Accountants aren't as expensive as tax lawyers, and unless there's an audit, an accountant should be able to help you catch up.
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If your income is low enough, you may not owe any income tax, but self-employed persons must pay self-employment tax on all earned income. I agree that generally accountants charge less per hour and a good accountant should be able to help you get things straight.
I agree with the other lawyers who have answered this question and would add that if you should have reported income and paid taxes but have now come forward before an audit or investigation has started you will have a good chance to avoid criminal and other penalties. And you will sleep better at night! Good luck.
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I agree with my colleagues, an accountant would be a great place to start. My business partner, Jeff Blumenauer, has worked with folks in similar situations to what you are currently dealing with. Our office is located in Tampa. If you would like to discuss your case with us, please do not hesitate to contact our office immediately. My direct line is 813-830-2261. We are available for a free case consultation.
This answer does not, nor is it intended to, create an attorney-client relationship or constitute attorney advertising. Rather, it is offered solely for informational purposes. The facts of each case are different and unique, it is critical to consult with qualified counsel with whom information can be shared and assessed under attorney-client privilege, so that competent and quality advice can be obtained on which you can make informed decisions
Sorry, but you should definitely meet with a tax lawyer. Lawyers have attorney/client confidentiality. Accountants do not and can be forced to testify against you in a criminal tax matter. The attorney can review your documents. If you are self-employed, you will definitely owe tax. In that case the tax attorney will hire the accountant to maintain confidentiality. If you are an employee with normal withholding, most likely the taxes due would be smaller and the attorney may just simply have the accountant prepare the returns.
In any case, DO NOT TALK TO ANYONE about this until you have met with a tax lawyer.
Generally, you are required to file a return if you meet certain income requirements. If you are required to file a return, the IRS may file an SFR (Substitute for Return) on your behalf and assess you accordingly. When they do so the assessment may be more than what you actually owe. It is best to file all the necessary returns and deal with the liability through an installment agreement, OIC or if you qualify placing your account on currently not collectible.
Although a tax attorney is more expensive than a regular accountant, however like my collegues have mentioned there are benefits to having a tax attorney represent you, one being confidentiality as well as experience working with the various taxing agencies. Once or if a liability is accrured you would need to deal with them and a tax attorney would be better suited to negotiate installment payments or an OIC.