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
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
Tax laws change regularly, and are a challenge to adequately decipher under the best of circumstances. Even with the requisite due diligence and the help of a CPA, you may find yourself the recipient of a letter from the IRS “inviting you to an audit.” If you’ve been audited by the IRS and disagree with their findings, all is not lost.
Your rights as a U.S. taxpayer include the right to contest an IRS bill which you feel is inaccurate or unfair by filing an appeal. The key to gaining a satisfactory result from an appeal is strict adherence to each step of the process. Guidelines and deadlines must be closely followed.
How it Works
Periodically, the Brager Tax Law Group surveys tax preparers and/or taxpayers on a variety of issues. Our most recent survey targeted tax preparers and their interaction with the IRS in a number of areas, including disclosure programs, FBARs and marijuana businesses.
The survey contained several quantitative questions with a scale from 1 to 5 with 1 as poor and 5 as excellent. The lowest scoring statement was respondents’ experience in getting a response from the IRS within a few business days, which scored only 1.96. The highest score was on respondents’ experience in participating in the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program, which scored 3.20. Overall interactions with the IRS scored 2.79.
No survey respondents have been contacted by the IRS subsequent to filing amended returns as part of the Offshore Streamlined Procedure submissions.
Are you behind in filing your tax return? If you have not filed a tax return for one or more years, you could be facing some steep penalties and interest on your past due tax returns and payments. Penalties for failure to file and interest on back taxes can quickly becoming a large financial burden. Consider this information from our IRS tax specialists at Brager Tax Law Group to limit your penalties for failure to file and reduce your debt to the IRS.
IRS Tax Penalty for Failure to File
First of all, if you do not owe taxes, failing to file by the deadline is not penalized by the IRS. It is only when you owe taxes and do not file a return by the deadline that you can be penalized. The standard IRS penalty for failure to file is charged at the rate of 5% per month up to 25%. However, if fraud is involved, the penalty can be significantly higher at 15% per month up to 75% of the taxes owed.
When you are notified that you have been chosen for a tax return audit, you may not be sure what to do next. How do you prepare for an intense inspection of your tax documents and ensure you can answer any questions the tax auditor may have? Hiring a tax attorney can be the best way to prepare for this in depth look at your tax situation. Here are a few benefits of having an experienced tax that understands all aspects of the tax law on your side.
Tax Attorneys Versus CPAs
Your first thought may be to hire an accountant or CPA to help you prepare for a tax return audit. While an accountant may understand the tax code, they may not be educated in defending clients in an audit situation. A tax attorney has not only the tax knowledge needed to help you prepare for the audit, they can also help negotiate on your behalf during the audit and defend you if necessary in subsequent litigation. You have someone on your side that can interpret the law in your best interest and protect your assets and freedom if there are any issues uncovered during the audit.
Your tax return must include all your income, whether or not it was earned on U.S. soil. Income earned in a foreign country is taxable by the IRS and must be claimed on your tax return. It may also be taxed by the country where it is earned, causing a double taxation situation. However, you may be able to deduct the tax that you pay to another country. But this can be tricky. Number one, it must be considered deductible by the IRS, which can depend on the country where you are living. Secondly, you must be able to prove you paid the taxes – this can be difficult due to the difference in tax years, and documentation available in various countries.
The Taxpayer Advocate is a tireless champion of taxpayer rights. The Taxpayer Advocate is required by law to issue reports to Congress. Her most recent mid-year report was recently released. One of her issues was that the IRS continues to levy on retirement accounts even though the IRS guidance to its revenue officers is “insufficient to protect taxpayer rights.” As her report points out, the IRS has identified three steps which MUST be taken before a Notice of Intent to Levy can be issued on a retirement account such as IRA Qualified Pension, Profit Sharing, and Stock Bonus Plans under ERISA, and Retirement Plans for the Self-Employed (such as SEP-IRAs and Keogh Plans). These steps are:
- Determine what property (retirement assets and non-retirement assets) is available to collect the liability;
- Determine whether the taxpayer’s conduct has been flagrant; and
Our tax attorneys have had many clients with Superannuation accounts in Australia. For those of you not familiar with Superannuation accounts, these are the Australian version of our tax-favored retirement plans. These Superannuation accounts, sometimes referred to as Supers, can be very problematic for immigrants from Australia to the U.S., because they may or may not be subject to taxation in the U.S. The ownership of a Super may trigger the requirement to file an FBAR (Foreign Bank Account Report, FinCEN Form 114, formerly TDF 90-22.1) and/or Form 8938, Form 3520 or Form 3520-A. The proper treatment of a Super under U.S. tax law has been the subject of many articles on the internet and confusion abounds. Part of this confusion is because there are different types of Supers and, depending upon the facts and circumstances, the U.S. tax treatment may differ.
Over a year ago, one of our tax lawyers had a conversation with the IRS’ Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP) hotline to ask about the treatment of a Super. We were told that no Form 3520 was required. The person we spoke to was obviously reading from a script and, of course, we asked for a copy. Just as predictably, we were told that it was an “internal document,” and, therefore, we couldn’t get it. This led our tax lawyers to file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Request in early April 2015, which was received by the IRS, appropriately enough, on April 15th. The substance of the request was as follows:
Please provide all documents, including internal guidance materials and training materials, that have not previously been published in the Internal Revenue Manual or on the IRS’ website (including but not limited to memoranda, staff manuals, Powerpoint presentations, videos and any other materials) concerning or related to the IRS’ treatment of Australian superannuation accounts (aka “ASAs”) or other non-U.S. deferred compensation arrangements or employee trusts (but not including Canadian arrangements or trusts) for purposes of United States taxation and information return filing under the Internal Revenue Code (26 U.S.C. §1, et seq.), the Bank Secrecy Act (31 U.S.C. §15, et seq.), the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (aka the “OVDP”), the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Initiative (aka the “OVDI”), the Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures (aka the “SFCP”) and/or Transitional Treatment under OVDP/I, including any such documents used by or available to IRS personnel working at the IRS’ Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Civil Hotline at (267) 941-0020.