Q&A: The legitimacy of tax reduction companies

Dear Liz: I fell behind on making my quarterly estimated tax payments for a long list of reasons, and when I file my return, the IRS will find out. I have heard they can seize your IRAs, which I have but do not want to cash out to pay.

I found a service on the Internet with good references and no bad reviews. The company said it can help get a payment program and often a reduction in the amount owed. It seems worth a couple thousand dollars to try it. Your thoughts?

Answer: There are a number of reasons why a company might have no negative reviews online. Maybe it’s a great company. Or maybe it’s not, but it just launched or took over a legitimate firm with the intention of fleecing as many people as possible.

Don’t be persuaded by the idea that the company might reduce what you owe. Settlements aren’t impossible, but the taxpayers who get them (typically after long and drawn-out battles) are those whose financial situations are dire and not expected to improve.

The IRS has many, many ways to collect its due and won’t just roll over because you don’t want to pay.

In any case, you don’t need to hire someone else to set up a payment plan for you.

If you owe $50,000 or less as an individual or $25,000 or less as a business, you can request an installment plan online and get an immediate response. If you owe more than those amounts, you can request an installment agreement using Form 433F.

The costs are low. If you can pay your balance within 120 days, the plan is free. Otherwise you’ll pay $52 for a direct debit agreement or $105 for a standard or payroll deduction agreement. Lower-income taxpayers can get a reduced fee of $43.

For more, visit http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/Payment-Plans-Installment-Agreements.

If you can’t pay your balance in the allotted time, you may need to hire some help. You can get referrals to CPAs who can represent you in front of the IRS from www.aicpa.org.

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Comments

  1. Another option is to use an Enrolled Agent to represent you before the IRS. EAs are experts in tax planning and the preparation of tax returns, and effective advocates on behalf of taxpayers before the IRS and state tax agencies. Get referrals, make certain they represent clients regularly for this type of work. I am an Enrolled Agent and have taken advance coursework in dealing with the IRS, and have successfully represented clients to get the best possible outcome. To find an EA use your favorite search engine :Find an Enrolled Agent.