Tax Attorney Free Consultations: What to Expect, Questions to Ask, Red Flags, and More
If you've been looking for a tax attorney for a while, you may have noticed that many of them offer free consultations. Their blogs often end with "contact us now for a free consultation, and we'll help you solve your tax problem," and they usually have spots on their websites where you can request a free consultation.
What does this mean? Why are attorneys giving away consultations for free? Should you schedule a free consultation with a tax attorney? Well, you should strongly consider it, as a free consultation can be a very useful tool when you're trying to hire a tax attorney. Here's what you need to know.
What Is a Tax Attorney Free Consultation?
A free consultation is a short meeting, usually on the phone, with a representative from the tax attorney's office. You give them a synopsis of your tax problem, and they tell you how they can help.
This meeting gives you a chance to decide if the tax pro has the experience you need and feels like a good fit for you personally. The consultation also gives the tax pro a chance to make sure that they can handle your problem.
How to Prepare for a Free Consultation
You generally don't need detailed documents for a free consult, but to make the most of this time, you should have the following essentials:
- Type of tax related to the problem (personal income tax, corporate income tax, payroll tax, sales tax, state withholding tax, etc.)
- A brief description of the problem (for example, unpaid taxes, unfiled returns, audit, etc.)
- Tax agency you owe (state or IRS)
- The amount of tax debt you owe
- List of tax periods for which you have unfiled returns
- How much you can afford to pay every month
- A general overview of your assets
Once you provide a few basic details, the firm can give you an idea of how they can help. Be very suspicious of tax relief firms that offer big promises without knowing about your situation. For instance, if the rep promises that they can get you a settlement but they didn't ask about your income or assets, that's a big red flag that they may not be offering legitimate tax relief services.
What to Expect During a Free Consultation With a Tax Attorney
When you call the tax attorney for the first time, be prepared for the consultation. It will often take place during that initial phone call. If you want some time to prepare, find a tax attorney near you and schedule a free consultation in the near future.
With a very small firm, you may talk directly to the attorney handling your case, but in most cases, the free consultation will be with a sales rep or a supporting team member at the firm.
During the consultation, you will explain your tax problem. For instance, you may say that you haven't filed tax returns in the last 10 years, you owe $100,000 in tax debt, or you've been assessed a penalty for not paying payroll taxes. Then, the rep will tell you if they can help, and they'll give you an outline of what to expect in terms of cost and resolution options.
In some cases, a tax attorney may tell you that they cannot help. For instance, say that you have a problem related to not disclosing foreign assets on your tax return, but the attorney focuses on business tax issues. They may refer you to another tax attorney. Or if your problem is too small to justify their fees, they may advise that you handle the problem on your own or talk with your usual tax preparer.
Questions to Ask During an IRS Lawyer Free Consultation
Free consultations are pretty short, so you should be armed with the right questions. Here's what you should ask in your search to find a great tax lawyer:
- Who will be working on my case? Only enrolled agents, CPAs, and tax attorneys can represent you in front of the IRS. Make sure that you know who's working your case. You want an experienced in-house pro, and you definitely want to avoid companies who are selling your case to another law firm.
- Who will be my point of contact? Ideally, you want the tax pro handling your case to be your primary contact, and in situations where that's not possible, you want a dedicated contact so that you can reach the company easily when you have concerns or questions.
- Does your firm have experience with this type of tax problem? There are many different tax problems, and you need to ensure that the tax attorney you hire has experience with that specific type of problem. This includes experience with the type of tax, the return you filed, the penalties involved, the tax agency (IRS or state agency), etc.
- Can you share any success stories? The rep should be able to point you to case studies or consumer reviews on their website or other sites, or they should be able to provide you with references.
- How do your fees work? The tax attorney may not be able to provide an exact estimate, but they should have a clear answer about how their fees work so that you know what to expect.
Learning About Costs During a Free Consultation
During the free consultation, you should ask how much the services cost. But don't necessarily expect to get an exact price. Tax pros cannot always predict exact costs because there are so many different elements that can affect how a case plays out. However, they should be able to clearly explain their pricing structure and payment processes.
For example, some attorneys may charge an upfront fee to look at your case, and then, they may charge hourly. Others may charge based on the forms that they file. There are a lot of different pricing structures that are all completely valid and ethical. The important thing is that the pricing is transparent and you understand what you are paying for.
Red Flags You're Talking to the Wrong Tax Attorney
Now, you know what to expect during your free consultation, but how can you tell if it's a good fit? How do you tell if you're talking to a legitimate tax pro who can really help you or a greedy company that just wants your money? Keep an eye out for these red flags:
- Aggressive sales tactics — Quality tax attorneys don't need to use aggressive sales tactics because they provide useful services that people want. Unscrupulous tax relief firms, in contrast, often use aggressive tactics to lock in customers. This may include overpromising about the services they provide, using scare tactics (the IRS is going to take your assets if you don't take action today), or strong-arming people into making large upfront payments they don't understand.
- Lack of experience — You need someone who's experienced with your specific tax problem. The experience becomes especially important when you're dealing with complex cases such as business tax audits, penalties related to not disclosing foreign assets, trust fund recovery penalties, state tax problems, or other unique situations.
- Vague answers — Even when you're dealing with a complex issue, the tax attorney should be able to outline what they're going to do to help you. If their answers or vague or you don't understand what's going on, that's often a red flag.
Free Vs. Paid Consultations
In general, a free consultation covers an overview of your tax problem, while a paid consultation takes an in-depth look at the issue. During the free consultation, the tax pro will ask how much you owe and get a general overview of your finances. During a paid consult, they will look at tax forms you've filed and collect detailed information about your finances.
A free consultation gives you a feel for the tax firm. It helps you decide if you want to hire them. If you have a simple problem, the lawyer will often be able to tell you which services you need during the call.
But with complex cases, the attorney can often only give you a brief overview of what to expect during a free consult. Then, they'll schedule a paid consultation where they'll dig into the details and figure out a path forward. You will pay for this meeting, but you won't be obligated to pay for the rest of the services unless you decide to move forward after the consultation.
Keep in mind that free consults aren't always with the tax attorney. Often, they are with an administrative employee, a sales rep, a paralegal, or another pro at the firm. Paid consults should always be with an attorney.
Some attorneys don't offer free consultations. Instead, they start with a paid consultation. In either case, just make sure you understand their process.
FAQs About Free Consultations
We've rounded up some FAQs about free consultations with tax attorneys.
Why do tax attorneys offer free consultations?
Free consultations lower the barriers for people to contact attorneys. If someone has to pay to talk with a firm, they are a lot less likely to call. This strategy helps law firms bring in more clients.
Additionally, the free consultation is also helpful for the attorney. It gives them a chance to ensure that they are a good fit for the client's needs. For instance, if a tax attorney doesn't have expertise with a certain tax problem, they can refer the client to a different attorney.
Can an attorney fix my tax problem during the free consultation?
A free consultation doesn't mean that you can call an attorney, tell them about your problem, and get free advice on how to fix it. Instead, the consultation provides you with an overview of the process. During the meeting, the rep may tell you about some of the options to fix your tax problem or outline how their services work. They aren't going to give you a blueprint that you can take home and use to fix your own tax problem.
Why don't all tax attorneys offer free consultations?
Free consultations take time and resources. That costs money for attorneys. Some tax attorneys have very successful practices, and they don't need to use free consultations to draw in clients. Instead, they rely on their reputation and experience. They only work with clients who are willing to pay for their services from the word go.
Should you start with a free or paid consult?
If you are still trying to decide if a firm is right for you, start with a free consultation. If you've already picked a firm and feel confident about their offerings, you can dive into a paid consult.
Is not offering a free consultation a red flag of a bad attorney?
Not all tax attorneys offer free consultations, and it's not a red flag. It just means that's how they've structured their pricing. If you're uncomfortable with that, just look for an attorney near you who offers a free consultation.
Ultimately, a free consultation with a tax attorney is a tool that gives you a chance to see if you are a good fit. And because the meeting is free, you can schedule meetings with multiple pros until you find the right one.
How to Find a Tax Attorney near Me for a Free Consultation
Want help finding the right tax attorney? Then, use TaxCure to search for tax pros who have experience with your tax problem. Once you've found a list of options, look at their credentials, read their reviews, and see who offers a free consultation. Then, give them a shout and see if they feel like the right fit for you. For a list of tax attorneys near you that offer a free consultation, you can navigate to this search result for free tax attorney consultations.
You can also search for CPAs and enrolled agents on TaxCure. Many of these tax professionals also offer free consultations. You can also search for pros that have industry-level certifications focused on tax resolution, such as Certified Tax Representation Consultants and Certified Tax Resolution specialists.