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5 Things a Tax Lawyer Can Do (That You Probably Can't)

Concept image for filing federal income taxes online and being audited. Computer keyboard, calculator and pen are placed on income tax form 1040. The 'word' AUDIT is stamped on the form 1040.
By Christopher Coble, Esq. on February 10, 2015 2:54 PM

What can a tax lawyer do for you, that you may not be able to do on your own?

With so many online tax filing options, taxpayers may start thinking they're experts when it comes to filing properly and getting the biggest possible refund. What many of us fail to realize, however, is just how complex the tax code can be. In some cases, it may take an expert to make sure you get a big refund check in the mail and not an audit notice from the IRS. (Or to make sure it's just an audit notice and not a criminal summons.)

So here are five things that a tax lawyer can potentially help you with:

1. Respond to IRS Audit and Collection Notices.

If the federal government comes calling, you'll probably want some help, especially if you owe the IRS money. Dealing with notices, interviews, and the myriad tools the IRS has at its disposal to collect taxes can be a daunting task. While it is possible that the IRS made a mistake in determining how much you owe, it may take a trained professional to discover the error and advocate on your behalf.

2. Try to Keep You Out of Jail.

There can be serious penalties for not filing a tax return or paying in an accurate and timely manner. While you can't go to jail for not paying your taxes, you can be imprisoned for trying to cheat on your taxes. If you're being accused of tax fraud or some other tax-related crime, a tax lawyer can work to keep you on the right side of the line or help differentiate between an honest mistake and a dishonest filing.

3. Navigate Confusing IRS Documents.

There are nearly 2,000 IRS forms and publications, many of which can be incomprehensible to a layperson. From listing your rights as a taxpayer, to listing arcane deductions like dental expenses and weight loss programs, to listing the ways the IRS can collect on tax debts, it may take an expert tax attorney to understand it all and guide you through the IRS' complicated tax procedures.

4. Figure Out Your Business / Self-Employment Taxes.

Corporations may be "people" in court, but businesses and individuals are taxed differently. Did you work a few days from home last year? Do you telecommute every day? How large is your home office? And did you do some side work? All of these professional situations can affect your income tax filing, and it may take a lawyer to sort out which.

5. Advise You on How to Lower Your Taxes in the Future.

Figuring out this year's tax filing is all well and good. But what if you're already worried about your potential tax hit next year? There are several methods to lowering your future tax liability, and a tax lawyer can help you figure out which ones are best for you.

Whether you've got the IRS knocking on your door or you want to knock a few dollars of your tax liability, these are just a few things that a qualified tax lawyer may be able to do for you.

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