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Answers from Eric to Frequently Asked Questions
Do I really need a tax lawyer?
It depends. In some cases, a client just needs guidance on how best to handle something themselves and I can help them with a simple consultation and follow up. In other cases, having an experienced tax attorney represent you can save you far more than the costs, particularly when you are being audited, owe a large amount of money, have a potential criminal problem, or if there is the possibility of litigation.
What about a CPA, Enrolled Agent, or Tax Settlement Company?
The primary advantage of being represented by an experienced tax lawyer is the litigation and negotiation skillset they bring to the table. In addition, only a lawyer can represent you in Court. While most issues can be settled without going to Court, the ability to do so if needed is an effective negotiating tool. Communications with your lawyer are also protected by attorney client privilege. Surprisingly, the cost of having a tax lawyer represent you is usually not much more than that charged by other tax professionals.
Should I just have the person who prepared my return handle my audit?
This can be a bad idea for a number of reasons. First, there can be a conflict of interest, particularly if there was an error made on the return. Second, if your preparer's primary business is preparing tax returns, they may not be that experienced handling audits and if things go south and you eventually need a tax lawyer, you may be at a disadvantage. Finally, tax professionals who primarily prepare tax returns tend to be reluctant to antagonize the IRS for fear that more of their clients will be audited.
I paid this company a large fee to help me and they did nothing, what can I do?
Unfortunately I hear this alot, particularly with "tax deal" companies not run by attorneys. If the company is still in business, I may be able to help you recover at least part of what you paid them. In most cases, I am able to do this on a contingency basis.
Do I really need a bankruptcy lawyer?
If you need to file bankruptcy, you really do need a lawyer to represent you. There are many pitfalls and because of how complicated the bankruptcy process is, people trying to represent themselves tend to have a very difficult time and often times find themselves in even worse shape. For Chapter 13 bankruptcies, very few Debtors representing themselves ever even get a plan approved. Given how relatively inexpensive the legal fees are for a bankruptcy attorney, it really is money well spent.
What about a Debt Settlement Company?
I personally have a very low opinion of virtually all "Debt Settlement" Companies. They are not allowed to give legal advice and can do nothing for you if a creditor decides to sue you. I usually can negotiate better settlements for much less cost but I am only going to recommend a settlement if you can settle most if not all of your debts, otherwise you just are throwing good money after bad.
How are you different from other Bankruptcy Lawyers or Bankruptcy Firms?
I have been certified as a bankruptcy specialist and have been practicing law for over twenty years. I also have expertise in tax and real estate and have substantial litigation experience at both the trial court and the appellate level. Unlike most high volume Firms, I personally handle most aspects of the representation, including appearing with you at the 341 meeting.
Why don't you charge by the hour like the other law firms do?
The problem with charging by the hour is that it can create a conflict between the needs of the attorney, the firm they work for and their client. Clients generally want their case handled as quickly and efficiently as possible for the lowest cost. On the other hand, Firms that earn money based on hours billed make more money the longer a case takes and they reward their attorneys accordingly. The flat fee system I use aligns the needs of my client to my profitability; I make more money when I am able to solve my client's problem quickly and efficiently and less money if it drags on.