If you're facing a complicated tax legal issue, it's hard to know where to turn. What type of tax professional can best handle your issues? When do you need a tax attorney? While any tax professional with an IRS Tax Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) is permitted to prepare and file federal tax returns, different types of professionals have varying types of education and expertise. Typically, professionals with a PTIN who can also represent people before the IRS are either IRS enrolled agents, CPAs, or tax attorneys. These three types of professionals can represent clients before the IRS in audits, payment and collection issues, and appeals.
What is an IRS Enrolled Agent?
An IRS enrolled agent is licensed by the IRS. To obtain their credentials, enrolled agents must pass a three-part Special Enrollment Exam to show proficiency in federal tax planning, tax return preparation, and representation. Enrolled agents can represent people before the IRS on tax matters.
What is a CPA?
A certified public accountant is licensed by a state board of accountancy and has passed the Uniform CPA exam. CPAs usually have a college or university degree and must meet experience and character requirements, comply with state ethics rules, and meet annual continuing education requirements.
When do I Need a Tax Attorney?
Tax attorneys are licensed by their respective state courts and the state bar. Attorneys typically have both a four-year college degree as well as a law degree. To obtain admission to the state bar, attorneys must pass an extensive multi-day examination knows as the bar exam. They must also meet character and ethics requirements and meet annual continuing legal education requirements. Some tax attorneys may also have additional certifications or degrees in tax laws, such as a Masters in Law (LLM). Attorneys have unlimited representation before the IRS, but they are the only tax professionals that can represent clients in federal and state courts.
While CPAs and enrolled agents may be a good choice for tax return preparation or simple tax matters, many won't be able to handle complex tax legal issues that can arise when negotiating with the IRS. Attorneys also provide:
- Representation in court, including tax court, federal court, and state court,
- Attorney-client confidentiality keeping all communications between you and your attorney confidential,
- Broader legal education and background.
An attorney specializing in tax law can also see where a tax issue might expose you to additional civil or criminal liability.
If you're facing a fight with the IRS or just looking to ensure you're following the best tax planning strategy, you need experienced legal advice. Don't try to figure this out on your own. Call Senior Partner, Tax Controversy Attorney, and former IRS attorney Brandon A. Keim at (602) 200-7399 or contact him online to discuss your options.
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