How to Find the Best Tax Relief Company
A Transparent Guide for Consumers Who Want Help With Tax Issues
If you search online for the best tax relief companies, you will instantly see articles from popular sites such as The Balance, Investopedia, LendEDU, Money.com, SFGate, and CHRON. These reviews typically focus on the same handful of tax relief companies, but are these really the best tax resolution specialists? Not necessarily.
To help you understand why the same companies pop up in all of these articles, this post explores how tax relief reviews work. Then, it looks at best practices for choosing a tax relief company using credible advice from the FTC.
How Tax Relief Company Reviews Work
Typically, websites that post-tax relief reviews receive compensation when readers click links to the reviewed companies. These sites may also receive additional compensation when readers fill out forms, apply for tax relief, or pay for services. As a result, tax relief review sites tend to promote the companies that pay the most per potential client sent to their company.
If you look at the top results for the search query "what are the best tax relief companies," you'll see the same nationwide companies that are listed. Only a tiny handful of other tax relief companies make these lists.
These companies appear on all the lists, so they must be the best, right? Again, not necessarily. These big companies generally are just the easiest to find because they spend a lot of money on marketing and employ a scalable model to maximize profits from each client. Many employ highly trained salespeople to handle the intake and spend lots of money on brand recognition. Many people sign onto their services without even knowing anything about the professional handling their case for them.
Are Tax Relief Company Reviews Legitimate?
All of these websites are straightforward about their review process, but you have to hunt a bit to track down the details. In one section of the website, often on the same page as the tax relief company review, you'll find a statement that explains the company's review process. It may say that the reviews are non-biased and that the writing team researched consumer reviews, company websites, and Better Business Bureau listings to generate the content.
Then, in another section, you'll find an admission that the review site receives compensation for clicks or leads. If you want to check for yourself, just look on these review sites for the “advertiser disclosure” link to read the details. Receiving compensation for clicks does not require these websites to post positive reviews. These sites are paid for clicks and leads, not for the quality of their reviews.
On the one hand, you can rest assured that these websites aren't lying about the companies they're reviewing. But on the other hand, these websites aren't always doing a lot of research. They aren't looking at hundreds of tax relief companies and whittling down to the top 10. Instead, they're probably looking at the biggest 10 to 12 tax relief companies to generate a post that focuses on four to seven companies.
Again, if you hunt around, you'll also find this fact spelled out on the websites. They typically post a statement that says along the lines of "we don't have the time to review all products or services." For instance, in its ratings and methodology section, one main review site states, "Only our partners are included in our Editorial Ratings." When explaining how many companies they review, The Balance puts it bluntly — "we're human, and we can't cover everything."
How Do the "Best" Tax Relief Companies Work?
The tax relief companies that make the lists on these review sites are large companies with big advertising budgets. They employ a large staff to justify a nationwide advertising campaign, while many try to attempt a one size fits all model for people with tax problems.
When you call most of these companies, a non-licensed sales rep answers the phone. This is not a secret. After hiring Alan Thicke (a sitcom TV dad from the 1980s) as its spokesman, the large tax relief company received a deluge of calls that helped the company grow significantly. The company claims to set itself apart from the competition by not using "people who can follow a call script." Instead, the company says it uses "people who are prepared and who care about their customers."
To put it another way, the company still uses un-licensed salespeople. It just claims to give them extra training. But the bottom line is that when you call these companies, you likely don't talk to a certified tax professional. You speak to a salesperson.
In most cases, you will end up signing a contract and committing to a service plan long before you talk to a tax professional. In some cases, you may never talk with a tax professional.
What Is Really the Best Tax Relief Company?
In light of this, what really is the best tax relief company? The fact is, you can't rank the best company overall. All companies have particular specialties. And as a consumer, you don't need the best overall tax relief company. You need the best tax relief company for your specific needs.
Most of the big companies can practice in every state, but their focus is on IRS tax resolution. They often lack state-specific experience, and because every state has slightly different rules and collection processes, this can impair the results for clients. If you are considering one of the larger companies, check to see if they list their tax professionals on their website. Will you know who is working on your case? How many years of experience do they have? Do they have experience with your unique problem?
The truth is that the best tax relief company is probably not a big company that's sinking millions into advertising. The best tax relief company is the group of tax attorneys, Certified Public Accounts (CPAs), or Enrolled Agents (EA) who are doing business right down the street from your house.
The Benefits of Working With a Local Tax Relief Company
Local tax relief specialists spend every day solving tax problems for their clients. They have extensive experience dealing with state tax agencies and the IRS. When you work with these companies, you work directly with a seasoned tax pro who has years of training and education. You don't work with a sales rep.
Most local tax relief companies also charge less than the big companies. When you hire a company, your fee covers their services plus a portion of their overhead. Big companies that employ large sales teams and spend a lot of money on advertising roll those costs into their fees. Local tax relief companies typically have small support teams and negligible advertising budgets, which helps keep their prices reasonable.
Additionally, tax professionals are bound by Circular 230. This document outlines the regulations governing practice before the IRS. It requires that tax professionals have good character, good reputation, the right qualifications, and competency. Non-licensed sales reps are not bound by this document.
Because licensed tax professionals must uphold the ethical standards outlined in Circular 230, their advice is more truthful and accurate than most advice you're likely to receive from a sales rep. But unfortunately, finding a local tax relief specialist can be difficult.
How Do You Find the Best Tax Relief Company Near You?
Local tax relief companies aren't professional marketers like the people who run the big tax relief companies. They spend their time helping clients and staying on top of the tax code. They don't have time to research marketing algorithm changes.
When you do a search for tax relief companies, the search results page will typically show a shortlist of tax relief companies in your area. It will also include paid advertisements from the big tax relief companies and links to review sites. The results will be similar if you search for CPAs or tax attorneys.
You can pick up the phone and start calling these local companies if you like. If they have websites, you can look at their services, and you can also check out their online reviews if they have any. Unfortunately, a lot of local listings are sparse. Again, these tax pros are focused on their core services, not on marketing. That's where TaxCure comes into play.
How TaxCure Can Help You Find Help for Tax Problems
TaxCure features a directory of local tax pros, including CPAs, tax attorneys, and Enrolled Agents. These are the only professionals who can represent you in front of the IRS and state tax agencies.
They have all passed multiple tests to earn their credentials. CPAs take the CPA exam, Enrolled Agents pass a three-part test on tax codes, and tax attorneys complete law school and pass the bar exam in their states. Then, all of these tax pros must complete continuing education credits to keep their licenses active. Sales reps don't have any of this training.
When you search for a tax pro on TaxCure, you can filter your results based on your state tax agency and your unique situation. This ensures that you find a tax pro who has experience with your specific tax problem. In contrast, when you call a big tax relief company, the sales rep will assure you that they can help, even though they don't know who will ultimately be assigned to your case or if they have that particular type of experience.
TaxCure makes it easy for taxpayers to go directly where they can get help. When you search for tax relief services on TaxCure, you get to skip the middle man (aka the sales rep) and access the best services for your unique situation.
How to Find the Best Tax Relief Company
Before going any further, let's address the fact that the tax relief industry has a negative reputation. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has harsh words about this industry. The consumer protection agency calls tax relief companies "fraudsters." It claims that these companies advertise aggressively and make promises they can't keep.
In its review of tax relief companies, the FTC writes, "The truth is that most taxpayers don't qualify for the programs these fraudsters hawk, their companies don't settle the tax liability, 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 great liabilities."
So, what does the FTC recommend if you have tax problems? First, the agency explains that you can attempt to make arrangements with the IRS or state tax agencies on your own. If you want to take a DIY approach to tax resolution, there are extensive guides on TaxCure that show you exactly how to apply for payment plans, offers in compromise, penalty abatement, and more. These guides also have links to the IRS forms you need to apply for these programs.
In many cases, however, tax issues can be too complicated and time-consuming to handle on your own. If you don't want to negotiate with the IRS on your own, the FTC recommends the following:
- Work with a tax professional who can represent you in front of the IRS — this includes CPAs, Enrolled Agents, and tax attorneys.
- Choose a local professional who can provide you with a face-to-face meeting to talk about your options and their fees.
- Be leary about claims that a company can eliminate interest or promises that you will qualify for a program before anyone's looked closely at your tax situation.
- Review the company's refund policy and cancellation fees if you make an upfront payment.
- Report questionable tax resolution practices to the IRS using Form 14157 (Complaint: Tax Return Preparer) or file a complaint with the FTC.
TaxCure makes it easy to follow this advice and get tax relief services that really help by connecting you directly to local tax pros.
Get Help With Tax Resolution Today
Now that you understand how to find the best tax resolution company, it's time to reach out to a local tax pro. Use TaxCure to find a tax pro experienced with your unique situation. Or, to learn more about how TaxCure works, call us at 1 (866) 517-7550 to talk directly with one of our founders.