Tax Attorney vs. CPA

If you find yourself in trouble with the IRS for any reason, it is always best to hire a qualified attorney who specializes in tax cases as opposed to a certified public accountant (CPA) or any other "tax professional." There are several reasons for this, including attorney-client privilege, legal analysis and negotiation skills.

Attorney Client Privilege

"Attorney client privilege" is a legal principle that protects the confidentiality of conversations attorneys and their employees have with clients. This privilege means that the information you share with your attorney cannot be given to third parties, including the IRS, a state taxing authority or a court.

Although recent legislation offers some level of confidentiality to the communications individuals may have with other tax professionals, this applies only in contexts that do not involve criminal offenses. Thus, only attorneys are legally exempt from being forced to provide information to third parties or to testify against you. Indeed, there have been instances where trusted CPAs and other tax professionals have reported suspected criminal behavior to the IRS, and there are many instances where they have been subpoenaed to testify against their clients in court.

CPA's and Tax Law

CPAs can provide essential advice concerning financial planning, and they routinely help clients file or correct tax returns. However, they are not well versed in the law. Therefore, they cannot provide advice on complicated legal issues or help clients avail themselves of all available options, including in some cases tax bankruptcy. Only attorneys are qualified to properly analyze legal issues and advise clients of their rights. In some cases, the best option may involve court proceedings that only an attorney can handle on your behalf.

Negotiation Skills

Finally, the resolution of many tax-related problems involves a significant amount of negotiation. Attorneys are specifically trained to analyze the facts of a case in light of the law and to construct arguments that best support a desired position. They are also adept in the negotiation skills needed to calm irate collection officers and reach reasonable solutions for most problems. Even in the worst cases, attorneys have the ability to use the court system in ways that can provide leverage in resolving tax cases.

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