Despite the fear that a tax liability invokes, it is possible to find a satisfactory resolution. The key is in knowing which remedies are most ideal for which individuals or businesses. Rarely can you identify these steps on your own, and taking on the IRS without an advocate by your side is inadvisable. A qualified tax consultant, on the other hand, can provide much-needed assistance and steer your case to a fair and beneficial close.
How Do You Choose a Tax Consultant? Top 9 Things to Look For
1. Someone Who Asks Questions
Poor communication is a catalyst for irreparable mistakes with your taxes. In an initial interview especially, your advisor should ask questions that give him or her the insight necessary to resolve your case. Basic queries should include those about your current situation, the events that led to it, and your long-term financial goals. All of these factors will determine how your case gets managed.
Keep in mind an advisor needs substantial chunks of information to help you. Reviewing your file will be important, but face-to-face communication cannot be replaced with reading. If your consultant doesn’t take the time necessary to probe you for details, consider this a red flag.
A Two-Way Street
The same is true when he or she explains the remedies available to you. You need information in return, and should your consultant be unwilling or unable to provide it, you may consider exploring your options.
2. Relevant Experience
Taxes are one area of life where you can’t afford to gamble. You, therefore, want a consultant who knows how to deal directly with the IRS. Experience with prior cases similar to your own is enormously beneficial, as a consultant can then put his or her knowledge to work for you. A novice, or someone who only moonlights as a tax advisor, won’t intimately know the laws and the ways in which they constantly change.
The length of time an advisor has been in business plays into his or her experience. The industry standard is five years; at this point, you know the consultant is well-versed in a variety of cases, some of which were likely complicated and required ongoing efforts. And in communicating with the IRS, experience counts in such ways as:
- Knowing how their collection tactics work
- Using tax laws to refute incorrect claims made by agents
- Applying case precedents to resolve your own situation
3. A Rating With The Better Business Bureau
Before you choose a tax consultant, do your homework online. A rating with The Better Business Bureau (BBB) can reveal his or her level of professionalism and integrity. Not all consultants choose to apply for BBB accreditation, which is fine because you’ll still be able to find online reviews regarding their service (more on this in a moment). But BBB accreditation provides specific information that includes the:
- Overall score
- Number of filed lawsuits
- Number of outstanding complaints
A person or firm with numerous outstanding cases and/or complaints may fail to satisfactorily serve clients. You should avoid these consultants as they may waste precious time that could have been devoted to resolution.
4. Specialized Qualifications
In addition to experience working directly with clients, tax advisors should have qualifications that attest to their ability to help you. This can include any number of factors, such as:
- Former IRS employment experience
- Membership in professional organizations
- Relevant certifications
- Admittance to the state bar (for attorneys)
Qualifications signal an advisor’s willingness to continue his or her education. They also go hand-in-hand with skills; a former IRS employee, for instance, has the eye for detail and critical thinking skills necessary to tackle complex cases.
5. References From Former Clients
Remember the online reviews we mentioned moments ago? It’s time to talk in detail about these. The digital age has made it easier than ever to know a tax advisor before you even meet. This information comes by way of online testimonials and reviews provided by previous clients. These can indicate how clients feel about the:
- Staff’s professionalism
- The extent to which resolution scenarios were explained
- Length of time required to close their case
- Time and effort devoted to their particular situation
- Overall experience with the tax advisor
If you look online and don’t see this information, you should feel free to ask an advisor for it. Alternatively, you can also ask for references so you can ask previous clients if they would recommend the advisor’s services.
6. A Lack of Guarantees
This is one industry in which a lack of guarantees is actually a sign of honesty. A consultant cannot predict the outcome of your case because, in reality, he or she doesn’t know how the IRS will respond. In general, agents want to help you reach a satisfactory resolution, but the details of that resolution will depend on a variety of factors.
These include the age of your debt, how much you owe, and if an Offer in Compromise or other payment option applies. Such variables make it impossible to pre-determine how your case will be remedied. The bottom line, therefore, is that no consultant should guarantee specific results.
7. A Commitment to Personalized Service
A situation that demands the skills of a tax consultant is already stressful enough; you don’t want to add to this strife by hiring a professional who doesn’t keep you informed of changes to your case. A commitment to client service prevents this, enabling ongoing communication with your advisor so you know every progressive step made. This becomes even more critical if you need to have an IRS audit or court hearing.
In this same vein, you want to know the person managing your case will return emails and answer phone calls when you have questions. Nothing is more frustrating than being ignored, particularly when you already feel anxious. Most consultants understand this, but some try to accept too many cases or juggle too many obligations to effectively connect when they should. It’s therefore appropriate to ask an advisor how often he or she stays in contact with clients.
8. Year-Round Availability
Many advisors close or substantially reduce their hours with the end of tax season. This can make it difficult to get the assistance you need outside of the January to April window. The IRS, after all, sends letters year-round. If you have questions or need further assistance even after your case is closed, you want a provider who’s available most, if not all, of the year.
9. Knowledge of What Is Expected From You
As a client, you may want to actively participate in your own case; some consultants appreciate this, but others prefer a more hands-off approach. Asking what is expected of you from the beginning will help you plan and respond accordingly. You may, for instance, need to provide specific paperwork or participate in calls with the IRS. The point is that knowing such expectations will improve your peace of mind.
Finding a tax professional with the knowledge and experience relevant to your case can be daunting. You’re rarely in a position where you have time to meet with several choices and then make a languid decision. Instead, knowing the clock is ticking, you need to quickly find a professional who will take prompt action. Learn how our services can remedy your situation today by calling Geaux Tax Resolution.