What’s Your Process? How to Work a Collection Case

When it comes to the world of tax resolution, why do you take a particular action while working a case? Is it because your client asked you to? Maybe it’s because you know it’s the ‘right’ thing to do? Or, perhaps because this is always your professional recommendation? No matter what your answer might be these are not mutually exclusive options according to 20/20 Tax Resolution’s vice president, David Miles, EA. When practicing collection representation, one needs to hone in on the balance between what gets done in every case, regardless of the circumstances, and what happens only because it’s necessary given the situation.

This foundation helped shape his most recent EA Journal article (June-August 2016 edition), What’s Your Process? How to Work a Collection Case. For the sixth year in a row, Miles has been published in The National Association of Enrolled Agents (NAEA) bi-monthly publication — this prestigious journal allows members of the NAEA to stay up-to-date on any industry trends, tax updates and association news.

When asked to discuss the overarching theme of his piece, Miles explains, “Ultimately, a practitioner needs to be able to advise a taxpayer on what could happen and also what is most likely to happen in the course of a collection case. The practitioner then must take the taxpayer’s specific situation into account to develop a strategy that allows decisions on where and when action is necessary. An efficient tax resolution practice provides tangible results that are interpreted as success by the taxpayer.”

This article also served as a synopsis to a graduate level National Tax Practice Institute® (NTPI™) course that he presented during the National Association of Enrolled Agents annual conference held in Las Vegas Aug. 1-3. “I encourage those in practice to consider approaching every case, from the easiest to the more complex and the ones engaged at the first sign of a liability to those who engage you much later on, in a way that ensures the taxpayer’s interests are protected and advanced in the most capable manner possible. This session covered the process for handling a collection case from start to resolution through the aid of a specific workflow. It is my goal that each practitioner will infuse their own personality, professionalism and style into a system after having a chance to take this course,” says Miles.

Want to read the full EA Journal article? No problem, click here.

Celebrating 18 Years of Putting Lives Back Together

DENVER, August 9, 2016 – 20/20 Tax Resolution, a market leader in the tax debt resolution industry, is celebrating its 18th anniversary of providing compassionate, comprehensive tax resolution services to businesses and individuals, the company announced today.

In 1998, few people were aware of the “tax resolution” industry. Although there were a few firms specializing in resolving tax issues, most people facing IRS action or experiencing difficulties meeting tax liabilities were unsure of where to turn, or who to trust.

“We wanted to create a company that provided ethical and compassionate services for businesses and individuals who often face fear and uncertainty along with the financial burdens that come with tax issues,” said Brian Biffle, president and founder of 20/20 Tax Resolution. “So to ease these concerns, we created a process that allows a person to take control of their tax debt. We partner with each client to manage communication with taxing authorities, implement a resolution plan, negotiate on their behalf and pursue a strategy that allows them to move forward.”

In the 18 years since 20/20 was created, the need for assistance working with the IRS and state taxing authorities has only increased, according to the company’s VP of Resolution Richard Davidson.

“The complexity of tax policy makes resolving difficult issues challenging for many businesses and individuals,” Davidson said. “It’s critical that these clients work with licensed tax professionals who stay updated as laws and regulations evolve.”

20/20’s commitment to ongoing training and education, as well as its compassionate approach to client service, attracts the top professionals in the business.

“Our team members get a great deal of satisfaction knowing they are helping people reclaim their lives,” said David Miles. “Because of this, they are committed to finding the best resolution strategy for clients. Our culture encourages agents to seek innovative solutions and offer new suggestions. We equip our tax professionals with the knowledge needed to successfully resolve even the most unique cases.”

It’s difficult to comprehend the concern that business owners and individuals feel when they discover an unpaid tax liability, according to Miles.  “Many of our clients are hesitant to take that first step to finding help. We understand that fear and treat each client accordingly.”

To view a video case study of 20/20’s compassionate process in action, visit: http://www.2020taxresolution.com/2020-tax-resolution-success-story-jurgen/

Presidential Candidate Tax Returns: Should Voters Care?

Reviewing tax returns can reveal a lot of information about a political candidate. But many tax experts caution the average voter may not be knowledgeable enough to know what all that information means – and they argue that any conclusions based upon a tax return can often be traced back to a voter’s pre-existing political position.

“As a company, 20/20 reviews a lot of tax returns. It’s our job to dispassionately review a  tax record and determine what steps need to be taken to resolve any tax issues,” said Brian Biffle, president of 20/20 Tax Resolution. “Voters review tax returns with a more subjective approach. So, before they pass judgment based on a candidate’s financial history, a ‘tax return primer’ might be in order to understand what they are reviewing.”

According to 20/20, here’s what voters can learn from a candidate’s tax return:

  • Sources of a candidate’s taxable income
  • Clues to business failures in losses or the overall fiscal health of business endeavors
  • Information on charitable deductions (not simply how much but where it’s distributed)

“For some voters this information can, in essence, become a test of character,” Biffle said. “They’re interested in where a candidate’s income originates and what types of charities the candidate supports.”

Other information revealed often causes voters to compare a candidate’s tax history to their own, said Biffle, and make judgments about how “in touch” a candidate is with voters, as well as the candidate’s ability to serve in the Oval Office. For example:

  • The effective tax rate paid by a candidate
  • Information on investments and loans
  • Real estate taxes (abatements, for example)
  • Real estate holdings
  • Information about the existence of offshore accounts, household employees and other holdings

“Voters sometimes view this information almost as a question of transparency,” Biffle said, particularly since candidates are not required by law to release their tax returns. “But in reality, none of these things provide a complete analysis of a person’s ability to lead. It’s only become an important factor to voters in recent elections.”

Although candidates are required to file Public Financial Disclosure Reports since the passage of 1978’s Ethics in Government Act, these reports don’t provide the detailed examination many voters have come to expect, Biffle said.

“We have clients from every walk of life, income level and background,” Biffle said. “At no time does a tax return provide an exact portrait of a person’s character. It simply offers a glimpse into their finances.”

20/20 Tax Resolution Success Story: Jurgen

20/20 Tax Resolution client came to the United States from Germany to pursue the American Dream – but unwittingly faced a classic American nightmare when he ended up on the wrong side of the IRS.

Situation:

In 2009, Golden, Colo. resident Jurgen was a real estate developer converting buildings into condominiums. But when the economy tanked and the Great Recession hit, he was unable to renew his 5-year loan, and suddenly tightened monetary restrictions prevented him from securing a new loan. Thus began a snowballing cascade of financial concerns that was topped off when Jurgen’s CPA suddenly passed away – unbeknownst to Jurgen who was busy managing his financial affairs. By the time he tried to connect with his now-deceased CPA, the accountant’s files had disappeared, along with all of his documentation.

“I did not find out until I had to do my new taxes (about eight months later),” Jurgen recalled. “By then, all the CPA’s files were gone. I didn’t know what to do.”

The Problem:

Unable to be confirmed through documentation, many of Jurgen’s deductions were denied by the IRS – to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars. He was now facing a tax debt of nearly half a million dollars.

With mounting debt and a wife and two children to support (one of whom was about to enter college), Jurgen was nearly in a panic. He recognized he couldn’t manage this situation on his own. So he researched online for the right kind of help. He found it at 20/20 Tax Resolution.

The Solution:

20/20 conducted a thorough examination of Jurgen’s circumstances and were able to connect with the IRS and intercede on his behalf. His 20/20 Senior Tax Consultant – working with Jurgen – took immediate steps to bring sanity back to his personal and business lives, including:

  • Getting all past and current tax returns in proper order in order to expertly diagnose the problem
  • Identifying all the next steps necessary
  • Reducing wage garnishment, which had been implemented by the IRS
  • Securing a hold on both the state’s and the IRS’ additional collection efforts
  • Negotiating a payment schedule that Jurgen could accommodate without destroying his financial future

As a result, 20/20 was able to help put Jurgen’s life back on track. “They treated me like a human being not somebody that screwed up,” he said. “They understood that the IRS is hard to deal with.” Based upon our experience working with taxing authorities, 20/20 was able to quickly assess Jurgen’s circumstances, alleviate his concerns and help calm him down. “It’s not a good situation when all of the sudden the IRS is after you,” he said. “It’s pretty scary when you think you’re going to lose everything and have to start over. There’s no way you can go through this by yourself. Go to somebody that’s a professional.”

To hear more about Jurgen’s story and his experience working with 20/20, watch the video above.

Congress Not Too Keen on IRS Funding Request

Additional funding? Thanks, but no thanks. That’s the sentiment seemingly coming from Congress in response to a tax season reflecting improvements in IRS customer service. The IRS attributed much of its success to the additional $290 million it received from Congress this year. And while a similar provision exists in the House’s 2017 budget, the IRS is not likely to see any other budget increases.

As reported by Nicole Ogrysko, during a July 28th press conference, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen stated, “Our hope is that as we’ve demonstrated to the Congress the great utility of the additional funding we got this year, that that will serve as a basis for an additional increase next year, which would be devoted to cybersecurity, identity theft and taxpayer service.”

The National Taxpayer Advocate’s mid-year report highlighted taxpayer telephone wait times that were cut from 23 minutes to 11 minutes on average and an increase of the number of taxpayer calls answered from 37 percent to 73 percent. Those are big successes for the IRS after consecutive years of very poor customer service performance. Yet despite those accomplishments, Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olsen indicated that several other problems in the agency can be attributed to the lack of funding.

Congress’ refusal to consider greater funding increases despite signs that such funding could improve the taxpayer’s experience will continue to be a contentious topic as the rest of this year unfolds.

 

20/20 to Provide Expertise at 2016 NAEA Conference

David Miles, EA, vice president of 20/20 Tax Resolution, will present two National Tax Practice Institute® (NTPI™) courses at this year’s annual conference of the National Association of Enrolled Agents in Las Vegas Aug. 1-3.

The highest credential awarded by the Internal Revenue Service, an enrolled agent (EA) is a federally authorized tax practitioner empowered by the U.S. Department of the Treasury to represent taxpayers before the IRS. Miles will be leading two courses, including:

  • Introduction to Collections – Monday, Aug. 1 This introductory course to IRS Collections explores the fundamentals of the IRS collection system, as well as the skill set needed by those practitioners just beginning to represent clients before Collections.
  • Case Evolution with a Flowchart Approach – Wednesday, Aug. 3 This session covers the process for handling a collection case from start to resolution through the aid of a specific workflow.

“At 20/20, we’re very proud that every one of our tax professionals serving clients nationwide are credentialed enrolled agents or attorneys – and many of our agents hold both of these titles,” said Brian Biffle, president of 20/20 Tax Resolution. “Constant change is the nature of the tax business, and David’s expertise will help NAEA attendees refine and enhance the skills they take back to their clients.”

NTPI is a three-level program developed to sharpen the skills of enrolled agents at all stages of their careers. With each level of this program, participants expand their knowledge and skills, and gain the confidence needed to guide their clients successfully through the challenging maze tax regulations and agency structure.

Taxes 2016: Collection Cases, Unpaid Balances Increase

More people owe more money in unpaid taxes than at any other time in U.S. history, according to recently published figures from the Internal Revenue Service. According to the numbers for fiscal year 2015, unpaid tax balances increased by $7 billion and the number of active collection cases grew to 13.5 million.

All this data, coupled with the recent IRS announcement that the agency is planning to hire up to 700 enforcement agents to pursue collection efforts, points to an increasing need for tax resolution services, said David Miles, vice president of 20/20 Tax Resolution in Broomfield, Colo.

“With a growing emphasis on collection and the addition of 700 new enforcement hires, businesses and individuals facing unpaid tax burdens would be wise to take action first before the IRS takes it for them,” Miles said.

According to news reports, IRS hiring will first be focused on the department that monitors small businesses and self-employed individuals. This only increases the urgency for these audiences to address any lingering tax concerns, according to Miles.

“Most of our clients are an adaptable cross-section of American business,” he said. “They have a general sense of business, but the nuances of tax policy are not usually top of mind. Particularly with this new IRS development, our advice is always to err on the side of over preparation.”

Primarily, that means planning ahead for tax burdens, closely monitoring financial concerns throughout the year and keeping ahead of any potential IRS action.

“Undercapitalization seems to be the universal issue with companies facing tax problems.” Miles said. “Whether due to poor planning or unforeseen circumstances, undercapitalization often leads to a company’s collection problems. However, many companies compound the problem by ignoring the issue or just hoping it will go away. Being proactive before the IRS takes action is the best way to resolve tax challenges.”

Ambiguity around IRS Funds for New Enforcement Hires

Yes. You read the headlines right. Up to 700 new IRS enforcement hires are expected to begin work in the near future. And while some may believe that the government creating this volume of jobs within one agency without Congressional funding would be cause for celebration, others couldn’t disagree more. Take the instance of Rep. Jason Chafftez, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform panel’s opinion about Commissioner Koskinen’s recent announcement of the IRS’ plan to hire additional enforcement personnel.  A few weeks back Fox News reported that on May 6, 2016, Rep. Chaffetz wrote a letter to the Commissioner demanding to know the specifics of how the IRS is going to find the money to fund the hiring initiative less than three months after the Commissioner wrote a letter to Congress stating an “urgently needed” $1 billion budget increase to hire enforcement personnel.

Rep. Chaffetz’s reaction to the IRS announcement should not come as much of a surprise to those that have followed the IRS’ back and forth with Congressional Republicans. This is merely the latest in partisan bickering between the nation’s revenue collector and lawmakers following a number of IRS missteps, most notably the report on lavish IRS spending on agency parties and the targeting of conservative groups pursuing tax-exempt status. As a result, Congress reacted by slashing the IRS’ budget by about $1 billion over the past five years which has had a dramatic impact on IRS customer service and enforcement.

Admittedly, the Commissioner’s explanation of where exactly the IRS is acquiring the funding for the new hires is vague at best.  In his statement, Koskinen cites attrition and “certain efficiencies” as the source of the revenue but goes no further in outlining details.  Interestingly, however, Koskinen does go so far as to explain the rationale behind the funding allocation to enforcement by saying that money is specifically earmarked for certain expenses and cannot be allocated to different departments, i.e., the $290 million Congress recently gave the IRS for cyber-security and other technology improvements.

Despite any ambiguity around the allocation of funds to enforcement hires, there is no debate this function of the IRS has been hit hard by budget cuts. Referred to as one of the core competencies of the IRS Revenue Officer Staffing has fallen over 30% the last five years. The IRS’ inability to have an effective field presence threatens not only to diminish collection revenue but also to undermine voluntary compliance.

How does this affect you or your company? While the impact may not be too dramatic, an uptick in activity as a result of the new hires could mean that the IRS is likely to open more cases or work inactive cases as it has more hands to do so. Ultimately, being proactive when it comes to dealing with your tax issues is best practice as you don’t want to be caught by surprise while simultaneously racking up penalties and interest.

More IRS Enforcement on the Horizon

It’s not a secret that the Internal Revenue Service has been understaffed for quite some time. However, the IRS has announced that for the first time in five years there will be significant enforcement hires (between 600 and 700 new employees). Although the IRS is still suffering from years of successive budget cuts totaling almost $1 billion the IRS has, over the course of the last year, received funds that allow it to address its most dire staffing needs.

In announcing the new hires, IRS Commissioner, John Koskinen, provided an overview of how these decisions are made. According to Koskinen, earlier this year Congress provided $290 million specifically earmarked for taxpayer service, identity theft and cybersecurity. The more recent availability of funds necessary to fund the enforcement staffing was recognized through certain work efficiencies and the rate of attrition in enforcement.  

A cursory review of fiscal years 2014 and 2015 staffing illustrates that collection personnel such as Revenue Agents and Revenue Offices, have been two of hardest hit functions of the IRS. In fact, from 2014 to 2015 each role lost 10% of its workforce at a time when many other functions had almost no losses and some even added positions. Interestingly, Commissioner Koskinen, in his announcement, highlighted the fact that each enforcement position typically returns almost $10 for every dollar spent – and many times, much more. 

The enforcement hiring will be introduced in two waves, one in the next few weeks and the second wave later this year. The initial hiring will focus on entry-level positions in SB/SE (small business/self-employed) while the hires in the latter part of the year will assist with more high-profile enforcement areas.

It’s difficult to know the practical impacts on taxpayers, collection inventory and practitioners prior to implementation, yet it’s safe to say that there probably hasn’t been this much reason to be proactive in respect to resolving a collection case in six years. I think it’s reasonable to speculate that the hiring initiative together with the IRS’ Early Action Initiative and the private debt collection authorized by the FAST Act are going to shake things up. 

For the full Koskinen article, click here. 

 

 

 

 

Heed These Warning Signs When Seeking Tax Resolution

Nearly two-thirds of America’s small businesses say that the complexity and cost of federal tax preparation poses a significant problem for their business, according to the National Small Business Association. Consequently, small business owners can sometimes miss important nuances of the tax code, putting them at odds with the IRS and in need of tax resolution services.

“Businesses facing difficult tax problems can be very vulnerable,” said Brian Biffle, president of 20/20 Tax Resolution. “Owners feel they need to react quickly but they are often worried about facing IRS penalties and can be unsure of tax policy regulations. The rush to solve the problem, combined with a lack of knowledge, can make identifying a qualified tax resolution provider a challenging process.”

However, there are many reputable professionals providing tax resolution services, Biffle said. The key is to identify one that is knowledgeable, diligent and will actually help solve tax problems.

“Many tax resolution companies work very hard to provide honest and effective counsel to their clients,” said Biffle, whose company has successfully managed tax issues for more than 26,000 clients nationwide as of April 2016. “But there are distinct warning signs business owners should recognize when searching for a provider.”

  1. Overpromising – No tax consultant can guarantee results, whether those results include reducing tax liabilities or promising acceptance into the IRS Offer In Compromise program. If a company makes immediate guarantees with no information to back up its claims, it may be a sign to seek a different provider.
  2. Lack of transparency – Every tax resolution provider should be comfortable delivering background information on their company in an upfront and easily understood manner. The provider should be able to discuss company ownership, years in service and past client successes. When they aren’t able to do so (or are unwilling to do so), a business owner should move on.
  3. Demands for in-full payment upfront – As in any relationship with a professional services provider, trust is a key indicator of partnership. If a tax resolution provider wants to charge a fee just to speak with a consultant, you can end up paying an unlicensed salesperson to simply tell you what the company can do for you. Find a company that provides initial consultations completely free of charge.
  4. Lack of credentialed consultants – A competent tax resolution provider will not utilize unlicensed commission-based sales people to provide a diagnosis of your tax issue. Remember that only a CPA, an attorney or an Enrolled Agent can represent you before the IRS. If your tax resolution provider is not offering you assistance through a seasoned, credentialed consultant, it’s a good sign the provider will not be working in the best interests of the business.
  5. Unclear next steps – The provider should be able to discuss who will be managing the work, how often they’ll be in contact and what a business owner can expect with respect to ongoing reporting of progress. If these specifics are unclear, it’s a sign to walk away.

“These are the key indicators that should raise consumer concern,” Biffle said. “Of course, business owners should always use their best judgment, but as in so many aspects of business, if it feels too good to be true, it probably is.”