If you’ve fallen behind on filing your taxes, don’t panic. A letter from the IRS telling you that you need to file can be scary, but as long as you pay up promptly, it’s not the end of the world.
If it’s been years since you last filed, though, you may feel overwhelmed and unsure where to begin. That’s why you could benefit from the advice of an experienced tax consultant who can help you make things right.
Here’s how to find reliable tax help in your area.
Check Out the IRS Directory
When you search the internet for tax counseling or tax preparation services, you’re likely to see dozens of results. How can you possibly know which ones are legit?
The IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers can point you in the right direction. You can search this directory for tax preparers who hold professional credentials recognized by the IRS.
Keep in mind that the directory will only show you paid, not volunteer, tax preparers.
Ask for the Tax Preparer’s Qualifications
If you’re paying an income tax return preparer, they legally must have a preparer tax identification number (PTIN). The preparer must put this number on your tax return if they help you with it.
For extra reassurance, it’s smart to find a preparer who’s also an enrolled agent (EA), licensed attorney, or certified public accountant (CPA).
The EA is the highest credential the IRS can give. CPAs hold accounting degrees and have passed the Uniform CPA Certification Exam. Tax attorneys are licensed by their state bar and may have law degrees in taxation.
Preparers with these credentials can represent you in the event of an audit. If a preparer only has a PTIN, they can file your taxes but cannot represent you if you’re audited.
As your representative, a preparer can:
- Talk to the IRS on your behalf
- Prepare and file documents
- Give you written advice on tax issues
- Represent you at meetings and hearings
Look for a Consultant Who Will Help You Make a Payment Plan
When looking for tax help in your area, a good consultant shouldn’t tell you that you need to pay your taxes all at once if you can’t afford to. Instead, they should help you set up an IRS payment plan with reasonable monthly installments.
With an installment agreement, the IRS reduces the penalty on your unpaid balance to 0.25% per month until you’ve paid the full balance. However, if you miss payments, the IRS can void the agreement and charge you the full penalty amount.
If you can pay your full bill quickly, your consultant could offer another solution: a short-term extension. If the IRS grants your extension, you’ll have 120 days to pay in full. There’s no fee to ask for an extension, but you’ll pay a penalty of 0.5% per month on the unpaid balance.
Avoid Advisors Who Don’t E-File
Paid preparers who handle more than 11 returns per year for clients file electronically with the IRS. If a preparer doesn’t offer to e-file, it could mean that they’re inexperienced when it comes to handling late tax returns.
Catch Up on Taxes with Levy & Associates Tax Consultants
If you’re behind on your taxes, it’s important to find tax help in your area as soon as you can. Penalties and interest can add up quickly, and if you don’t pay, the IRS could even garnish your wages. Your credit rating could take a hit, too.
Levy & Associates Tax Consultants has years of experience helping clients with their tax returns. Call (313) 367-0985 to reach our Lathrup Village, MI, office. If you’re in the Delray Beach, FL, area, contact us at (561) 933-6705.