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Tax relief refers both to government programs aimed at reducing tax problems and to the services offered by tax relief companies, whose specialists have an intimate knowledge of these programs and tax laws in general. It can help individuals reduce or eliminate their outstanding tax problems and negotiate a payment plan with the state.
Government tax relief takes many different forms, including tax deductions (e.g., on home mortgage interest), credits, exclusions, and forgiveness. There are many different deductions and credits available to individuals, depending on their professional, financial, marital, parental, and other statuses.
It can be challenging to navigate these and understand the situations in which they apply, and especially to successfully negotiate a beneficial payment plan, which is where tax relief companies come into play.
Tax relief companies, like those featured in the chart above, comprise tax professionals and lawyers, certified public accountants (CPAs), and former Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employees. Leveraging knowledge, experience, and a close relationship with the IRS, such companies can help individuals apply for tax relief programs and successfully negotiate a payment plan.
There are several different ways tax relief companies can do so. Offers in compromise (in which the IRS re-evaluates and adjusts outstanding problems based on an individual’s financial situation), installment agreements, and penalty abatements are the least extreme forms. At the same time, the Currently Not Collectible status and the IRS Fresh Start program can place a hold on or dramatically reduce tax collection.
When you sign a contract with a tax relief company, you’ll be asked to provide as much information and documentation as possible on your current financial situation. Based on this information, employees of the tax relief company will liaise with the IRS on your behalf to negotiate what they believe is the right plan for your situation.
There are a few different services that may apply to your situation, including:
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In the broadest sense, tax relief companies are typically willing to work with anybody who requests their services. For some individuals, the cost of hiring a tax relief company isn’t worth the money. If your problems are minimal and your fiscal situation straightforward, this is probably the case.
For many others, however, it can be a very worthwhile investment. In fact, in 2019, nearly 14 million taxpayers had unpaid taxes to the IRS, out of 141 million total income tax returns — nearly 10% of the adult population. The total outstanding amount of unpaid taxes, including penalties and interest, was just over $128 billion.
While individuals can apply for tax relief directly from the IRS, claims are often more successful when conducted through a tax relief company, whose employees have experience in negotiating with the IRS. If you owe more than $10,000 in tax problems, it’s a good idea to get advice from a specialist.
There are many different reasons why people fall behind on their taxes, and the penalties and interest can make it hard to get back out. For such persons, tax relief companies can be a valuable and legitimate resource.
The cost of hiring a tax relief company will depend on the complexity of your case, ranging anywhere from $750 to $10,000 or more. Most individuals can expect to pay somewhere between $2,000 and $6,000, although very simple cases of, for example, penalty abatement can be considerably less expensive. Negotiating Offers in compromise tend to be the most expensive service.
Initial consultations are usually free of charge, but there can be subsequent fees associated with studying and building your case, typically between $200 and $800. After signing a contract, pricing usually takes one of three forms: hourly rates; percentage of total tax owed; and flat rates based on a particular service. Pricing structure and total cost can be an important factor in deciding which tax relief company to use, but shouldn’t be the only one (see below).
Unfortunately, tax relief scams are not uncommon.
Avoid companies that ask for payment before consultation, or who ask for a large sum of money before having had the time to properly study your case. Make use of online resources, like Trustpilot and especially the Better Business Bureau to verify the legitimacy of a tax relief company.
Check for qualifications and credentials, and only sign up with Certified Tax Resolution Specialists (CTRS). The CTRS license requires at least one year of work experience to earn, and continuing education to maintain.
Privilege long-standing companies that have been active for at least a few years, and avoid any companies that make “too good to be true” claims. The IRS is a tough negotiator: anybody claiming they can entirely eliminate your problem is generally not to be trusted.
If you have any doubts, it’s recommended not to move forward. When it comes to tax relief and avoiding scams, the old adage holds true: “Better safe than sorry.”
You can apply for tax relief directly to the IRS, but as mentioned above, those who owe more than $10,000 are generally better off contacting a tax relief company.
To do so, you’ll want to get together all your financial documents, as if you were undergoing an audit. The more information you can supply to your tax relief company, the better able they will be to negotiate a strong case on your behalf.
Start by comparing companies, like those listed in the table above, to determine which is better suited to your situation. Many tax relief companies specialize in certain services, which can help you find a good match. Of course, as consultations are typically free, you can meet with more than one company to compare pricing, experience, and success rate.
Tax relief is a legitimate and viable solution for individuals having difficulty managing or reducing their tax problem. While the upfront cost can be significant depending on your situation, tax relief specialists are seasoned negotiators, have intimate knowledge of tax laws, and can greatly improve your chances of reducing and eventually resolving your problems.