Do I Need a Tax Attorney?

Finding the right practitioner to help you navigate the IRS when you have a tax problem can be a huge challenge! Let’s talk about the critical factors to consider.

Updated February 12, 2022 | 5 Min Read

When we find ourselves at odds with the government our first thought might understandbly go to needing an attorney, but is that the right answer?

In this article we will discuss:

Who can represent before the IRS?

In the case of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) there are actually 3 groups of professionals that can assist you in resolving your issues. The 3 groups are IRS Enrolled Agents (EA), Certified Public Accountants (CPA), and of course Tax Attorneys.

What to look for in a representative

Just because a professional has the legal ability to represent you before the IRS does not mean that they have chosen to specialize in this area of practice. IRS representation is a specialty niche within tax, accounting, and law.

You might be familiar with the different types of attorney specializations such as real estate, criminal, or bankruptcy. The same is true for CPAs and EAs – They can specialize in corporate accounting functions like CFO services, comptrollers or public accounting such as tax preparation and bookkeeping, IRS Representation and more.

The important thing to note is that one professional is not automatically more qualified than another based on professional designation alone. When choosing a professional its critical to make sure they specialize in, and have experience in, IRS Representation.

These professionals will take extra steps to make sure they stay up to date with the latest developments and procedures at the IRS. They will be members of relevant associations such as the American Society of Tax Problems Solvers.

They will take continuing education courses in IRS representation. They will also invest in industry specific software that will help them obtain information faster and analyze cases more efficiently.

When do I need a tax attorney?

There are several circumstances when you may need a tax attorney. Most matters do not delve into the legal realm, but some circumstances warrant a Tax Attorney to take the case.

Tax Court

If you are looking at a Letter from the IRS showing audit changes that you do not agree with, there may be a 90 Day window to request your case goes to tax court. Generally, before any case goes to tax court the IRS appeals will try to resolve the matters. This is an area where any IRS Representative can help because the case is still in the jurisdiction of the IRS. Sometimes if the issues are based in differences in accounting calculations and deductibility an EA or CPA will be able to help you at this level. If the issues are more related to law and the premise behind the taxation of the income, a Tax Attorney may have a better background for your case. However, if the issues cannot be resolved at the appeals level, only people admitted to represent before the court, such as approved Tax Attorneys or United States Tax Court Practitioners (USTCP) can assist you in front of the court, unless you chose to go pro se (represent yourself).

Criminal Cases

If you believe there is any chance the IRS may look at your case on a criminal level it may be a better option to hire an Attorney from the start. With a Tax Attorney you have “Attorney Client Privilege”. This means that the IRS cannot compel your attorney to expose any confessed wrong doings to the government. With a CPA or EA, you can request that information is privileged, but if the case goes criminal and they are brought up to testify, that privilege does not protect you from the confessed wrong doings you told them about.

Now, as a general rule, just because you accidentally forgot a W-2, picked up an expense for the wrong tax year, or miscalculated your home office deduction – that is not reason to be alarmed of a criminal case. Criminal cases come in different forms but if you knowingly claimed false withholdings, hid income sources, or are engaged in illegal income producing activities, you will need an Attorney. Anything you tell a non-attorney tax professional can be brought up in court. Even if your attorney does not have a strong accounting background, they can bring in an accountant to help with a Kovel letter.

What is a Kovel Letter?

A Kovel Letter allows an attorney to hire a CPA or EA to assist with the accounting side of a criminal matter. The Kovel Letter can extend the “attorney client privilege” to the matters you discuss with the accountant. So, the CPA or EA can be involved with the records for challenging tax matters but can keep the confidentiality in the findings they discuss with the Tax Attorney.

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Do I Need a Tax Attorney?

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On a similar note...

I got a letter from the IRS – Now What?

IRS Fresh Start Program

Do I Need a Tax Attorney?

You don't have to do this on your own.

We've worked hard to create a network of the best IRS tax relief experts in the country! Each one has been fully vetted and have met our rigorous experience, education, and training standards.

Your first step to IRS tax relief is to click the button below and fill out our tax relief evaluation. After you finish you will be able to set up a 100% free consultation with a licensed tax pro in our network. You have absolutely nothing to lose, and worst case you'll gain insight into your options!