REASONS TO AVOID TAX RELIEF COMPANIES:
(The below is "8 reasons" is as cited by [REAL] tax professionals @ "WATAX" website; And, you can also see on their website the 91 "tax relief" companies SHUT DOWN because of their scam, unethical, illegal, and poor business practices! ! ! )
1.] These SCAM companies charge ridiculous, HIGH fees. If a tax resolution company is going to charge you $3,000 or more for representation, you deserve the red carpet treatment. You should have direct access to your licensed tax professional and/or have the customer service rep who does your up-front analysis to be with you to the end. (If you're interested, we wrote more about what $4,000 of tax resolution should buy you.);
2.] Many tax resolution companies have a tendency to whack you with new fees once you're on board with them, figuring you're more or less locked in. (We wrote more about this phenomenon too, about why reopening fees are problematic.);
3.] They give BAD advice. Plainly and simply, many tax resolution companies will advise you to do the wrong thing;
4.] They give DISHONEST advice (i.e. lying). The oldest trick in the tax resolution sales book is to tell someone that they'll qualify for an Offer in Compromise ("OIC") to settle their tax debt when they clearly do not qualify. It's human nature: people just love to hear that they will settle their debts—just like in the commercials! Shady salespeople love to scratch this itch for profit;
FYI: YOU can file YOUR OWN "OIC" (IRS Form # 656), but it's HIGHLY UNLIKELY you'll get such "compromise" as statistics show the IRS RARELY offer such.
You can file your own "EXTENSION" (IRS Form # 1127 - "Application for Extension of Time for Payment of Tax Due to Undue Hardship"), which is all these SCAM "TAX RELIEF" companies do anyway, charging you fees in EXCESS of $1,000s & $1,000s - with many consumers reporting being SCAMMED / CHARGED upwards of the $4,000-$7,000 ranges).
If you owe back taxes, there are several IRS tax relief programs to help, including the IRS "FRESH START INITIATIVE":
An "Installment Agreement" is generally available to people who can't pay their tax debt in full at one time. The program allows people to make smaller monthly payments until the entire debt is satisfied.
Under its "FRESH START INITIATIVE", the IRS raised the threshold for streamlined installment agreements from $25,000 to $50,000 in tax debt, and the maximum repayment term from five to six years. Taxpayers who owe less than $50,000 may apply online with the IRS and don’t have to complete an IRS "Collection Information Statement" (Form # 433-A, Form # 433-B or Form # 433-F).
An Offer in Compromise ("OIC") lets taxpayers permanently settle their tax debt for less than the amount they owe. The OIC is an important tool to help people in limited circumstances; taxpayers are eligible only after other payment options have been exhausted.
Under its "FRESH START INITIATIVE", the IRS expanded the "OIC" program to cover a larger group of struggling taxpayers. However, the IRS will not accept an offer if it believes the liability can be paid in full as a lump sum or through an installment agreement. The IRS offers guidance on choosing a tax professional for an OIC on its website.
5.] Misstating urgency and scare tactics. Tax resolution sales people and telemarketers harass those with tax liens, they're notorious for telling you that the sky is falling if you don't hire them immediately. "Your case has reached 'Elevated Status!" barks one company to its prospective clients, cold calling tax liens. Tax relief companies will often manipulate your emotions to make the sale. There's no reason to fake urgency. An honest tax professional should lay out all of the options for you without emotion or scare tactics;
6.] Employee turnover. Whether big or small, tax resolution companies are notorious for having high employee turnover. As many of the companies are reliant on "salespeople," employees who can't sell enough cases are fired. Hence, your case keeps getting handed off from representative to representative. In these environments, the institutional memory of your case can deteriorate fairly easily;
7.] Dropping the ball. Keeping your client out of aggressive collection actions like levies and garnishments requires constant vigilance and a very delicate personal touch. Large companies are famous for cases falling into the cracks and subsequently, clients getting nailed with levies from the IRS.
Going out of business. Running an effective tax resolution business requires a unique blend of great customer service with excellent marketing; and
8.] Going out of business. Running an effective tax resolution business requires a unique blend of great customer service with excellent marketing. Take one of those two elements away and you're out of business! Again, see "WATAX" website that lists THE 91 TAX SCAM COMPANIES ALREADY SHUT DOWN!
AS STATED BY THE FTC - - Problems with Tax Relief Companies:
1.] Promise that you will get relief from tax liabilities;
2.] Misrepresent how long it will take to process a debt relief request application; and/or
3.] Omit relevant asset information on financial statements submitted to the IRS.
ALSO STATED BY THE FTC:
"Tax relief companies use the radio, television and the internet to advertise help for taxpayers in distress. If you pay them an upfront fee, which can be thousands of dollars, these companies claim they can reduce or even eliminate your tax debts and stop back-tax collection by applying for legitimate IRS hardship programs. The truth is that most taxpayers don't qualify for the programs these fraudsters hawk, their companies don't settle the tax debt, and in many cases don't even send the necessary paperwork to the IRS requesting participation in the programs that were mentioned. Adding insult to injury, some of these companies don't provide refunds, and leave people even further in debt.
Some taxpayers who filed complaints with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported that, after signing up with some of these companies and paying thousands of dollars in upfront fees, the companies took even more of their money by making unauthorized charges to their credit cards or withdrawals from their bank accounts.
If you owe back taxes and don't know how you're going to pay the debt, the FTC, the nation's consumer protection agency, says don't panic, take a deep breath, and consider your options. If you are having trouble paying bills, it's often better to try to work out a payment plan with the creditor yourself than to pay someone else to negotiate a plan for you. The same is true when you owe money to the IRS or your state comptroller."