20/20: Our Most Unusual Cases

From keeping Alaskans connected to saving Christmas, 20/20’s work goes well beyond dollars and cents

Over the past two decades, 20/20 Tax Resolution agents have seen and heard just about everything. Clients come to us because they’re facing devastating setbacks, financial missteps or stumbling business ventures. Our job, however, is not to judge the circumstances of these clients. It’s to help them find a way back to their productive, satisfying and happy lives. In the process of doing our work, we’ll go to great lengths to help clients reach their goal. Our innovative agents are accustomed to going the extra mile, leaving no stone unturned and fighting for the best resolution.

The following are just a few of our most unusual cases from the past 20 years:

The Doubter

You know you’ve done something right when your client is in such disbelief that he asks to call the IRS to confirm the outcome you’ve achieved.

“This client owed around $63,000,” said 20/20 Agent Alberto Douriet, E.A. “After reviewing his file, we found a settlement would have been around $10,000. He wanted an Offer In Compromise (OIC).”

Not bad, Alberto thought. But he suspected there could be a better resolution in a payment plan. Here’s why: Little did the client know, the Collection Statute Expiration Dates were scheduled to expire in nine months. Alberto explained to the client he could pay the $10K with an OIC, or pay a mere $125 a month for nine months until the expiration (a total of only $1,125). Of course, the client jumped at the chance to so dramatically reduce his costs.

“The first few times the client and I spoke, he was set on an OIC and didn’t want to talk about anything else,” Alberto said. “He was a very “hands on” individual, so I sent him information about CSEDs and encouraged him to do his own research on these matters to gain his trust, which I quickly did. Once it was all over, he was in shock.”

Saved From An Embezzler

What do you do when the CFO of your company embezzles more than a million dollars? Throw in the towel and move on, right? Not in the case of an enterprising client from 20/20 Agent Gabe Leap, E.A.

“This case was strange and unusual in that the proprietor of the existing business had nothing to do with the tax liability,” Gabe said.

Not only had a scoundrel embezzled money, but he liquidated the retirement accounts of employees. Without expert intervention, the company’s dedicated workers would be left high and dry – and without a job.

“The taxpayer only took it over in an attempt to keep the business operating so he and his fellow employees would have a place to work,” Gabe said.

A noble cause, indeed. But one fraught with a lot of headaches and risk – not the least of which was potential prosecution from law enforcement. Fortunately, Gabe and his team were able to deflect any charges and de-fuse the situation – and in the end people’s jobs were saved.

“We had to negotiate stays of collections and bring the FBI and the Department of Labor,” Gabe said. “We were able to legitimize the claim to the taxing authorities that the theft was the reason for the accrual.”

Saving A Necessary Service

When you live in a remote area, you’re often at the mercy of Mother Nature and challenging logistics. It’s not always easy to do simple things – and basic needs must be constantly replenished, often from far-off locations. So an airline delivery service that provides necessary goods and services is a critical need.

“Our client was an aviation company that flew critical flights to service remote parts of this state with goods and services,” said 20/20 Agent Joe Cunningham, E.A. “The client flew for the U.S. Postal Service, the FBI and local law enforcement, among other organizations.”

But when tax issues threatened to ground the planes, 20/20 was able to work with an alphabet soup list of government entities and mechanisms to keep pilots (and packages) in the air. All told, the 20/20 team’s efforts to save the company involved coordinating with the United States Postal Service (USPS), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the FMS Division of Treasury, the IRS and others to save the airline.

Cunningham and his team used a variety of mechanisms to resolve the airline’s financial woes.

“We saved their company,” Joe said, “and kept this service available to residents.”

Boy Trouble Leads To Tax Trouble

Sometimes true love is not what it seems. But in the heat of the moment, we swear we’ll do anything to demonstrate our commitment to a relationship. Common sense doesn’t always win out.

“This client had significant penalties as a result of relying on a prior boyfriend who convinced her to be a ‘tax protester’ for several years,” said 20/20 Agent Matt Schiller, E.A. “He persuaded her that income tax in the United States is unconstitutional.”

Matt was able to work with the client to educate her on why she should promise never to take this position moving forward. In turn, he was able to convince the IRS of his client’s new perspective, removing the stigma and bias toward her that her Revenue Officer had developed due to the client’s previous viewpoint.

“I established an installment agreement to resolve the back tax,” Matt said. “We are currently preparing a penalty abatement request.”

Senior Security

Even the U.S. Government can have a heart sometimes. That turned out to be just the case for one of 20/20 Agent Tiffani Million’s clients. Tiffani’s client, a 71-year-old graphic designer, lived off his Social Security earnings and made a very limited amount of extra money through his small graphic design business.

“His business generated very little income and it possessed assets with little to no value,” Tiffani said. “Personally, he had one used vehicle and possessed no other assets with equity.  After he paid all of his monthly expenses, he didn’t have much left to live off of at the end of the month.”

Unfortunately, he owed back taxes of more than $84,000 – a sum he could never even consider hoping to pay. Tiffani recognized his situation was untenable, and performed what some might say was a miracle.

“I submitted an Offer in Compromise on the taxpayer’s behalf for $1, because of his extreme circumstances,” she said. “And the Internal Revenue Service accepted!”

Helping A Client Move Forward

It was a “Catch 22” type of situation for one of 20/20 Agent Sam Million’s clients. The client couldn’t pay her taxes because of lack of work, and she couldn’t land a steady job because of a federal tax lien on her credit report. What’s more, she was facing a $40,000 tax liability.

“The client had been mostly unemployed for several years with the occasional contracting position that would last one to three months,” Sam said. “We had tried several different methods of resolution, including an Offer in Compromise on her $40,000 tax liability. When we finally had an examiner agree to give a settlement of $6,000 the client had no current income and couldn’t afford the repayment.”

It seemed she was doomed to failure no matter what she did. But Sam didn’t give up hope. He understood that a clean credit report could help the client in her pursuit of full-time work – and the federal tax lien was preventing that from happening.

“After several months we decided to pursue a withdrawal of the federal tax lien so she could then qualify for a more long-term job position,” he said. “We had never requested a lien withdrawal with no resolution in place or tax liability being full paid. But we rolled the dice and submitted a request for the lien to be withdrawn so that the taxpayer could qualify for job opportunities and an income that would help her sustain a repayment plan to the IRS.”

The IRS Technical Advisor agreed to this, and issued a withdrawal of the federal tax lien, Sam said. In addition, the 20/20 team was able to negotiate a first-time abatement on the liability, reducing the client’s debt by roughly $6,000.

Saving Christmas for 100 families

Think of this scenario: The IRS issues a hefty levy against your construction company. It’s five days before Christmas. The $1.7 million liability is just $100,000 shy of your total business bank account. You’re forced to tell employees they won’t be receiving their expected regular paycheck right before the holiday.

Although he didn’t sport a white beard and a jolly red suit, 20/20 Agent Mike Ranalli may as well have swept in on a one-horse open sleigh when he told the business owner he had secured a release of the $1.7 million levy just prior to Dec. 25th.

“We were able to get the entire levy released through procedural wizardry,” said Mike. “As a result, the business was able to pay the company’s more than 100 employees. The night we told him about the funds release, our client said that he went home and downed a mug of vodka. No ice. No mixer. Just a mug of vodka. Whew!”

20/20 Hindsight

How We Began, Where We’re Going. Looking back on 20 years in the tax resolution business.

Two decades ago, the tax resolution business was a burgeoning industry. Consumers facing IRS action and beleaguered by complicated tax issues were clamoring for answers and assistance. Taxpayer expectations were high, and were sometimes accentuated by the dramatic results promoted by many of the new resolution firms.

“At the time there weren’t very many companies in the industry,” said Brian Biffle, who along with Tim Shea and Hansen Rada founded 20/20 Tax Resolution in 1998. “There was a tendency for companies to focus their promotional efforts on these spectacular resolutions that were sometimes secured. But the value and peace of mind consumers gained just by having an expert on their side sometimes became lost or ignored.”

Biffle, Shea and Rada knew there was a better way. They felt that clients in need deserved a straightforward approach, an honest assessment of their options and more important, the relief of knowing they were in capable hands. And they knew that increasing competition in the industry would be one way to encourage more accountability for all consumers.

Together, they thought, why not “show ‘em how it’s done.”

“Starting a business seemed like a good idea when you’re in your early 20s and don’t have anything to lose,” Biffle said only half joking. “We were young and we didn’t have mortgages and children.”Anniversary

Thus, on August 3, 1998, 20/20 Tax Resolution was born. The name signified the “perfect vision” the new company could provide to clearly see through complicated tax liabilities and options. The company’s promise: “Visualize a financially secure future.”

“We were really focused on being honest with our customers about what they could and could not accomplish with resolutions,” Biffle said. “We wanted to be realistic about what they could expect from their resolution.”

What’s more, 20/20 wanted to offer clients value without over promising results, resorting to pushy sales tactics or using fear-based hooks to lure nervous taxpayers. The newly formed company wanted to give customers a clear choice in an industry where competition was low and consumer vulnerability was high.

“We knew we could provide plenty of value without claiming that every client was going to save $100,000,” he said. “We could provide a clear assessment of their chances of success and what they could save. And we could demonstrate why it makes sense to hire an expert representative.”

20/20 understood right from the start that the peace of mind generated from having a knowledgeable expert in your corner cannot be underestimated. The company treated clients with respect and as partners on the road to a positive resolution.

“When you start a case you can’t promise things you don’t know,” Biffle said. “Clients respect that you might not have all the answers right away. They respect that honesty. That’s really the foundation of the whole company. Being honest with our clients. Being honest with our employees.”

A lot of disparate issues come together to create a great outcome, Biffle said. Sometimes issues are the client’s responsibility and sometimes they are our responsibility. The key at 20/20 has always been (and will always be) to develop the trust between our agent and the client to create the best possible resolution.

“If you’re negotiating on someone’s behalf for a year and you’re only giving them good news, something’s not right,” Biffle said. “Life’s not always about good news, and when you tell the client both the good and the bad they respect you more.”

With a solid business plan and approach in place, the stage was set for 20/20’s success. Of course, there were pitfalls along the way. Legal and legislative issues arose at times. And of course, there have been the ever-present challenges that come with running any business. There were times projections for company growth exceeded reality – and times when initial hopes for new hires fell short.

“Hiring and then having to lay people off is really tough,” Biffle said. “We care about all of our employees and anyone who has ever worked here.”

Over the years, 20/20 endured the ups and downs to become one of the industry’s most successful and respected firms of its type. Through three different offices and from one employee to more than 100, the company has grown by leaps and bounds. In just its second year (1999), the firm experienced significant growth eventually leading to $10 million in revenue by 2008. To date, 20/20 has served more than 27,000 clients in all 50 states.

Along the way, the company has evolved to meet the needs of clients, as well as to adapt to changing tax regulations and policies. After years of experience, the company recognized the challenges clients can face after their resolution is finalized. Sometimes, life circumstances interfere with a client’s ability to meet payment plan obligations. Other times, a mistake from a taxing authority can negatively impact an agreement. To combat these issues (and others), 20/20 created POA+ in 2008. This subscription-based service provides clients with ongoing monitoring of taxing authorities to ensure that no action on your status is taken without your knowledge. It maintains 20/20’s Power of Attorney on your behalf to ensure quick action should any issues arise and provides continued access to your 20/20 team for any questions you might have.

As for the future, Biffle said the company will continue to develop better and more cost-effective ways to assist taxpayers in an environment that is constantly changing. In the current political environment, decreasing funding for IRS operations makes the type of services 20/20 offers even more essential to taxpayers in need of assistance.

“We hear from clients everyday about how difficult it is to contact the IRS and get answers from them,” Biffle said. “Our worry is that this will only get worse the more the IRS becomes defunded. A person running for office saying ‘I want to give the IRS more money’ is not a real popular campaign slogan. We’re going to continue seeing taxpayers facing these problems.”

On the horizon, Biffle said the company is working to help alleviate some of that complexity by adding services for payroll issues and better financing options for clients. In addition, 20/20 is working on a product that will help clients quickly identify where they stand with the IRS for a low fee, allowing them to obtain the type of information they need to make important decisions.

“We have a lot of great things queued up for the future,” Biffle said. “I want us to continue to do what we’ve always done, which is to provide outstanding, ethical service to our clients. We’ve faced our challenges but looking back over 20 years I don’t see any challenge we can’t handle.”

Why Tax Resolution Software Isn’t the Answer

When you hire a doctor or attorney, you expect them to have an expert level understanding of your situation and how they can remedy the problem you came to them with.  Tax resolution is no different.  While the IRS authorizes any Enrolled Agent, Certified Public Accountant, or Attorney to represent a taxpayer before them in the collection process, these designations also serve other forms of representation such as ​tax preparation or bookkeeping.  Each one of these credentials permits a professional to work in many capacities as a representative, but it is up to the professional to determine their ​area of focus and educate themselves on the ins and outs of the representation they choose to undertake.

With bookkeeping and accounting comes the requisite knowledge to adequately track the day to day revenue and expenses of a business and record it properly.  There are countless accounting techniques that only someone with specific training and continuing education in the field of bookkeeping​​ and accounting would know.  With tax preparation comes the need to have an in depth working knowledge of the tax code to minimize each clients tax liability with a reasonable basis for each position taken.  Tax resolution is no different than these two forms of representation and in fact requires a multitude of profic​i​encies.

Resolution work requires familiarity with the IRC and IRM, an ability to interpret a taxpayer’s entire situation and apply their needs to a resolution that fits, the ability to recognize when the IRS or state has stepped out of line and not followed proper procedure, knowledge on how to move from one resolution strategy to another seamlessly without exposing the taxpayer to enforced collection, and in an esoteric sense, the ability to motivate taxpayers to seek compliance and establish systems to prevent the issue that caused a need for resolution from recurring.​ Business people shaking hands, finishing up a meeting.These profic​i​encies cannot be gained by simply accessing software that assists with the completion of forms and documents required for a specific resolution option.

The key takeaway we want to leave each reader with is that while there are many ways tax professionals can foray into the resolution world, walking down that path should not be done under the guise that software designed to facilitate the resolution process will create the ability to provide excellent representation.  Excellent representation comes from a working level understanding of the resolution process gained over time through study and work experience​.​ ​Just as accounting software does not make you a competent accountant nor tax preparation software make you an expert at tax preparation, determining the best approach to resolving back tax debt cannot be determined by inputting data into a program.

Avoid Criminal Consequences & Find Harmony

When the IRS sees a business owner with a history of failure to remain compliant, in addition to seeking repayment of back taxes, they can set out on a path to preclude that owner from opening or operating additional businesses.  This path leads to an injunction being sought by the Department of Justice (‘DOJ’) to preclude further business activities that may result in additional taxes going unpaid.  In doing this, the IRS looks to lessen the damage that may come from schemes promoting tax fraud.  Unfortunately, many who have simply run into tough times and have fallen behind on their taxes can become the target of one of these injunctions.

When an injunction is put into place and subsequently violated, the failure to comply is pursued with criminal prosecutions for contempt of the injunction order as well as civil remedies which can involve the forced closure of a business.

“Lead the people with administrative injunctions and put them in their place with penal law, and they will avoid punishments but will be without a sense of shame. Lead them with excellence and put them in their place through roles and ritual practices, and in addition to developing a sense of shame, will order themselves harmoniously.” –Confucius

Shame is a word that no one wants to be associated with.  When we feel shame, we reminisce on our failures that lead to the shame.  Often times, shame follows the failure.  Confucius tells us that by developing a sense of our own shame, we can allow the shame to precede the failure and subsequent punishment that may come from that failure and instill practices that prevent the failure from coming about.Young female entrepreneur working in a home office

The IRS is out to prevent future failures by way of injunctions.  We are here to prevent future failures by helping our clients develop the processes necessary to remain compliant and show the IRS that an injunction is not necessary.  We encourage the use of a payroll company for all future filings to ensure that nothing falls behind.  We partner with the largest payroll providers in the country to streamline implementation and allow you to stay focused on your day to day business operations.  Additionally, we work the the IRS to make sure that all deposits paid timely are communicated to revenue officers handling the case, so they do not find the need to recommend an injunction to the DOJ.

If your business has fallen behind and you are not sure how to address the liability, contact us today.  Once our representation is in place, we will work diligently to prevent the need for an injunction to be sought and get your business back into compliance with the taxing authorities.

Tax Resolution – What it is and isn’t.

Tax debt can be confusing and finding good advice and an adviser with your best interests at heart can be a trying process.  You can find positive and negative reviews for just about every provider in the industry so it can be tough to pull the trigger and hire help when you can’t afford to be wrong.

Critics, unfamiliar with the nuance of our practice, often claim that the process can be handled on your own at a fraction of the cost, with no need for expert advice while others target the fact that many companies operate without credentials.  At 20/20, we are a firm of Enrolled Agents, licensed to practice before the IRS.  We have been in business for nearly 20 years representing clients and offering our expertise to help resolve tax debt through the most effective means possible.  Additionally, we know first hand how arduous dealing with the IRS can be.  According to the IRS, a 2015 study showed that only 37% of calls to IRS customer service were actually answered with the average wait time being 27 minutes.tax calculation

Everyone Can Settle Tax Debt – A Marketing Gimmick

Advertisements push the notion that your debt can be reduced and you will only pay a fraction of the amount owed.  While this is true for some, others will find this may not be an option.

The IRS and most states base their willingness to reduce a liability to less than the principal tax owed on the financial condition of the debtor.  If they believe, based on a financial analysis, that there is a greater good that can be achieved by settling the debt and focusing on future compliance, they will agree to settle the liability.  As tax resolution experts, we work diligently to make the argument that a client’s financial condition warrants the acceptance of an offer to settle, or as it is known, an Offer in Compromise.

Some will find the Offer in Compromise process is not one that best meets their needs since they don’t meet the qualifications.  In those instances, we work to reach a resolution that works within a client’s budgetary constraints so they can remain protected from enforced collection.

Easy Enough To Do On Your Own – A Dangerous Rhetoric

In some cases, the tax resolution industry is criticized because individual debtors can obtain installment agreements without a financial review when their liability falls below a certain threshold.  These agreements are known as Streamlined Agreements and involve either a 72 or 84 month limit on the time required to repay the liability.  In a situation where the Streamlined Agreement amounts to a lower monthly payment than a financial review suggests, we do recommend these, but only if it is the most effective resolution.

There is a lesser known solution whereby a debtor can reach an installment agreement that doesn’t amount to paying the liability in full, but makes payments through the collection statute expiration date (‘CSED’).  While there are exceptions to the CSED rule of 10 years that can toll the time frame, in most cases, a debt becomes non-collectible 10 years after it originally becomes due.  These types of agreements are reviewed no less than every two years to see if the debtor can increase their monthly payments, but typically result in a greater savings than a full pay installment agreement.

In addition to compromises and payment plans, we work to abate penalties and lessen the impact of tax liens imposed on our clients.  Most of the time, a taxpayer will be eligible for a first time penalty abatement (‘FTA’).  The FTA is a no strings attached abatement that can be given without cause provided there was a history of compliance with no penalties for 3 prior tax periods.  In addition to the FTA, we are able to submit a reasonable cause penalty abatement.  An abatement for reasonable cause must be constructed to represent that the failure to file or failure to pay was not a result of willful neglect, but rather the result of reasonable cause.  Typically, the IRS applies the cause stated to their reasonable cause assistant to determine if the threshold has been met to abate the penalties.  Even if an initial request is denied, a qualified tax resolution expert can contest the ruling through an appeals process.  In cases where liens pose a problem, solutions are available.

Representation Matters

Did you know the right to representation exists in the IRS collection process?  If sued by a creditor for the same amount that the taxing authorities allege, would you represent yourself?  Maybe, but most likely not.  The IRS recognizes the adversarial nature in which they are pursuing their best interest, not yours.  As a result, the right to counsel in the collection process is afforded by the Taxpayer Bill of Rights.

It is important to understand that the resolution process is not one where a licensed expert can make your liability disappear with an incredibly low settlement offer, but rather one where an expert can analyze your profile and your debt and develop the solution that saves you the most time and money in the long run.  We believe we offer the most intelligent and thorough solutions in the industry today and strive to offer solutions that we believe are attainable in order to provide our clients the service and solutions they deserve.

Is the IRS Allowing Private Collection Agencies to Bully Low Income Taxpayers?

The National Taxpayer Advocate’s 2017 Annual Report to Congress suggests that the IRS has done little to protect vulnerable taxpayers from its private debt collection initiative.  The main vulnerability comes from private collection agencies setting up repayment terms that fell within the streamlined guidelines, which taxpayers can obtain without submitting financial information.IRS - file cabinet label

Often, a streamlined repayment option puts the debtor in a situation where the payments are more than they can afford.  While the IRS offers repayment options that are based on the ability to pay, the report found private collection agencies are pushing for repayment based only on streamlined conditions.

It is important to know that like most debts, when back taxes are owed to the IRS, you can find a repayment option that does not amount to paying the liability in full.  If you have fallen upon hard times or are simply facing a debt that is beyond your means, completing a financial information statement is the first step in determining your eligibility for alternative repayment options.

At 20/20, we believe our team of Enrolled Agents provides the best representation money can buy.  We work with taxpayers to regain their footing and develop a resolution that works for them.  At the same time, we recognize that there are many who simply cannot afford to hire a representative for themselves.  In these cases, it is important to know that there are Low Income Taxpayer Clinics. According to their website, “Each clinic determines whether prospective clients meet income guidelines and other criteria before agreeing to represent them or provide consultation services.”  If you feel you might be a candidate for their assistance, we encourage you to reach out and ask for help.  In the event you don’t qualify, contact us and see how we can help.  Ultimately, the difference in going it alone versus having representation could be a costly one.

20/20 Success Story: Douglas

Tough times and tough decisions forced couple into bankruptcy, losing their business and leaving them with hundreds of thousands in unpaid tax debt.

Situation:

As any business owner will attest, managing a company can be a delicate balancing act. During prosperous times, it’s easier to keep a steady ship. But when challenges arise, difficult decisions made under duress can come back to haunt you.

That’s a business lesson not unfamiliar to Douglas Smith and his wife, Dana. The one-time co-owners of an ambulance service provider had managed their successful business for many years until tough times forced the couple to make arduous economic choices. Squeezed between paying employee salaries and keeping current on all tax obligations, the couple chose the former – thinking they would “catch up” when financial pressures eased. However, as interest and penalties accumulated, the unpaid taxes became a hurdle too big to overcome. Forced into bankruptcy and struggling to pay bills and keep the company, the Smiths were distressed and disillusioned.

“There were some extraordinarily dark times,” recalled Doug Smith. “It certainly wasn’t the most joyous of times or the most anticipated of consequences.”

Analyzing Business Data - pen and numbers on paper

The Problem:

In the case of the Smiths and their business operations, there were actually multiple problems – all requiring attention at once. But perhaps the most pressing issue was the constant pressure from the IRS to settle the matter. Faced with a struggling business and a tax bill reaching “hundreds of thousands” of dollars, the Smiths were under an increasing amount of stress both at work and at home.

“You still have to pay your bills,” Doug said. “You still have to try to make your business work. We were still running the company trying to get a contract so we could get out of this mess. It was not good times.”

“There was a lot of stress. A lot of emotion,” Dana added. “We saw a lot of tears.”

With such a large amount of money owed and no way to pay it, the Smiths were becoming concerned about the potential consequences, including the fear that jail time might be a possibility.

“I don’t really know if it was a possibility but we’d heard stories,” Doug said. “Certainly with over a hundred thousand dollars at stake, I’m not sure how forgiving a prosecuting attorney would be if it had ever gotten to that point.”

Fortunately, it never did.

The Solution:

With the recognition that their tax troubles were only getting worse – and a desire to move forward with their lives in a positive way – the Smiths decided that professional help was in order. Disappointed by the lack of support they were finding in their community, the couple was understandably wary of seeking outside help. Yet, the Smiths needed help from someone familiar with, and adept at, solving the tax problem they were facing. Fortunately, 20/20 Tax Resolution possessed the exact experience the couple required.

“I did research online just to look for relief,” Doug said. “When I checked 20/20 Tax Resolution, I also checked their Better Business Bureau rating and decided they were the ones I wanted to call.”

Satisfied with 20/20’s BBB, the Smiths contacted the firm and were quickly blown away by the attention to detail and responsiveness of their 20/20 representative.

“They were very understanding and very clear on what we needed,” Doug said. “We were moving forward and making good progress when my bankruptcy came back to throw a bump in the road.”

During the process of finalizing an Offer in Compromise (OIC) with the IRS, it was determined that the Smith’s bankruptcy filing had not been “fully discharged” – which means the couple possessed remaining assets not considered in the OIC. (An OIC allows qualified individuals with an unpaid tax debt to negotiate a settled amount that is less than the total owed.) As a result, the original OIC was returned, but Doug said that 20/20’s commitment to resolving their issue never wavered.

“They were diligent, caring and showed the highest integrity,” he said. “My case took a few curves and hit some bumps along the way, but all were masterfully handled by them. I have nothing but the greatest of praise and highest recommendation for anyone needing 20/20’s tax resolution services.”

After a very long process, a new OIC was secured for the Smiths which effectively reduced their debt to a fraction of the couple’s original tax debt. (You can view the actual OIC here.) For the first time, the Smiths could see a light at the end of their very long, dark tunnel.

“For anyone going through this, I would say find a very good advocate for yourself,” Doug said. “I believe I found an excellent advocate at 20/20. My team was worth a million bucks. They were there whenever I had an issue. Sam Million and his assistant, John Casanova (the Smith’s 20/20 team) were exquisitely talented in helping with my case and understanding the stress I felt throughout the case. Thanks to their efforts our life has improved considerably.”

In fact, Dana said the assistance of 20/20 may just have saved the couple’s marriage. Today, the Smith’s are “starting over” and rebuilding their lives free of the worry and burden that overtook their lives for nearly six years. If everything works according to plan, the couple will purchase a new home this year – something unimaginable just a few short months ago.

Dananananananana Tax Scams!

If you can hear yourself reading that title to the tune of the old Batman song, you’re not alone.  Unfortunately, not even Batman can help you if you fall victim to one of the many tax scams targeting taxpayers this time of year.  The two most prevalent and pervasive scams prey on taxpayers soon to receive refunds and those that have a delinquent balance owed to the government.batman

The first type, one which preys on refunds, is carried out by attempting to steal identifying information so a fraudulent tax return can be filed on the taxpayer’s behalf in order to have the refund sent to the criminal.  Ways in which one might fall victim to this is by way of an e-mail or link impersonating an official organization requesting information that would typically be found on a tax return.  Such information includes your social security number, address, past tax return information and potentially even your pin # that you may have chosen with the IRS.

If you believe you have fallen victim to this type of scam, there is something that can be done immediately.  The filing of Form 14039 with the IRS notifies them that you may have had your information stolen and they will begin to work with you to correct any fraudulent returns filed on your behalf.  It also results in the creation of an Identity Protection PIN which can be used for future returns and should not be shared with anyone.  Taxpayers can also preemptively file Form 14039 to request the creation of an IP PIN in order to protect their filing process before it becomes compromised.

The second type of scam is one we see far too often here at 20/20.  When a taxpayer has a delinquent tax account and owes either the state or IRS, it is common for a lien to be filed against them.  Scammers will typically pose as state agents or IRS revenue officers claiming that there is a tax lien of public record in your name and insist you pay immediately while making threats of criminal consequences.  The IRS insists they will not initiate contact with a taxpayer by phone, however that comes with the caveat that they may make contact by phone after previously sending notices regarding the tax debt.  This contact is typically made by a revenue officer and you can request they provide their ID # as well as contacting your local IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center to confirm their legitimacy.

If you still believe you cannot safely handle your back tax debt alone, we are here to help.  At 20/20, our Enrolled Agents work directly with Revenue Officers and State Agents every day to assist taxpayers in need of affordable resolution options.  Contact us immediately to get a Tax Facts Report and engage us to step in on your behalf to lower your tax liability and find a manageable resolution.

20/20 Success Story: John

Facing tens of thousands in owed back taxes, Texas man turned to 20/20 Tax Resolution and discovered the meaning of sweet redemption

Situation:

John Mohan lived his life on the edge – but without ever realizing it. An electrician by trade in the small Texas town of Alvin (located about 40 miles south of Houston), John worked as an independent contractor for many years and never bothered to file a tax return for any of his contracting income. It wasn’t a conscious decision to disregard a responsibility, but more of an oversight that over time became an “outta sight, outta mind” kind of habit. Similar to others in the construction industry, John worked a variety of jobs over the years, ranging from electrician to carpenter. But when John took a job with a larger company that withheld taxes from each paycheck, the Internal Revenue Service took notice.

“I received a letter saying that I owed $4,000,” John, 53, said. “So I assumed that’s all they wanted and I went in to the IRS to try and finance that $4,000. That’s when they said ‘Wait, that’s $4,000 for ONE year.’ They wanted immediate filings for the last six or seven years.”

Man holding blue helmet close up

The Problem:

Like so many in the construction industry, John hadn’t kept meticulous records of his past earnings. He couldn’t afford to hire an accountant to help him go back nearly a decade and determine all the revenue he had earned and how to file his back returns. He was, in his own language, “devastated.” And the IRS was breathing down his neck.

“I wanted to just quit my job,” he said. “The IRS was threatening to garnish my wages right off the bat. I’ve heard horror stories about people going through this and I just had no idea what I was going to do. I had no idea where to even begin with something like that.”

John left the IRS office that day feeling sad, depressed and “all alone.” He knew he could be facing an insurmountable amount of back taxes and penalties. Losing sleep and worried about his economic future, John owed nearly $45,000 in back taxes spanning multiple years.

The Solution:

In what could be called an amazing coincidence, John returned home from the IRS to find a letter in his mailbox from 20/20 Tax Resolution. He had never heard of the Colorado-based firm with more than two decades of experience helping people just like him.  The letter arrived at the perfect time for John to take action.

“That really got the ball started,” John said. “Just contacting 20/20 really started to emotionally put me at ease.”

From the very onset of working together, 20/20 was able to remove the fear, worry and unrest John was constantly feeling about his tax situation. An aggressive IRS was sending John threatening letters and communicating ultimatums John wasn’t able to fully understand.

“They said don’t worry about it, just send the letters to us,” John said. “Every time I got a letter, I would pick up the phone immediately and call 20/20.”

That attention and compassionate assistance made a world of difference to John. He was able to better focus on his work and life – and remove the doubts and concerns from his mind. He was a bit concerned at the outset that 20/20 was located in Colorado while he lived in Texas. But those worries were quickly displaced by gratitude.

“I actually forgot about the whole situation a lot of times,” he said. “20/20 was just great. Those people are awesome. They even worked with me on creating a payment plan for the cost to resolve my situation.”

In the end, John received the greatest news of all: 20/20 was able to successfully negotiate an Offer in Compromise for John with a settlement of only $234! Although he’s still in the process of getting liens removed and he will need to stay on top of future tax obligations, John feels 20/20 helped him dodge a bullet that would have hampered his life for many, many years.

“I feel very blessed that I called 20/20,” John said. “I’d recommend anyone who has any tax problem at all to call 20/20. They are outstanding people.”