“For the lips of an adulteress drip honey and smoother than oil is her speech.”                                                                               Proverbs 5:3

“The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy.”                                                                                   Proverbs 12:22

My father was a well-respected federal tax attorney. He felt like representing taxpayers was a privilege and their cases should be handled professionally.

Later on large law firms began adding tax lawyers to their practices.  These firms are in the business of selling billable hours and often are unsuccessful advocates. He was most disappointed to see this change in tax law.

After he passed away a sea change occurred. Businesses were created which preyed upon people who were afraid of the IRS. Using toll-free telephone numbers and fancy websites, they promised IRS settlements “for pennies on the dollar”. Several of these companies were closed by state attorneys  general; some were prosecuted and others closed by successful class-action type lawsuits.

The latest fad is for these businesses to send letters to taxpayers who owe money to the IRS and have had a federal tax lien filed against them. These letters are written on stationary that looks just like IRS correspondence, and I mean exactly like IRS correspondence. The letters demand immediate action by calling an 800 number or harsh collection actions will be taken against them. Some of these businesses actually call and threaten taxpayers and may leave a call back number that is answered by someone claiming to be an IRS agent.

Others are more creative. An attorney or accountant advertises on the internet or on billboards that they handle tax cases and can help. Some may even have ex-IRS employees on staff. But the truth is they may be an attorney who can’t make a living as a general practitioner and instead has a sweatshop of assistants filing often times useless IRS forms in unsuccessful efforts to resolve hard tax cases.

Several IRS attorneys have expressed to me their frustration at having to deal with these people who produce meaningless work and then abandon their clients when the case gets difficult.

It is frustrating and disappointing to me to have new clients come to me after falling prey to one of these scams. Often they paid a lot of money for help only to have failed and in the process lost key rights to hearings and redeterminations. Many have had liens or levies imposed and some are abandoned in the middle of court proceedings.

What to do?

Folks, the truth is tax law is very complicated; tax controversy is even more complicated. Good tax lawyers often have two law degrees, a second one just in federal tax law. Most have been interns for at least five years and experienced ones will have several reported Tax Court cases.

No one who needs brain surgery goes to an OB-GYN for help. If you have a tax problem, ask your accountant or attorney who he or she would go to and look on their websites for that second LL.M. law degree and a list of reported cases. If you do, you’ll likely find someone who specializes in the field and is experienced in your issue. That person can often tell you the likely result, when it will likely occur, and the estimated fee for achieving it.

Folks, don’t fall prey to the smooth talking shysters promising unlikely results for an outrageous fee. Do your research and get someone competent the first time.