20,000 or more. Work with a company with a low debt minimum. Sometimes a small tax issue is the tip of the iceberg.
3. Phased Approach To Solving Issues. VERY IMPORTANT
Make sure any company you work with does a three phase approach of investigation, compliance (tax return preparation), and finally, resolution work with a flat fee per phase:
Tax issues are complex. They require the pulling of tax transcripts, review of financial information, confirmation of allowable exclusions based on IRS standards, speaking with the Revenue Officer, analysis of tax collection expiration dates, inclusion of extraneous circumstances, and much more. This phase is the most important because based on it, a proper and complete solution can be determined. Failure to do this step means that while one issue could be solved, others may not be. This could cause numerous re-amendments, additional penalties, letters with additional fees due later, or even garnishments or levies. The most important step is to get a complete view of the problem and properly evaluate ALL possible solutions and determine the BEST one.
b. Compliance (tax return preparation).
Doing the right tax returns based on the investigation, and properly preparing them to take advantage of every possible legal deduction ensures that you pay the least amount of taxes owed legally.
Only after you are tax compliant should a resolution be implemented. Some companies start talking about resolutions up front, but it is much more beneficial for a client to follow the 3-phase approach. Failure to do so could mean paying installments on an amount that is not even owed, failure to get a refund (when taxes were thought to be owed), or situations that end up resulting in paying more than one should for taxes.
1. Experienced in solving unpaid tax, payroll tax, tax lien, tax levy, wage garnishment, unfiled tax returns, tax penalties, tax audits, IRS asset seizures and other tax issues. VERY IMPORTANT
Make sure the company you are considering working with are highly experienced solving all these different issues.
1. Experienced in personal and business tax preparation, offer in compromise, installment agreements, innocent spouse relief, currently non collectible, penalty & interest abatement, levy & garnishment release, expiration of tax debts and other solutions. VERY IMPORTANT
Make sure the company you are considering working with are highly experienced in all these resolutions.
1. Free consultation.
The company you choose to work with should give you a free consultation.
2. File back taxes.
Make sure the company you work with is very experienced filing back taxes. Some firms focus only on tax resolutions. However, filing back taxes (certain years determined in the investigation) in some cases solves the issue, and in others is requirement for getting a resolution in place.
3. Refund policy on investigation. VERY IMPORTANT
Make sure the company you work with has a refund policy on the investigation phase, in writing in the agreement.
4. Refund policy on resolution. VERY IMPORTANT
Make sure the company you work with has a refund policy on the resolution phase, in writing in the agreement.
5. Tax attorney.
Make sure the company you work with has a tax attorney in the team.
6. Enrolled agent.
Make sure the company you work with has an enrolled agent in the team.
7. Former criminal investigator and tax auditor. VERY IMPORTANT
Make sure the company you work with has a former criminal investigator and tax auditor in the team.
8. EA with 23-years experience working for the IRS. VERY IMPORTANT
Make sure the company you work with has an enrolled agent with at least 20 years experience working for the IRS.
9. EA with 26 years experience as an office specialist with the IRS. VERY IMPORTANT
Make sure the company you work with has an enrolled agent with at least 20 years experience working for the IRS as on office specialist.
10. Certified Public Accountant.
Make sure the company you work with has a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) in the team.
11. Federal taxes.
Make sure the company you work with handles Federal taxes.
Make sure the company you work with handles 50 or more states.
13. State taxes.
Make sure the company you work with handles State taxes.
1. NATP (National Association of Tax Professionals). VERY IMPORTANT
Make sure the company you work with is a member of the National Association of Tax Professionals.
2. ASTP (American Society Of Tax Problem Solvers). VERY IMPORTANT
Make sure the company you work with is a member of the American Society Of Tax Problem Solvers.
3. NSTP (National Society of Tax Professionals). VERY IMPORTANT
Make sure the company you work with is a member of the National Society of Tax Professionals.
To help you save time and ensure you choose the best company, please see the spreadsheet with evaluations based on the above decision criteria. You can also insert an additional column to evaluate the company you are considering.