Instead of focusing on some of the more specific ways to resolve a tax problem (looking at you, offer in compromises, installment agreements, and all of the ways to avoid federal tax evasion charges), we’re going to look at some of the more general approaches that you should be taking when dealing with the IRS.
Feeling overwhelmed? That's normal
The first step in setting yourself up for success is to take a deep breath. Taking the necessary time to calm your nerves is a pivotal first step. Once you feel like you’re in a calm state, it’s time to focus on the major factors to consider – patience, respect, and a knowledge of how to beat the IRS at their own game.
While you might not be happy about it – or even come close to accepting it – having patience is mandatory. Having patience with the IRS isn’t going to be easy. After all, they’re going after your current livelihood and the future that you’ve been working towards.
Getting angry at the IRS and telling them how you really feel is an incredibly quick way to have a target pinned to your back. As much as we might not like it, the Revenue Agent you’re dealing with has the power to make your experience a lot more uncomfortable than it already is. So while the thought of the telling them how you feel might be burning you up, don’t let it out. Try and find some peace in knowing that you’re going to get your tax problem resolved as quickly as possible, and then – for the rest of your future — you can stick it to the IRS by only giving them what the law dictates.
Things move slowly with the IRS. It's more of a snail pace. It’s not unusual for cases to drag out months, if not years. In the case of an offer in compromise, each stage can easily stretch to a few months (with some steps taking almost a year all by themselves), all the while leaving no guarantee that the offer will be accepted.
It’s going to be frustrating, so, to make it through to the other side with your sanity intact, understand that it’s going to take time. Having that understanding won’t necessarily make you feel better right away, but it will make sure you understand the reality of the situation – dealing with the IRS takes time. It’s important to not stress yourself out, because taking care of your mental health is of the utmost importance.
Finally, patience doesn’t necessarily have to be all about keeping yourself mentally sound. The statute of limitations (CSED) on tax debts is ticking, and – in many cases – having the patience to let it waste away can set you up for prime positioning when it comes to negotiating with the IRS (and that’s if it wouldn’t be a better situation to just let the debt expire entirely). While having patience is in large part an effort to keep you from constant worry, it can also be a viable strategy for dealing with the IRS. After all, we are looking at the best ways to set yourself up for a successful resolution!
In order to arrive at the best possible resolution, showing the IRS some level of respect is mandatory. Luckily, it can be selective respect. So, while in your head you might be using some more colorful language, the words you say out loud need to be appropriate.
IRS Agents don’t get much respect. I doubt that’s a surprise to anyone. What that means is that when someone they’re dealing with does show them respect — it can go a long way. Don’t forget that the ultimate goal is getting you the best possible resolution. Putting up with the IRS for a short period of time so that your future can be free is the best course of action. If you go in and are blatantly disrespectful towards the Agents you’re working with, your tax problem could quickly become a long-term headache.
Here’s the sad reality of the situation – IRS workers go through their initial training and are taught that the people they’ll be collecting from are people purposefully trying to cheat the system. That couldn’t be further from the truth for the majority of taxpayers. While some individuals are looking to evade their taxes, the majority of cases are people who made mistakes or didn’t know that they were doing something wrong. So when you are talking with an IRS Agent, keep in mind that they are likely feeling as if they are doling out justice, instead of turning a mistake into a nightmare.
Now that we’ve seen how we need to be patient and respectful when dealing with the IRS, we can look at how to beat them. Just because the IRS says something, that doesn’t mean that it’s true. The IRM (Internal Revenue Manual) is mind-numbingly complex. Sporting well over 1,000 pages of complicated rules, there’s no way that anyone can be expected to know every piece of it. While that might sound like a negative, it’s actually a huge positive for taxpayers.
IRS Agents get things wrong a lot of the time. Seeing as they’re trying to apply one of the most complicated documents in history, it’s no wonder that they’re often missing, misapplying, or simply mistaking rules. They miss a lot. That’s where professional representation can make the world of difference. By knowing how the laws actually work, a proper attorney or enrolled agent can quickly stop any inappropriate or inaccurate information by the IRS.
Knowledge of the laws and how they actually play out can often stop the IRS in their tracks. The most important information to have when dealing with a tax problem is knowing how to stay in compliance. This will keep you from falling into a lifetime long cycle of having tax issues.
An understanding of the law can help you determine the best strategy for resolution. There are a number of initiatives (Fresh Start, Streamlined, etc.) that can quickly handle your problem. Discovering which program will resolve your problem quickly and for the least amount of money is the goal, and an understanding of the available programs will get you there.
One of the worst things that you can think when dealing with the IRS is that you have no options. That can leave you feeling powerless. Feeling like you can’t do anything other than what you’re being told can cause you to feel overwhelmed, and that’s the last thing we want. Instead, take a deep breath. Options are available. Help is available.
Don’t hesitate to contact us if you need assistance with a tax issue. Call us at 888–727-8796 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.