Each case is a little different and the answer to this question isn’t always the same. But, I’ve found that most people can agree that some or all of the following may be worth hiring representation.
1. Time and Stress
These two are directly proportional like song and dance when it comes to dealing with the IRS. The more time it takes, the more stress is created. Your tax notice might give you the 1-800-829-1040 phone number. Call it and you’ll be given your estimated wait time. The stories of being on hold for over an hour are becoming more the norm than outlier. In fact, right now the IRS is so understaffed that you’ll sometimes get the message “Due to call high call volume, we cannot answer your call at this time. Please call back. Goodbye”. This is not a joke. Typical cases require a lot of phone calls so take the stress you are feeling and multiply by 5, 10, 15…
Licensed professionals like CPA’s have access to the Practitioner Priority Line where we typically never wait on hold more than 10 minutes. This line is staffed by higher level IRS employees than the 1-800 number. So, hiring a professional to call not only saves you the time and stress of waiting on hold for hours, but is also a way more efficient way of making productive progress on your case.
2. Seriousness and Importance
Part of why IRS issues are so stressful is because we’re talking about your money and livelihood. Not filing your taxes is a misdemeanor with possible sentencing of up to 1 year in jail. This rarely happens but the simple fact of law makes it serious. Also, IRS is the most ruthless creditor in existence. They can attach liens to your house and vehicles, freeze your bank account and garnish your wages. They are in the business of assessing and collecting tax revenues and they won’t stop pursuing you until they get every penny they are owed. In the meantime, penalties and interest will continue to accrue until your debts are settled.
Professional representation isn’t always needed. But, when the seriousness level gets to yellow, you may want to at least have the discussion.
Very simply, it’s not what you do. US Tax Law is complicated and everchanging. Who can keep up unless it’s part of their profession? For most taxpayers, representing themselves in front of the IRS is like going to court without a lawyer. It would be like a CPA trying to teach third grade, change a car’s transmission, or deliver a baby. It’s probably not going to end well.
A well-versed professional navigates the IRS maze on a daily basis. They should understand and stay up to date on tax laws and know exactly how the IRS operates. They should protect you, your assets, and your rights. Finally, and most importantly, a good professional knows the best options to settle your tax debts with the IRS and help reach the lowest possible settlement or payment plan that’s in your best interest.