Free IRS Tax Help – Is It Really a Good Idea?
The IRS is the most complex, bureaucratic agency in the United State government. IRS rules are extremely complex, even for the simplest of tax situations. Otherwise brilliant people are incapable of understanding the US Tax Code to prepare an accurate return, even with the assistance of tax preparation software.
So is seeking free IRS tax help a good idea? Answering this question requires an understanding of how the IRS is organized and how the IRS is targeting your individual situation. Let’s start with a couple of facts based on my experience as a tax attorney:
1. I give credit to the IRS for attempting to provide you with free tax help. I also acknowledge that most IRS personnel are helpful and do want to help you work out of your situation. However, IRS personnel are often not as knowledgeable as you expect in the specific area you are calling about, and they may have an agenda to get the most money out of you – so take their free tax help with a grain of salt. Case in point – I was working with an experienced Revenue Officer on an Offer in Compromise for an out of the country taxpayer. The Revenue Officer insisted that she handle the offer in compromise and forward it herself to the correct office. She made a mistake and sent the offer in compromise to the wrong field office and the package was incomplete. The OIC office rejected the offer. When I spoke to the offer in compromise office and asked about the mistake, the person admitted that Revenue Officers often make mistakes when it comes to offers in compromise, as they are not familar with them. OIC are very specific and complex, and not in the area of expertise of most Revenue Officers. This set us back 60 days in the offer in compromise process.
2. The IRS has multiple tracks to contact you and deal with your individual situation. Increasingly they are using an automated collection process. This track can be frustrating as there is never one individual assigned to your case, so you’re left to deal with whoever happens to answer the phone at the IRS office. You are likely to receive conflicting information from each agent. On the other hand, if you are working direct with a Revenue Officer or Agent, you are subject to all the human frailties you can imagine. Some Revenue Officers are hell bent on making your life miserable. These are the kind of cases you read about in the papers, with taxpayers being pushed to the limit and striking out against the IRS.
Despite all of their good intentions, and acknowledging the wealth of information the IRS makes available to you, I have to answer the question, Is Free IRS Tax help a good idea?, with a “No”. Typically your tax matter is time sensitive and you need accurate information to make a decision. While the IRS can provide you with some basic free tax help, they are not your advocate and cannot look at your individual situation and provide you with the depth of information necessary to handle your tax situation. Call a tax professional for guidance.