Tax Attorneys vs. Accountants: When Do You Need Legal Help?

Even the most straightforward tax situation can bring unique challenges. Thankfully, when you’re dealing with a sticky tax issue, you don’t have to face a mile-high stack of paperwork alone. But while many turn to accountants for assistance with their taxes, a qualified IRS & tax lawyer may actually be a better bet in some instances. In this post, our Brevard County tax attorneys discuss the core differences between the two, and provide some scenarios where a tax lawyer could be the right answer for you.

Key Differences Between Tax Attorneys and CPAs

Both tax attorneys and CPAs (Certified Public Accountants) specialize in the complex and ever-changing rules that govern tax law, but their approaches vary due to differences in their training. While CPAs focus more on holistic tax-planning strategies and maintaining your individual financial records year over year, a tax attorney can advise on more complex legal circumstances. CPAs can typically help you with filing your taxes come April: A tax lawyer, on the other hand, can be especially helpful if you are facing tax court, or charged with a crime, like tax evasion.

Both professionals are also intimately familiar with the IRS tax code, and can represent you before the IRS in an official capacity. However, where a CPA primarily uses the tax code to ensure your returns are compliant and can pass IRS checks, a tax lawyer can often be more helpful if the IRS has actually decided to audit you. Below are just a few of the main differences between CPAs and tax lawyers, and how they can help with your particular tax situation.

A CPA can typically handle the following financial scenarios:

  • Building out a solid financial plan year-round. CPAs make excellent financial advisors, due to their 5 years of experience obtaining a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in accounting. They can help you avoid future pitfalls in your financial plan before they occur.
  • Fixing mistakes on tax forms before they become an issue. Experts at identifying mistakes on tax forms, a good CPA can flag issues for you in the same way that an IRS auditor might – but without the consequences attached during an audit.
  • Helping you allocate the right funding amounts for taxes. Taxes can be tricky to calculate, so relying on the advice of a skilled CPA may help you avoid a charge of tax evasion later on.
  • Preparing financial statements for yourself or your business. Once you have a business, you’ll need to ensure your reports and statements are fully accurate, in addition to your own. Hiring a CPA can assist greatly with this process.

On the other hand, some of the IRS cases that a seasoned tax attorney can better handle might include:

  • Defending you from IRS wage garnishment. If the IRS believes you won’t pay them, they can work with your employer to take up to 75% of your recurring paycheck. Unlike a CPA, a tax attorney has studied the legal principles allowing the IRS to garnish wages in this manner, and can negotiate on your behalf for a more favorable agreement.
  • Negotiating for an Offer in Compromise or an installment plan. If you meet the debt requirements, an Offer in Compromise or an installment agreement can significantly reduce your tax liabilities. A skilled tax attorney can help you decide which option is right for you, and argue your case to the IRS.
  • Fighting against a lien or levy unjustly placed on your assets. The IRS will use any number of aggressive measures against you, and will sometimes place restrictive holds called “levies” on your assets so that you cannot sell your own properties. Because the IRS must meet certain legal requirements to file a tax levy in the first place, you will need skilled representation to file an administrative appeal and get the levy removed.
  • Advising you during an IRS audit. While some CPAs may be able to assist you with an IRS audit, a tax lawyer can often better represent you in both verbal and written exchanges to the IRS. Many taxpayers accidentally incriminate themselves during an audit. Don’t let it happen to you!

Get the Tax Assistance You Need From Our Florida Attorneys

Regardless of your specific needs, you can rest assured that our IRS & tax lawyers at The Buchalter Law Group are ready to help with your case. We’ve handled thousands of client cases like yours over more than 35 years, and we understand how the IRS thinks – and attacks.

If you need legal assistance with a tax matter in Brevard County or surrounding areas, contact our team at The Buchalter Law Group for a free case evaluation today.

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