You want an attorney who is experienced in tax law. You also want someone
who is a good communicator and is someone you can trust.
The tax law is so complex and multi-layered that you really want experience
on your side. You want someone who’s not only experienced with the
tax law but an experienced negotiator, because a lot of that goes on in
audits and appeals, and certainly if you go beyond appeals and you take
a case into Tax Court or possibly even beyond; you want someone who’s
experienced in negotiating the various issues. It is a negotiation and
in any negotiation, there will be give and take, so you want someone who’s
had experience doing that.
You want somebody who you’re comfortable communicating with. I’m
easy to communicate with. I’d put that out there and say, “If
you’re shopping around for someone to represent you, whether they’re
an enrolled agent or a CPA or an attorney, can you communicate with this
person?” In deciding whether or not you want an attorney, there
is always the privilege and you don’t want to understate the importance
of that; many people are more comfortable knowing that they have attorney-client
Another thing that comes up is the degree of contacts that the representative
has with the IRS personnel. Over the years, I’ve gotten to know
many of the people who work for the IRS, including auditors and their
supervisors, and appeals officers, who are the people who actually consider
I’m not saying that they’ll see things my way, not by in any
means, but I do have a working relationship with a lot of these people
and it can definitely help. It’s like any other business relationship;
you can utilize it to your advantage. You don’t want to take advantage
of it, but it can definitely help in many situations. Those are the kind
of things that I think most people should consider in deciding who they
want to hire to represent them in an audit or an appeal.
Would You Say That Attorneys Are Best Suited To Represent A Person For
An Audit As Opposed To A CPA?
In some cases, there’s some concern about potential criminal issues.
There are crimes associated with tax; everyone knows that. It’s
relatively uncommon, but if you’re at all concerned about that,
you should definitely talk to an attorney. That’s where the privilege
One thing you should recognize is that once you’ve gone to a CPA
and told something and the CPA says, “Well, basically, you just
told me. I think you should go talk to an attorney,” well, then
that’s too late; the CPA has whatever information and if that CPA
is subsequently subpoenaed, he has to repeat what he’s been told.
Again, those cases are rare, but they do come up. If someone is concerned
about that, they should definitely talk to an attorney first.
I’ve been doing this for almost 25 years; for me, it’s like
second nature, but for most people out there, it’s far from second
nature. I think a lot of people feel more comfortable talking to an attorney,
again, for the privilege reasons. Also, I think that, for the level of
experience, an attorney is going to see cases for, like I said, the simplest
to the most complicated, from the cleanest to the messiest. I’ve
seen all of those and everything in between.
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