Do I need a tax lawyer, CPA or tax preparer for filing back taxes?

Asked about 2 years ago - Overland Park, KS

I have not filed income taxes in 6 years. I'm self-employed, and worse, my accounting is quite sloppy so there is much paperwork to sift through, and probably gaps in the records. I have been recommended to a tax preparer. But I'm worried. One, he seems expensive but that may be my ignorance of what the rates are. Two, I don't know if it wouldn't be preferable to hire a tax lawyer for this. I want the IRS to trust that the filings they're going to receive here soon are prepared well. If they have questions, I want someone prepared to work for me in negotiating with them. I'd try filing myself, cuz I don't have much money, but I want it done well. That, and I wonder what a lawyer's cost is compared to my tax preparer referral... Thanks.

Attorney answers (7)

  1. Michael Charles Doland

    Contributor Level 20

    9

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . A CPA or tax lawyer would be preferable to a tax preparer, although more expensive.

    The above is general legal and business analysis. It is not "legal advice" but analysis, and different lawyers may... more
  2. Evan A Nielsen

    Contributor Level 18

    6

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . Would strongly recommend a CPA or Tax Attorney to handle your matter. A tax preparer may be able to prepare the returns but won’t be able to represent you to the IRS if that becomes necessary. In addition, while some tax attorneys and CPA’s are more expensive, other firms (like ours) have established a cost structure that is comparable to reputable tax preparers so you do have options that won’t likely cost you more but will position you to also have IRS representation if necessary. Holler if you’d like more information.

    Good luck.

    Evan A. Nielsen
    1255 W. Colton Ave., #506 | Redlands, CA 92374
    Main: 909.363.4658 | Fax: 480.304.3211
    Evan.Nielsen@NielsenLawGroup.net
    www.NielsenLawGroup.net

    Mention this Post for a free consultation.

    Evan A. Nielsen is licensed to practice law in California. The information provided here is for educational... more
  3. Raymond F. Haselman

    Contributor Level 9

    6

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . A CPA or Tax Attorney would initially cost you more than a regular tax preparer, however, with all the issues you brought up the addtional expense will be well worth it. Don't be penny wise and dollar foolish.

  4. Andrew B Gordon

    Pro

    Contributor Level 11

    4

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . I would strongly recommend a tax attorney or CPA, or both (like me). You may also be surprised to find that tax preparers often charge just as much as a CPA or attorney. Having 6 years of unfiled taxes, it is very likely that you have an outstanding tax debt. An attorney or CPA can represent you before the IRS and help you negotiate a payment plan or settlement for your debt. Hire an attorney or CPA to handle both the returns and the IRS negotiations - you won't be sorry you did!

    Andrew B. Gordon, CPA, JD
    One First Bank Plaza, #207 | Lake Zurich, IL 60047
    Main: 847.580.1297 | Fax: 847.305.1297
    ABG@GordonLawLtd.com
    www.GordonLawLtd.com

    Andrew B Gordon is a CPA and attorney licensed to practice law in Illinois. The information provided here is for... more
  5. Christopher Michael Larson

    Contributor Level 19

    3

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . I would say a CPA. They are very adept at handling these types of situations. I would get a CPA to help with the receipt intensive expense rebuilding and return filing. Then hire a tax attorney if you have any outstanding tax debt after the returns are prepared.

    Christopher Larson
    Insight Law
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  6. Patrick Cornelius Cotter

    Contributor Level 6

    3

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . Very good question. As an attorney and CPA, my advice is to seek the advice of an attorney who does this kind of thing for a living. You need legal advice at this point, not just someone to prepare your outstanding returns. Also be aware that many tax attorneys have CPAs either on staff and/or under association who can do your tax returns based upon the guidance your lawyer provides. The most important thing I can tell you is to avoid trying to fix the problem by filing the tax returns yourself and/or by hiring one of those companies that advertises on TV. Find a tax lawyer in your area and entrust him to fix your problems; it will not be cheap, but in the long run, it will be money well spent.

  7. Christin Marie Bucci

    Pro

    Contributor Level 7

    3

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . It may be is your best interest to consult with a tax lawyer first because a person’s willful failure to file a federal income tax return is punishable as a crime under Section 7203.

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