by Dason Jocko
With all of the rules and codes governing income tax filing, it's easy to get
overwhelmed. That's why so many Americans hire a tax professional to guide them
through tax preparation and tax resolution situations. But there are several
different categories of tax consultants out there, and while they share some
service offerings, they differ in key ways. When you need tax help, consider
both what you need and what you're able to pay to help you choose between a tax
attorney, an accountant, and an enrolled agent.
A tax attorney is a lawyer who specializes in tax law.
That means he or she is deeply familiar with federal, state, and local tax codes
and can guide you through the nuances of tax law during an IRS audit, tax
settlement negotiation, or other tax resolution proceedings. A tax attorney can
represent you in dealings with the IRS, as well as in a court of law.
Additionally, when you're working with a tax attorney you have the benefit of
attorney/client privilege; what you discuss with your tax attorney is completely
confidential. If you suspect that your tax problems will lead to legal issues or
you need legal advice, a tax attorney might be your best bet.
Certified Public Accountants
A CPA has been trained and certified to
assist you financially. CPAs who specialize in tax help will not only understand
tax codes inside and out, but can also go through your financial records looking
for calculation errors and represent you in dealings with the IRS. While most
tax attorneys don't help with return preparation and filing, an accountant can
assist in this capacity. A CPA can also offer tax resolution services, though he
or she cannot represent you in a court of law.
Additionally, a CPA may be able to provide money management advice, help
you budget for payments and future purchases, and assist you with other
financial planning matters.
An enrolled agent has been trained and certified by
the Internal Revenue Service to help taxpayers. Many enrolled agents are former
IRS employees, though non-employees can also complete the training and
examination to become enrolled agents. An enrolled agent can help you file your
return, represent you during an IRS audit (but not in court), and negotiate
resolution strategies. However, you wouldn't go to an enrolled agent for
financial planning advice or legal counsel.
Obviously, there's a lot of overlap between these tax consultants, and one
other factor that will play a large role in who you choose for help is your
budget. The more specified the expertise the professional has, the higher his or
her fee may rise. Thus, the services of a tax attorney will often cost much more
than the services of an enrolled agent. If your dealings with the IRS are
straightforward and you don't need money management help or attorney/client
privilege, an enrolled agent should be able to provide the assistance you need.
In every tax relief scenario, evaluate the actual tax services you need and how
much you're prepared to spend before making a final decision.
About the Author
Dason Jocko is a senior Internet marketing
strategist for Prospect Genius, a leader in local online advertising. He writes
about money matters.
Labels: tax attorney