Tax Help: Resources for Taxpayers Who Need Help With Tax Problems
If you or your business is dealing with a tax problem, you are not alone, and help is available. This guide explains how to get help with IRS problems. It looks at who can help you, what to expect, and how to get free tax help. To get help, use TaxCure to find a local tax professional with experience with your tax problem.
Jump to the following sections to find the necessary tax help information.
IRS Problems Help: Tax Problems That Require Help
Every year millions of taxpayers face IRS or state tax problems. If you're dealing with any of the following problems, you may need to reach out for professional tax help:
- Penalties — Failure-to-file, failure-to-pay, and other penalties can significantly increase your tax debt.
- Audits — If the IRS audits your personal or business tax returns, you will need to substantiate all of the details reported on your return. This can be complicated. If the IRS assesses additional tax during the audit, you may need help to appeal.
- IRS Notices — The IRS sends Notice CP2000 to taxpayers who have under-reported their tax due, and the agency also sends many other notices that can be confusing and stressful.
- Unpaid taxes — If you can't afford to pay your tax bill in full, a tax professional can help you request payment plans, settlements, or other arrangements. They can also advise you on how to avoid enforced collection actions.
- Tax identity theft — Thieves steal people's identities, file false returns, and claim refunds. You may need tax help if you've been the victim of tax-related identity theft.
- Unfiled returns — If you haven't filed taxes in years, you may be extremely worried about what will happen. Luckily, the IRS has programs to help people with delinquent returns get caught up on their filing.
- Tax liens — If you owe $10,000 or more, the IRS may issue a tax lien against you. State tax agencies also issue liens. Tax liens attach to your assets, making it very difficult to sell or borrow against your assets.
- Tax levy — The next step in the tax collection process, a tax levy, is when the IRS taxes your assets. Reach out for tax help to stop levies and get assets back. Note there is a very, very limited amount of time to reclaim assets after a seizure.
- Wage garnishment — A wage garnishment is when the IRS contacts your employer and has them withhold your tax debt payments from your wages. You need help if the IRS has notified you about a wage garnishment or if a garnishment is causing financial hardship.
These are the most common tax issues that require help, but if you're dealing with any other type of tax issue, keep reading for more details on how to find tax help.
How to Deal With IRS Tax Problems
If you are struggling with state or IRS tax problems, there are a few steps that you can take.
- Identify your tax issue — Are you worried about unfiled returns? Facing a tax bill that you can't afford to pay? Confused about a tax notice? Dealing with collection actions such as liens, levies, or wage garnishments? Once you identify your issue, you're ready to look for help.
- Decide if you need professional help — There are many tax problems you can deal with on your own. For instance, if you can't afford to pay your tax bill in full, you can go to the IRS website, create an account, and request a payment plan. However, if you're dealing with a more complicated issue or don't want to deal with your tax problem on your own, you may want to reach out to a tax professional.
- Search for someone to help with your tax issue — TaxCure can help you search for CPAs, enrolled agents, and tax lawyers based in your area who have the experience you need. Alternatively, you may want to look for free tax help resources or search for tax help using one of the databases linked below.
Examples of Getting Help With Tax Issues
Here is an example of getting help with tax problems. Imagine Taylor receives a notice from the IRS. It says Taylor made a mistake on their return and owes additional money to the IRS. Taylor is confused because they believe that they completed their tax return correctly. Taylor calls the IRS, but after getting frustrated with the long hold times, Taylor reaches out to a tax professional for help.
The tax professional explains the notice to Taylor. Then, they review Taylor's return and find the same mistake that the IRS did. The tax professional contacts the IRS, asks them to remove the penalties on Taylor's account, and helps Taylor set up a payment plan. The tax professional charged Taylor for the services. In return, Taylor got penalties reduced and avoided any enforced collection actions.
Here is another example. Let's say the Tasty Food restaurant receives a notice about delinquent payroll tax returns. The restaurant hasn't filed payroll returns in several years, and the IRS is threatening collection actions if the restaurant doesn't file and pay the taxes.
The owner of Tasty Food contacts a tax professional. The tax professional works with the restaurant owner to gather the information needed to complete the payroll tax returns. Then, the tax professional files the returns and requests penalty abatement on the delinquent returns.
The restaurant owes $30,000 in payroll taxes, but the tax pro knows that the IRS will only accept payments on this large of a balance if the restaurant is no longer operating. So, the tax pro advises the restaurant to make a $6,000 payment. This reduces the payroll tax bill to $24,000. Then, the tax pro helps the restaurant apply for a 24-month payment plan.
The IRS will only accept payments on payroll taxes from businesses that are still in operation if the balance is less than $25,000. The IRS would have denied the request if the restaurant had applied for a payment plan on the entire balance. This is just one small example of how working with a tax professional can help you get the best resolution possible.
How to Find Help for IRS and State Tax Problems
If you are having trouble with your taxes, there are a few different ways to find help. Take a look at these options:
- Contact the IRS directly — Call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 or visit its website at www.irs.gov for more information. This option is best for people who feel confident about dealing with their tax problems or their own or who want to learn more about the tax issue before reaching out for professional help.
- Hire a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or an Enrolled Agent (EA) — These individuals are licensed to represent you in front of the IRS. They have passed extensive tests about tax laws, and they must do continuing education to keep their licenses active.
- Get Help From a Tax Attorney — Tax attorneys are trained to handle complex tax issues. They can provide you with legal advice and representation while dealing with the IRS. They can help with a wide range of tax issues, but in particular, you need help from a tax attorney if you're facing charges of fraud/evasion or appealing a tax issue to the Tax Court.
- Find a Free Tax Help Resource — There are many different ways to get free tax help; if you qualify, this can be a great way to resolve your tax issues without spending any money.
How to Find Tax Help
Several organizations may be able to help you find a professional who can help you with your tax problems. Here are links to organizations that provide directories of tax help professionals.
- National Association of Tax Professionals (NATP) — The NATP has a directory of over 23,000 tax professionals. You can search for tax preparers or tax attorneys in your area. When searching for tax preparers, you can narrow down your search based on pros who have experience with accounting and bookkeeping, business taxes, personal taxes, tax designations, and tax relief.
If you search for a tax attorney, you can narrow down the results to look at business formation, tax attorney, or virtual/remote tax law. Unfortunately, this database of tax pros doesn't let you search based on experience with specific tax resolution services. It also doesn't let you specifically look for CPAs or Enrolled Agents. All tax preparers are lumped together in the results.
- American Bar Association — The American Bar Association has links to state bar associations from around the country. However, this is not necessarily an effective way to find a tax attorney. Some states don't have searchable databases, and others have databases with very restrive search options such as searching by last name.
- American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) — At the time of writing, the AICPA has a notice on its website that it is updating its credential directory. This site offers some information about how to check a CPAs credentials, and it provides links to State Accountancy Boards. However, it does not seem to offer a comprehensive database that allows you to search for a CPA.
- National Association of Enrolled Agents — You can search for enrolled agents in your area using this website. You can also search based on specific services, but test searches indicate no to few results for popular tax relief services in cities with over 500,000 residents. This site may be a decent starting place if you're looking for an enrolled agent, but unfortunately, it doesn't provide a lot of info on agent experience with specific types of tax problems and solutions.
- AARP Tax-Aide Locator — This locator provides information about the AARP's Tax-Aide programs. It is updated during tax season, and it allows you to search for tax help for seniors in your area.
- TaxCure — TaxCure has a directory of CPAs, enrolled agents, and tax attorneys from around the country. The company vets all tax professionals before allowing them to have a profile. At the time of writing, this is the only online directory that lets you search for local tax relief pros.
With the TaxCure search feature, you can look for tax professionals who help experience with your specific tax problem or the solution that you want. You can also narrow down your search to see tax professionals who have experience with your state tax agency.
Who Can Help With Tax Problems?
A lot of people can help with tax problems. If you're dealing with a minor issue, you may be able to get help from a friend, relative, or colleague. In some cases, you can get help from your existing accountant or tax preparer. For more complicated issues, you may need to reach out to a tax professional focused on tax relief. Take a look at some of your options.
Can a CPA Help With Tax Problems?
Yes, a certified public accountant (CPA) can help with tax problems. A CPA can help you file tax returns or negotiate with the IRS. They can also represent you during a tax audit. Additionally, a CPA can provide you with advice and guidance on tax planning and compliance, helping you avoid potential tax problems in the future.
However, it's important to note that CPAs do a wide range of different jobs. Although every CPA studies tax law and passes a CPA exam, they don't all focus on tax debt resolution. Some CPAs don't even do tax returns. When looking for help, make sure that you select a CPA with the right experience.
Can Enrolled Agents Help With Tax Problems?
Enrolled agents are tax professionals who are authorized to represent people in front of the IRS. To become an enrolled agent, you must pass a very detailed three-part test about tax law, or you must work for the IRS for at least five years. Enrolled agents can help you deal with a wide range of tax problems, including unfiled returns, unpaid taxes, liens, levies, etc.
Can Tax Lawyers Help With Tax Problems?
Yes, tax lawyers can help with tax problems. They specialize in the field of tax law, and they can advise and represent individuals and businesses dealing with tax issues. This includes filing back taxes, negotiating payment arrangements with the IRS, dealing with audits, and representing taxpayers in court. A tax lawyer can provide valuable assistance when you need help navigating the complex world of tax law.
Can the AARP Help Me With Tax Problems?
The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) offers a number of resources to help individuals over age 50 with tax problems. AARP's Tax-Aide program provides free tax preparation services to eligible low and moderate-income taxpayers. Tax-Aide volunteers are trained and certified by the IRS.
Can Local IRS Offices Help With Tax Issues?
Local IRS offices can provide help with tax problems. You can use the IRS website to find the closest Taxpayer Assistance Center. Then, you can schedule an appointment to get help.
Note that local IRS offices may have limited availability and may not be able to provide immediate help with tax issues. Additionally, the services available may vary depending on the location and the time of year.
Can I Get Tax Help From a Tax Relief Company?
Some tax relief firms may provide valuable tax help, while others may be less reputable and may not provide the services they claim to offer. Tax relief companies promote the services of EAs, CPAs, and attorneys, but they spend a lot of money on marketing and sales.
Their large marketing budgets help them dominate the tax relief industry, but unfortunately, they often provide subpar services at high prices. When you contact a tax relief firm, you almost always talk with a salesperson who doesn't understand tax laws and isn't bound by any professional ethics.
This industry has been rife with abuse and scandals — many of the worst tax resolution firms were shut down and their owners faced criminal charges. The consumer protection group the FTC advises taxpayers to handle their issues on their own or contact a local tax professional.
When you work with a local tax professional, you get high-quality help from an experienced pro, but in most cases, you also save money. When you contact a big tax relief firm for help, their marketing costs and sales team commission are rolled into your fee. Local pros typically have much smaller marketing budgets and no sales staff, so their prices tend to be much more reasonable. Also, when going to a national tax relief company, you generally cannot pick your tax professional and you case is assigned to a professional that may or may not have experience with your situation. Generally, they are also working on 100 cases at the same time.
Are There Local Resources That Can Help?
Some community organizations and non-profit groups may also offer tax help. For example, many libraries and community centers offer free tax clinics where volunteers help you prepare your tax returns.
How to Get Free Help for Tax Problems
Free tax help is available to people who qualify. Every organization or tax clinic has its own qualification criteria so you may need to reach out directly to see if you qualify. Here are some of the options for getting free tax help:
These clinics provide help to low-income taxpayers and people who speak English as a Second Language (ESL). To get help, your income usually needs to be 250% of the poverty line or less, and the issue must be related to a tax assessment of less than $50,000.
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)
To get tax help from the IRS's Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, you generally need to earn $60,000 or less, have a disability, or have limited English-speaking skills. You can check out the IRS's website to locate a VITA program near you.
Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE)
The IRS's TCE program provides free tax help to people who are over 50 years old. You can search for a TCE site on the IRS's website.
The Taxpayer Advocate Service is an independent division of the IRS. Anyone can qualify for free help through the Taxpayer Advocate Service — there are no age or income restrictions. However, you need the right type of tax problem. There are consequences for contacting the advocates about frivolous concerns.
This service helps taxpayers who can't deal with their tax problems through the IRS's usual channels. In particular, you can contact this group for help if you're dealing with long delays or experiencing economic hardship from a collection action.
Options for Taxpayers Who Need Help
The right option depends on the tax problem that you are having. Here are some of the most common ways that taxpayers resolve their problems with the IRS.
- Payment plans — If you can't afford to pay your personal or business taxes in full, you may want to apply for a payment plan.
- Tax settlements — A settlement is when the IRS agrees to reduce your tax bill. This can apply if you can't afford to pay the tax bill, your spouse is responsible for the tax bill, or forcing you to pay the full bill would be unfair. Tax settlement programs all have different rules, so it's important to work with a tax professional who can steer you to the best program.
- Hardship programs — Proving economic hardship can stop certain collection actions against you. If you truly cannot afford to pay anything, the IRS may agree to mark your account as currently not collectible and temporarily stop the collection process.
- Tax appeals — When you don't agree with a tax assessment or the results of an audit, you have the right to appeal. Appealing tax issues can be complicated, and there are strict deadlines. For best results, you should work with a professional.
- Penalty abatement — Penalties can add up on your account. A tax professional can help you convince the IRS to remove as many penalties as possible for your situation.
- Levy release — If the IRS has issued a levy against your wages, bank accounts, or other assets, you may apply for a release.
Depending on your situation, you may need another solution. When you reach out to a tax professional for help, they'll outline the options for your situation.
When to Get Professional Tax Help
Do you need professional tax help? It depends on the type of problem and its complexity. If you're struggling to deal with the IRS on your own or you're not sure what to do, you should seek professional help. You should also get tax help with audits and legal proceedings.
The tax pros who can help you include certified public accountants (CPAs), tax attorneys, and enrolled agents. These professionals are trained in tax law and can provide valuable help and guidance if you're dealing with tax issues.
To get help with tax problems today, check out one of the free resources above if you qualify or use TaxCure to search for a tax professional. Look for someone who has experience with your tax problem. Then, contact them to talk about their services.
What to Expect When You Get Tax Help
Most tax professionals start with a free consultation. You outline your problem, and they give you an overview of what to expect in terms of timing, pricing, etc. During the initial phone call or in-person meeting, you get to decide if they are the right person for your situation.
At that point, you can call a few other tax professionals to ensure you find the best fit. Or you can jump in with the first professional that you call. Once you choose a tax pro, they will tell you what you need to do next — this may include providing them with copies of tax returns or financial documents. In most cases, you will need to sign a power of attorney form to give the pro the right to talk with the IRS or state tax agency on your behalf.
Don't get stressed out or suffer unnecessary financial damage due to tax problems. Instead, get the help you need today. The sooner you get help with your tax problems, the easier the process will be.