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Personal Finance Tax Relief

How to Find a Tax Attorney to Help With Tax Debt

Tax debt is a serious issue, and the role of a tax attorney extends beyond legal advice. Specializing in tax law, these professionals can negotiate with the IRS and other tax authorities on your behalf. 

In this article, you’ll find comprehensive guidance on how a tax attorney can be instrumental in resolving your tax issues. Learn the steps to take in hiring one, what qualifications to look for, and whether enlisting their services makes financial sense for you.

How can a tax attorney help you with tax relief?

If you’re stuck in a quagmire of tax debt, a tax attorney can be your lifeline. They analyze your financial circumstances and leverage their in-depth understanding of tax codes to work out a solution that benefits you to settle the back taxes you owe. Here are the options they can help you explore:

Tax relief optionWhat it is
Offer in Compromise (OIC)Tax settlement that lets you pay less than you owe
Innocent spouse reliefKeeps you from paying addtl. taxes if your spouse filed erroneous joint returns
Installment planAgreement that breaks up tax debt into monthly payments
Formal disputeAppeals process you can use if you disagree with an IRS decision

Offer in Compromise

An Offer in Compromise (OIC) is a deal you strike with the IRS. It lets you pay less than the full amount you owe based on your ability to pay. A tax attorney can assess your financial situation, help you file the necessary paperwork, and negotiate a favorable term.

Innocent spouse relief

Caught in a tricky situation due to your spouse’s tax misdeeds? Innocent spouse relief could be your ticket out. This provision protects you from being held responsible for your spouse’s tax liability if you had filed jointly. 

A tax attorney can navigate the complex application process, provide needed documentation, and argue your case effectively.

Installment plans to pay tax bills over time

Not everyone can pay off their tax debt immediately. Installment plans allow you to make smaller, manageable payments over a period. Your tax attorney will negotiate these terms for you, ensuring you can afford the payment schedule.

Manage tax disputes

Sometimes, you and the IRS won’t see eye to eye. In such cases, a tax attorney can help you manage disputes related to audits, penalties, or incorrect assessments. They will represent you in court if needed and ensure that your rights are protected throughout the process.

What to look for when choosing a tax attorney for tax relief

Selecting the right tax attorney for your needs is like choosing a surgeon. The stakes are high, and you want the best person for the job.

As you embark on this journey, consider these crucial attributes:

A checklist of the attributes to look for in a qualified tax attorney.

How to hire a tax attorney

Navigating the complex world of tax issues requires a skilled guide. Here’s your step-by-step road map for finding and hiring a tax attorney who can help you resolve those burdensome tax matters:

  1. Identify your needs. Before you dive into your search, pinpoint your specific tax issues. Is it a business or a personal tax problem? Knowing this will help you seek an attorney with the right expertise.
  2. Do preliminary research. Start your hunt online or ask for referrals for lawyers in your region or state. Websites often display credentials and areas of specialization, which can give you a solid initial impression.
  3. Make a shortlist. From your research, pick out three to five potential tax attorneys. This narrows your options without making the process overwhelming.
  4. Schedule consultations. Most tax attorneys offer free first consultations. Use this time to ask questions and gauge the attorney’s expertise.
  5. Ask key questions. During your consultation, clarify your attorney’s fee structure and ask about their experience. What certifications do they hold? How have they handled similar cases in the past? Do they have references or testimonials they can share?
  6. Review and decide. Once you’ve spoken to your shortlisted attorneys, assess the information you’ve gathered. Think about their expertise, your comfort level with them, and their fees. Now, make your informed decision.

How much does a tax attorney cost to help me get out of debt?

The cost of hiring a tax attorney can vary based on experience, geographic location, and the complexity of your case. Here are common ways tax attorneys charge for their services:

  • Hourly rate: Many tax attorneys charge an hourly rate, which can range from $200 to $400. Make sure to ask about the estimated number of hours your case might require.
  • Flat fee per service: Some attorneys may charge a flat fee for specific services. Flat fees can make budgeting easier, but ensure you understand what’s included and what could incur additional costs.
  • Retainer fees: An upfront retainer fee is common, especially for complex cases. This fee is like a down payment against which the attorney bills future costs.

For individual tax resolution, costs can run between $3,500 and $4,500. Business tax resolution may cost you $5,000 to $7,000.

Type of feeCost range
Hourly rate$200 – $400
Flat fee per serviceVaries
Retainer feesUsually required
Individual case cost$3,500 – $4,500
Business case cost$5,000 – $7,000

Understanding the fee structure and estimating your total expenditure will help you make an informed decision about hiring a tax attorney.

Is hiring a tax attorney worth it? Alternatives to consider

You might weigh other options if the cost of a tax attorney seems prohibitive or your tax issues appear straightforward. Here’s a look at several alternatives:

  • Low-income tax clinic (LITC): These clinics serve taxpayers who need legal representation but can’t afford it. The IRS provides a list of LITCs to help you find one near you.
  • DIY negotiation: For uncomplicated cases or small debts, you could consider negotiating with the IRS. This eliminates attorney fees but involves a steep learning curve.
  • Tax relief firms: These companies specialize in resolving tax issues. They often employ enrolled agents or CPAs but rarely tax attorneys. While less expensive, their legal expertise might be limited.
  • Consult a CPA: A CPA can provide financial advice and may help with some tax issues. However, they can’t represent you in a legal matter like a tax attorney can.
Tax attorneyCan represent you in courtCan be costly
Low-income tax clinicExpert advice at reduced rateLimited services
DIY negotiationLowest-cost optionNo professional guidance
Tax relief firmsOften less expensive than attorneyMay lack legal expertise
Consult a CPACan provide financial adviceCannot provide legal representation

The bottom line? If you’re grappling with significant tax debt or complicated issues, the expertise of a tax attorney could prove invaluable.

You may designate a certified public accountant, enrolled agent, or other generally authorized individual to represent you before the IRS, but only a tax attorney may represent you in court.

Kerry O'Brien



Can a tax attorney guarantee tax relief?

No. A tax attorney can improve your chances of favorable outcomes, but they can’t guarantee any specific result.

What’s the difference between a tax attorney and a tax relief firm?

A tax attorney can represent you legally and specializes in tax law. A tax relief firm may employ CPAs or enrolled agents but often lacks the legal expertise a tax attorney offers.

How long does it take to resolve a tax case with an attorney?

The duration varies depending on case complexity but could range from weeks to years.

Can a tax attorney represent me in court?

Yes, a tax attorney is legally qualified to represent you in federal or state tax court.

Is attorney-client privilege applicable in tax cases?

Yes, communications between you and your tax attorney are generally protected by attorney-client privilege.

What’s the first step after hiring a tax attorney?

Usually, the attorney will start by obtaining power of attorney, allowing them to speak to the IRS on your behalf.

Can a tax attorney help with state taxes as well as federal?

Certainly, a tax attorney can navigate both state and federal tax landscapes. They are licensed by the state to practice law, which includes handling state-specific tax issues.