The complexities of tax laws are often difficult to navigate alone, especially if you’ve fallen behind on your taxes and are facing the ire of the IRS. A Seattle tax attorney acts as a guide and middleman, exploring your legal options and dealing directly with the IRS on your behalf to resolve disputes, arrange payment plans, and appeal aggressive collection actions.
Tax attorneys in Seattle, WA can also help individual clients and business entities organize their finances and plan their taxes to minimize their overall tax burden. They also provide efficient estate planning services to high-net-worth individuals.
If you’re looking for help with your taxes in Washington, a little due diligence will ensure you find the ideal lawyer for your particular financial and legal situation. Here are a few important qualities to look for in any tax attorney you meet.
Specialist Expertise in Resolving IRS Tax Problems
The Internal Revenue Service is often willing to work with taxpayers who have an unpaid tax liability or dispute with an IRS judgment against them. Any attorney worth their salt should offer a broad range of tax relief services whereby they communicate with the IRS on behalf of their clients to achieve the best possible resolution.
Effectively handling IRS disputes and appeals requires a firm understanding of federal tax law and tax court procedures. With most IRS tax issues, you also have a limited amount of time to act before your situation worsens.
Taking action in a timely manner almost always requires a tax attorney with a thorough understanding of tax controversy: the area of legal practice concerning the resolution of tax disputes. A generalist lawyer who also advises clients in family law or personal injury law is unlikely to have sufficient know-how or experience in tax controversy specifically to deal with the IRS effectively and promptly.
A specialist tax controversy lawyer will have plenty of experience helping clients resolve similar IRS tax issues to yours. The following are some of the most common tax resolution services, any of which might be used to resolve your particular IRS problem.
Taxpayers struggling to pay their tax debt can often arrange an installment plan. Setting up a payment plan allows you to get back into the good books of the IRS, pay off your tax debt over a period of months or years, and avoid more extreme IRS collection actions.
Your attorney may be able to negotiate a payment schedule and amount that won’t put too much of a strain on your finances. They can also apply for the payment plan for you, increasing your chance of acceptance to the program.
Falling behind on your federal income tax, or any other kind of tax, results in rapidly accumulating penalties and interest. Tax attorneys can advise clients on which penalty abatements they may be eligible for and also carry out the application on their client’s behalf.
A good tax attorney also assists clients in avoiding and appealing some of the more aggressive collection actions that the Internal Revenue Service may take to retrieve a tax debt. Bank levies are one such tool the IRS has at its disposal.
When the IRS issues a bank levy, they can legally take money directly from your bank account, and your bank will be forced to comply. Upon receiving a Notice of Levy from the IRS, you typically have just 21 days to appeal the levy in tax court, for which it’s wise to immediately hire an experienced tax attorney.
The IRS can also enact wage garnishment, forcing your employer to send some of your income directly to the IRS each month. Likewise, the IRS may garnish up to 15% of your Social Security Benefits. If you receive a letter warning of imminent wage or Social Security Benefits garnishment, an attorney can help you appeal it as long as you act quickly.
If your tax debt is very large, the IRS may claim ownership of your property or assets with a federal tax lien. Administrative appeals to federal claims on a taxpayer’s property must also be carried out quickly. After receiving the Notice of Liens, you typically have 30 days to make an appeal.
Taxpayers who cannot afford to pay their taxes at this time may apply for Currently Not Collectible status. This puts a hold on IRS collection enforcement activities for a period of six months to two years.
Currently Non Collectible status can provide breathing room in which no tax payments are required, and you can focus on improving your finances. An attorney can evaluate your situation and decide whether or not you’d be eligible to apply for Currently Not Collectible status.
Another godsend for many delinquent taxpayers is the IRS Offer in Compromise program, whereby the taxpayer can settle their entire tax debt for a smaller amount than the total taxes they owe. Offers in Compromise are only applicable to certain taxpayers in serious financial hardship. It’s best to speak to an attorney to work out if you’d be a suitable candidate.
If you file joint tax returns, but you weren’t aware of a tax liability owed by your spouse, you may be able to avoid liability for your spouse’s tax debt. If granted, Innocent Spouse Relief releases you from all penalties and collection actions resulting from your spouse’s personal tax problems.
Being audited by the IRS can be a stressful experience, even when all your books are in good order. An experienced tax attorney can help you get through the auditing process safely, interact with the IRS on your behalf, and ensure you know your legal rights during the entire IRS tax audit.
Experience Representing Clients in Tax Court
Tax relief attorneys must have a strong understanding of tax law to effectively defend their clients’ rights against the IRS. While many tax issues may be resolved through the internal IRS appeal and audit process, sometimes an agreement cannot be reached, which is when the skills of the tax attorney are really put to the test.
If no agreement can be reached, your case may be heard in a United States tax court to be decided by a judge and jury.
Finding a Court-Ready Tax Attorney
Experienced tax relief attorneys should be licensed to practice law in these courts and prepared to pursue tax litigation and try your case before a jury if necessary. Some taxpayers may even need legal representation in bankruptcy court if bankruptcy is the only sensible option left open to them.
When you meet prospective lawyers or law firms, ask about their experience trying cases in the United States tax court. Try to find out how far they’ve been required to take civil litigation for previous clients. Also, ask how likely your tax problem is to require an appearance in court.
Expertise in Tax Planning Services
Apart from helping taxpayers deal with IRS disputes and liabilities, lawyers can also help their clients avoid potential IRS problems in the first place with effective tax planning services. With sophisticated tax planning, your attorney should be able to help you minimize your tax obligations within the legal bounds allowed by full tax compliance.
Tax planning is a crucial component of any individual or business’s overall financial planning. But enacting an optimal tax strategy takes an experienced tax professional who fully understands all the relevant tax codes of federal, state, and local tax laws in Seattle, Washington, and the relevant jurisdictions.
A skillful attorney can minimize the risk of an audit and work closely with you when it comes time to file your taxes. They can help with tax returns and offer guidance on any loopholes and deductions you may use to reduce your tax bill.
Such complicated federal tax matters are best tackled under the guidance of an experienced attorney, lest you make a mistake and fall afoul of the IRS. Seasoned lawyers are also proficient at advising clients on other financial matters, such as investments and retirement planning in Seattle, Washington, nationwide, or globally.
Tax Planning for Business Organizations
As convoluted as tax law for individual taxpayers may seem, tax law for businesses is even more labyrinthine to the average businessman today, especially if your business transactions cross international borders. As a result, effective tax planning has never been more important as a core component of corporate governance in all US business organizations.
Corporate tax attorneys should be able to find creative solutions within the bounds of existing tax law to maximize the profits left over from your business income once the IRS has received its share. Successfully navigating the state and local tax law can be just as important to a business, which is why it’s wise to hire an attorney based locally in Seattle, Washington, with local expertise.
Business Activities That Require Tax Planning
With regard to planning taxes for a business, your attorney should be able to offer guidance to taxes in all areas of your business operations. Common areas of business tax planning assistance include payroll taxes, employee benefit plans, executive compensation, and the preparation and filing of tax returns.
You may also need help with tax planning and compliance with regard to mergers, acquisitions, joint ventures, entity formation, contractual matters, private equity, and litigation settlements. And dealing with tax law relating to international business transactions has its own layers of complexity. An attorney in Seattle, Washington can even help with restructuring during business bankruptcy and insolvency.
Business tax law is a huge field of law that requires a great deal of experience on behalf of the attorney to successfully traverse. If you’re in need of sophisticated tax planning for your business in Seattle, Washington, ensure that the lawyer you hire is a seasoned veteran with many similar clients in their recent history.
Tax Exempt Organizations
Some organizations are exempt from paying certain taxes. These include charities, religious entities, some scientific organizations, and literary or educational institutions. For an attorney to help attain tax-exempt status and handle yearly tax returns, they’ll need to know the specific tax law governing such organizations.
Highly Educated in Tax Law
The best and most knowledgeable tax attorneys have received extensive education in tax law and litigation. To find out about this, you can ask each attorney you meet in Seattle, Washington, which law school they attended, and what level of education they attained.
An appropriately qualified tax lawyer should at least have a Juris Doctor, which is a three-year law degree that comes after an initial bachelor’s degree. Once they’ve completed their Juris Doctor, local law graduates need to pass the bar exam to be accepted by the American Bar Association and the Washington State Bar Association to start practicing law in Seattle, Washington.
The very best tax attorneys will also have attained a Master’s in Taxation Law, which lasts for a further two or three years and provides a rigorous level of training in the intricacies of tax law. Attorneys with a Master’s in Taxation Law will usually be the most dedicated and skillful professionals you’ll find in the field.
Up-to-Date Knowledge of Tax Laws
Tax laws undergo never-ending reforms that impact tax payments, tax disputes, and tax strategies on an ongoing basis. Even the local tax laws of Seattle, Washington are subject to continual adjustments.
To keep up with this ever-changing legal landscape, any tax attorney you choose should proactively stay on top of all alterations to federal, state, and local taxes. Otherwise, you run the risk of having a case built for you that’s based on outdated laws. So when you speak to a prospective attorney, ask them about recent changes in tax law and how those changes may have an impact on your tax resolution or planning strategies.
Good Reviews and Reputation Online
Any reputable attorney or law firm with a strong track record should have testimonials from prior clients on their website or available to provide when you meet. Ask any attorney you meet in Seattle, Washington for reviews and references and see how readily they respond.
You can ask for testimonials and references from clients who had similar tax issues to you. If an attorney or law firm doesn’t have any to provide, it’s probably a red flag, unless they’re just starting out and you’re one of their very first clients.
Also, make sure that any lawyer you look into is in good standing with the bar association, which holds attorneys to a high ethical standard and disciplines or disbars attorneys who breach those standards. For attorneys in Seattle, Washington, you could check at the Washington State Bar Association and the American Bar Association.
Excellent Communication Skills
If you find IRS tax matters confusing, you’re not alone. Delving into the intricate world of tax law can be somewhat perplexing for most taxpayers. Your tax attorney should help alleviate your confusion by serving as a guide through the wilderness.
Not only should a good lawyer represent clients in tax court, but they should also help their clients fully understand all the financial and legal matters surrounding their tax issues. This requires strong communication skills.
Good attorneys focus on helping their clients understand the full situation. If you find yourself becoming bewildered while speaking to a prospective attorney, and they’re not taking the time and finding the words to help you understand your tax issues and options clearly, then it may be best to find another lawyer.
The Importance of Understanding Your Federal Income Tax Situation
The legal matters involved in most IRS tax problems have potentially very serious ramifications for your life. You should ideally understand exactly what your options are and why your attorney is recommending that you take certain actions rather than blindly trusting anyone to make decisions for you. Ensuring that you gain this clarity is the responsibility of your attorney.
And if English isn’t your first language, as is the case with many clients in Seattle, Washington, you can look for a lawyer or firm that offers services in your mother tongue. Some of the best attorneys in town will be able to provide tax resolution advice and services in fluent Spanish as well as English.
If you need help with tax planning, estate planning, dealing with tax debt, appealing tax liens, or any other IRS tax issues, contact Seattle Legal Services, PLLC, at 206-536-3152 today. Our experienced tax attorneys protect and defend individuals and businesses in Seattle, Washington from the IRS.