Whether you are a business or individual taxpayer in need of tax-related legal help, tax lawyers can help. But not every lawyer can prove beneficial for your case.
Tax lawyers can assist with understanding tax law and resolve tax liens, back taxes, tax debt recovery and relief, and IRS compliance issues.
Do You Need a Tax Lawyer?
A tax attorney specializes in working with taxpayers to solve their problems with the state revenue department or IRS. A tax attorney can help a taxpayer in trouble make it through an audit, have fines reduced, liens removed, and can navigate through the minefield of small business and self-employment tax issues. In fact, they generally focus only on tax issues and relief.
U.S. tax law is not only labyrinthine in structure, it also changes nearly every year. Thus, a good tax attorney will keep up with the latest changes and can advise clients accordingly. A tax attorney may also be helpful when setting up trust funds, stock portfolios and the like, so a taxpayer does not run into unexpected surprises.
Not Every Tax Lawyer will be Right for You
You must be sure that your philosophy of how to handle your tax case matches that of your lawyers; both of you need to be on the same page. It is important that you ask questions and gather information which reveals the lawyer’s philosophy for handling cases.
Selecting the right tax lawyer for your case will help you get through legal problems with the least amount of time, stress and money.
Research Your Tax Lawyer
Once you have selected a tax lawyer to meet with, the next thing you should do is look into that lawyer’s experience and background. There are several ways to do this:
1. Search the Internet: Do a Google search on your lawyer. Look for a legal blog, a website, news stories quoting or featuring the lawyer, and other online information. Ideally, your lawyer should devote almost all of his or her practice to the tax matter you are willing to solve.
2. Contact the State Office of Court Administration: This office can tell you when the lawyer was admitted to practice law, where he or she went to school and when he or she graduated, and whether the lawyer is in good standing or has a record of disciplinary actions.
3. Ask Around: You should ask your circle of friends and professional advisers (accountants, lawyers, even some of their past or existing clients, etc) what they know about the lawyer, or if they know someone who does know about the lawyer.
Contacting the Tax Lawyer’s Office and Scheduling Your Initial Consultation
Now that you have selected a tax lawyer to interview and have done research on him or her, the next step is to contact the lawyer’s office and schedule an appointment. You can learn a lot about how your lawyer will behave if you retain him or her just by how he or she handles the simple but important task of scheduling a meeting with you as a potential new client.
Contact the tax lawyer’s office by telephone or e-mail and request an appointment. When you do this, it is important to tell the lawyer’s office that you would like to discuss a specific type of tax case. Take careful note of how quickly your message is answered. Your inquiry should always be answered promptly. If the lawyer you contacted cannot manage to reply to a potential new client who is bringing him or her a new case and therefore new fees, that fact should tell you something about how he or she will behave once he or she already has your money.
Also, pay close attention to who you deal with in setting the appointment and how you are treated. Most good tax lawyers rely on an assistant to schedule their appointments, and that person is very often responsible for much of the day to day communications and interactions with you once you hire your lawyer. If you are not comfortable with the assistant who sets your appointment, it is a sign that the lawyer may not be right for you and your tax case.
Finally, you should ask about the cost of the initial consultation. Evaluate the response you get to these questions. Was the response clear and unequivocal?
Visiting the Tax Lawyer’s Office; What You See & Hear is What You Get
The experience of meeting your tax lawyer at his or her office is critical to determining whether this lawyer is a good fit for you and your special case. An lawyer’s office is, in effect, his or her professional home. And the rules that apply to a lawyer’s professional home are the same as those that apply to your own home. So, you should pay careful attention to what you see and hear in your lawyer’s office.
1. Visit during normal business hours. Set up your appointment during normal hours when the rest of the staff is present. Why? Because you want to meet the staff and see just how well they take care of clients.
2. Is the office neat and clean? This tells you something about how organized and focused the tax lawyer is. If the office is a mess and there are papers and files everywhere, imagine how that will affect the lawyer’s ability to find your file and deal with your case at critical moments.
3. How does the lawyer and his or her employees behave towards you and each other? It is important to observe how the tax lawyer’s staff treats you and each other during your visit. What you see when you are there is likely to be their best behavior. If you are not well taken care of during your visit or you observe inappropriate behavior during your visit, you can be certain this conduct will get worse once you are a client of the firm and the lawyer has your money in hand.
Interviewing your Tax Lawyer; 8 Questions You should Ask
Preparing for your interview with your tax lawyer will help you make a better and more informed decision. You should organize discussion topics prior to meeting and bring with you any relevant paperwork. Your tax lawyer may need some of the documents you bring with you so be prepared and retain copies for your own records. If you can, you should write down dates and times of events, the names and addresses of any witnesses and any other important facts.
You should try to understand that tax lawyers have professional and ethical commitments to all of their other clients, so you should expect your interview to last about 30-45 minutes on average.
At some point during the meeting, you should be able to ask questions about your case. You should try and write down as many of your questions as you can before the meeting so that you make sure you remember to ask them.
The 8 questions you should ask in the interview with your employee rights lawyer:
1. How much experience do you have with tax cases like mine?
2. How much of your practice is devoted to the type of law I need help with?
3. What other types of tax cases do you handle?
4. How do you communicate with clients? Do you prefer e-mail, text message or telephone?
5. How quickly do you answer calls and other communications from clients?
6. How much will your services cost me? What is your retainer fee?
7. Do you bill for normal business ‘overhead’ such as faxes, postage, and photocopies?
8. How long does an tax case like mine usually take if there are no unusual developments?
Deciding which Employees right Lawyer is Right for You
While you are interviewing a tax lawyer, you should listen carefully to the answers provided. You should also pay extremely close attention to your lawyer’s personality, his or her manners and behavior, and how you feel during the interview.
How does the lawyer make you feel? Comfortable? At ease? Are you treated as an equal and with respect? Or do you feel like the tax lawyer has a superior attitude and talks down to you? Has the lawyer spent meaningful time with you and provided answers to your questions and concerns in a friendly and appropriate manner?
How you feel about your tax lawyer and how he or she behaves towards you will have an affect on your ability to trust and communicate effectively with that person over emotional and highly personal matters. Once the interview is over and you have time to reflect, assess the strengths and weaknesses of the candidate. Did the tax lawyer listen to you? Did the lawyer provide enough information to make you feel comfortable that they know the law and procedure? Did you feel confident?
Once you have gone through all of these steps, you now have the information and experiences necessary to decide which tax lawyer best suits your needs.