Ye shall know them by their fruits. Their appearance and their claims are no proof of their true character.” — Matthew 7:16
The Apostle Matthew definitely wasn’t thinking of IRS tax scammers when he wrote the foregoing, but the observation is relevant to anyone offering a quick and easy fix when it comes to settling up and rendering unto Caesar.
If you owe the IRS money you don’t have and you’re the one about to be rendered, you’re likely wondering where to turn. You may have seen an ad claiming that if you owe the IRS, we can help you settle for pennies on the dollar!”
So much for their appearance and their claims,” but what about their;fruits”? Does the IRS actually remit high tax bills and settle for substantially less than you owe in back taxes? The answer is; sometimes, but rarely.” (According to the IRS, only about one in four taxpayers would qualify for a substantial reduction in their tax bill).
So there’s your first hint in your Professional Tax Relief repertoire to help you distinguish the scammers from the pros: The scammers will feed on your dark desperation with false assurances without evaluating your circumstances. After all, you can’t expect them to start the heavy work on your case without first paying them, right? (The request for immediate payment is your second clue.)
Professional tax relief services can help you navigate the rocks and shoals of our impossibly complex tax code, but here’s where the;true character” part comes in: They will advise you that if you’re seeking an out that involves a substantial reduction in your tax obligation, you must qualify — and the IRS calls the shots on what those qualification criteria are.
The scammers, of course, might help you fill out an Offer in Compromise, which is “an agreement between a taxpayer and the Internal Revenue Service that settles the taxpayer’s tax liabilities for less than the full amount owed.” Unless you’re really impoverished, the application form must be accompanied by a $150 payment. Also, your case has to meet IRS criteria as to (1) doubt of liability, (2) likelihood that the money cannot be collected, and (3) imposition of unfair economic hardship on the taxpayer.
If the IRS disallows your claim, the scammer will no doubt refer you to the fine print in their terms of service that exonerates them from blame. After all, they really tried, even though you are out the money you paid them. Sadly, some scammers don’t even get as far as helping you apply. Some just take your money and do nothing, and the IRS has shut down more than one multimillion-dollar scamming operation.
Finally, after advising you that your case probably does not qualify for a reduction in your tax bill, a professional tax attorney will help you in ways you may not have considered:
- You probably qualify for a reasonable time-payment arrangement that will stop the clock on penalties and clean up your debt in affordable increments.
- Your tax return may not have listed every deduction and credit you were eligible to take. This could reduce or mitigate your tax bill.
- You don’t have to face an intimidating, know-it-all auditor alone. The professional will step up and speak on your behalf and get you the best deal possible.
There are other ways and resources to help you distinguish between the pros of good character and the scammers whose efforts only cost you money. For example, you can go on line and check to see if your local Better Business Bureau has any complaints on file.
Your best defense, of course, is looking at your situation realistically. You may well be eligible for an offer in compromise, but it’s all a function of how your income, assets and future ability to pay match up against what you owe. Go to the IRS page “Offer In Compromise Pre-Qualifier” and fill out the questionnaire and see for yourself.
Whatever your preliminary findings are, stay away from those who promise a quick fix in return for your fast payment. Seek professional help and remember that the foundation of professional behavior is ethics and telling you the truth.