Can-a-California-Tax-Lawyer-Help-Me-with-a-Sales-Use-Tax-Audit-300x200
A sales and use tax audit in California is initiated by the State Board of Equalization (SBE or BOE), and its purpose is to determine whether a business has properly collected sales and use taxes. It will examine if the business has accurately reported gross sales receipts, deductions and business purchases. A sales tax audit will also establish if the business is applying the correct rate of tax on sales of tangible property.

A California tax lawyer will be able to advise you on the types of records you will need to provide at a sales and use tax audit, since the documentation required will vary according to the type of business that is being audited. The records will generally include income statements, tax returns (state and federal), sales tax returns filed with BOE, customer and vendor invoices and resale certificates. Our tax law team can advise you based on your type of business and the nature of the audit exactly what records you will need to produce.

In a sales and use tax audit, your records will be reviewed going back as far as three years, in some cases even longer. One of the factors that can prompt an audit, in fact, is a significant change in figures from one year to the next, so multiple years will be involved in a sales and use tax audit.

Key-Steps-in-Preparing-for-an-IRS-Tax-Audit-300x167
It doesn’t necessarily mean you have done anything wrong, but it still is something every taxpayer should be prepared for: notification of an IRS tax audit. Of course the best approach to preparing for a tax audit would be to ensure that your tax filings don’t warrant any undue attention, but that shouldn’t prevent you from taking every deduction to which you are legally entitled. An audit may simply be based on random selection, but that is very rare. The most prudent assumption is that the IRS believes that there may be errors with your return that need to be addressed. If you’ve been selected for a tax audit, here are some of the important steps to take:

  1. Gather All Your Records – Be sure to have all of the pertinent documentation together in one place that will substantiate any deductions or exemptions you claimed on your returns. Generally, the IRS is happy to receive digital copies of records. If you don’t have all your records duplicates can usually be obtained from financial institutions and vendors, but that takes time. Therefore you should get started as soon as you are notified of the tax audit. If you are in business you should review your bank statements, and compare them to your tax returns to make sure you reported all of your income. You should have tax returns for at least the past three years.
  2. Research – Make use of IRS publications that explain the procedure for audits, your rights as a taxpayer, the appeals process and more. Keep in mind though that IRS publications do not always represent all the nuances of the law, and the IRS is not required to follow its own publications.

What Are the Penalties for Failing to File IRS Tax Returns
Timely filing of IRS tax returns is always preferable to missing deadlines and facing tax return penalties for doing so. Failing to file tax returns leaves you liable for some potentially expensive penalties. Depending on how late, the amount of taxes involved and how many years of returns are delinquent, the consequences can be quite severe.

Here is a look at the penalties for failing to file tax returns:

  • Failure-to-file penalties begin after the April 15 deadline and accrue at a rate of 5% of the amount owed, per month or part of a month up to a maximum of 25%.


When faced with tax problems, managing the debt without destroying your budget can be daunting. Depending on how much you owe, it could take years to get out from under the financial burden. The longer it takes, the more penalties you face, including interest and potential tax liens or levied assets.

Fortunately, the IRS offers several programs to ease that burden and in some cases reduce the total amount you will need to repay. These programs have been augmented to provide greater tax relief as part of an IRS policy change known as the Fresh Start Program.

Offers in Compromise (OIC) 

Can a California Tax Lawyer Help Me with Tax Problems in Other States
Tax laws vary greatly from state to state, and in fact, nine states don’t even charge a state income tax. With such diversity of tax laws, it isn’t feasible for a tax lawyer to be fully versed in the statutes of all the other 41 states. However, federal tax laws apply to all 50 states, and a tax attorney with experience dealing with the IRS may be able to assist you with federal tax problems even if you live or do business in another state.

A California Tax Lawyer for State and Federal Tax Problems

For federal tax problems, it’s important to find an attorney that specializes in tax matters. The United States Tax Court will admit attorneys that are members of the bar in any state or Washington D.C. without requiring an examination. If you have a case before the Tax Court, an attorney from another state can help you if they are admitted to practice before the Tax Court.

Can I Go to Jail for Failure to File Tax Returns
Failure to file tax returns can be classified as tax fraud by the IRS. While that term does manage to make it sound much more serious, failure to file by itself doesn’t often result in jail time.  Still it’s not impossible—just ask Wesley Snipes! Usually though, the government wants taxpayers earning money so it can collect those taxes. Sending non-payers to prison isn’t going to facilitate that.

The federal or California state government would have to be convinced that your failure to file taxes was intentional before considering something as severe as a jail term. Failure to file over many years, coupled with other bad conduct such as hiding assets, for example, could be subject to criminal penalties including imprisonment and/or fines. In lesser cases, you are more likely going to be liable for back taxes and civil penalties, plus interest.

Failure to File Tax Returns and Failure to Pay

What Should I Look for in a California Tax Lawyer
When you need tax help, it only makes sense to look for in-depth experience in all of the tax laws relevant to you and your business. Federal and California state tax laws are constantly changing, and it isn’t easy for the average taxpayer to keep up with all of the changes from one tax year to the next. You need professional guidance from a tax lawyer.

Accountants and tax preparers can handle certain tax matters, but there are some situations where working with a tax attorney has its advantages. The attorney client privilege offers protection for your communications with your attorney. This is particularly important if you are concerned that the IRS may bring a criminal tax case against you.

What to Expect from a California Tax Lawyer 

Can Back Taxes and Penalties Be Negotiated
Back taxes can be financially crippling both to you and your business. If your tax debt is more than you can afford to pay back in a lump sum, or if you think there may be some error on the part of the government in assessing how much you owe, you do have some options at your disposal.

Offer in Compromise to Reduce Back Taxes

One such option is known as the Offer in Compromise, which is an application to reduce your tax liability to less than the full amount you owe, under certain circumstances. Acceptance of an OIC is at the discretion of the IRS and is based on a combination of factors including your ability to pay, income, assets and total expenses. To be eligible to submit an Offer in Compromise, you must be current on all your tax filings and not be in a bankruptcy proceeding.

The Value of Attorney Client Privilege with Your Tax Lawyer
Attorney client privilege is a concept from the law of evidence that protects communications made between a client and his or her attorney. A client can claim this privilege to prevent the attorney from being forced to testify or produce evidence that is protected under this rule. This encourages the client to be forthcoming with all the information the attorney needs to represent the client’s interests.

Communications with accountants and tax preparers may also be privileged, but these privileges are much more limited than the attorney client privilege. There are situations where accountants and tax preparers can be forced to testify as a witness against their own clients.

Attorney Client Privilege Offers the Most Protection

Tax litigation
When faced with a tax controversy between you and the IRS, you may feel like you are at a disadvantage. The IRS has a giant team at its disposal to pursue its case against you. However, you do not need to face tax issues alone. Hiring a tax litigation attorney can give you the expertise you need to fight and win your case as well as protect your rights.

Most tax controversies arise during or after an audit. This can be at the federal level with an IRS agent or with state tax auditors. Unlike tax attorneys that help you plan your business affairs or personal estate, a tax litigation lawyer is there to fight on your behalf when there is a discrepancy. This is a distinct set of skills that not all tax attorneys may have. When faced with owing back taxes, penalties, interest and even criminal charges, you want a tax litigation lawyer on your side.

When to Hire a California Tax Litigation Lawyer