Many or all companies we feature compensate us. Compensation and editorial research influence how products appear on a page. Personal Finance How to Find a Tax Attorney to Help With Tax Debt Updated Dec 05, 2023   |   8-min read Written by Amanda Hankel Written by Amanda Hankel Expertise: Writing, editing, digital publishing Amanda Hankel is a managing editor at LendEDU. She has more than seven years of experience covering various finance-related topics and has worked for more than 15 years overall in writing, editing, and publishing. Learn more about Amanda Hankel Reviewed by Kerry O'Brien, CFP® Reviewed by Kerry O'Brien, CFP® Expertise: Financial planning, retirement planning, tax planning, education planning, small business planning Kerry O'Brien, CFP®, is passionate about financial planning and going beyond the numbers to help people live the life they want. Her mission is to help people gain and maintain optimal financial health—and to support living with overall wellness and intention. Learn more about Kerry O'Brien, CFP® 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. Table of Contents Skip to Section How can a tax attorney help you with tax relief?What to look for when choosing a tax attorney for tax reliefHow to hire a tax attorneyHow much does a tax attorney cost to help me get out of debt?Is hiring a tax attorney worth it? Alternatives to considerFAQ 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’s how they can assist: 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: Verify a license to practice law: Your first checkpoint is confirming the attorney has a license to practice law. This is nonnegotiable. These licenses are issued by the state in which the attorney practices. To verify, you can consult your state’s bar association website, search the attorney’s name, and check their status.Certifications and specializations: Look for advanced degrees such as an LL.M. (Master of Laws), which allows for specialization in taxation, or a CPA (certified public accountant) license. These indicate the attorney not only has general law training but also specializes in tax law.Preparer tax identification number (PTIN): A PTIN is like a badge of authority for tax professionals. This number indicates that the attorney is authorized to prepare federal tax returns. Without it, they can’t legally help you file.Good reviews: People talk, especially when they’ve had a good experience. Scour online reviews or ask for references. This insight can give you a snapshot of what it’s like to work with this attorney. Remember, though, reviews are subjective.No formal complaints: Your final step involves sleuthing. Visit your state’s bar website and search for disciplinary records against the attorney. If you find formal complaints, consider it a red flag. 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. Step 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. Step 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. Step 3: Make a shortlist From your research, pick out three to five potential tax attorneys. This narrows your options without making the process overwhelming. Step 4: Schedule consultations Most tax attorneys offer free first consultations. Use this time to ask questions and gauge the attorney’s expertise. Step 5: Ask key questions During your consultation, these questions can help you gauge the attorney’s qualifications: What is your experience with cases similar to mine?What is your fee structure? Is it hourly, or do you charge a flat fee?Do you have any certifications in tax law?Can you provide references or testimonials? Step 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 rangeHourly rate$200 – $400Flat fee per serviceVariesRetainer feesUsually requiredIndividual case cost$3,500 – $4,500Business 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. OptionsProsConsTax attorneyOnly type of expert that can represent you in court.Can be costlyLow-income tax clinicFree or low-cost; expert adviceLimited services; income restrictionsDIY negotiationNo costs involved; direct controlHigh stakes; complex navigationTax relief firmsPotentially less expensive than an attorneyMay lack legal expertiseConsult a CPAFinancial advice; may be less costly than an attorneyCannot 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 CFP® FAQ 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.