How to Find the Best Tax Law Attorney for Expats
As a result of new tax regulations such as FACTA, many US expats who were not compliant in filing their taxes while living abroad are now facing serious decisions on how to handle their oversight and the IRS.
What is FATCA & How Does it Apply to Expats?
The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) is a United States federal law that requires US expats to report their financial accounts held outside of the United States. It also requires foreign financial institutions to report to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) about their U.S. customers. Congress enacted FATCA to recoup federal tax revenues and to make it more difficult for U.S. taxpayers to hide assets held in offshore accounts.
Regardless of whether you need a tax attorney to help with or to avoid an IRS issue such as tax evasion, keep these tips in mind when looking for a tax attorney:
1. Do you like one-on-one attorney relationships or do you prefer a team approach?
You may feel more comfortable only dealing with one attorney who deals with tax evasion rather than a large group or law firm. If that is the case, you may want to hire a solo practitioner, or an attorney who is essentially the US expat tax specialist or tax lawyer at a larger law firm.
2. Hire a tax attorney with a wider depth of experience.
A big law firm may be your best option if they handle your legal matters, you feel they treat you fairly and you have a trusted relationship with them. There is a rather steep learning curve to US expat tax regulations. The last thing you need is an attorney who will bill you for their time to get up-to-speed. Make sure to ask what their experience is and how they will approach your tax evasion issue.
3. Should you hire a firm that charges hourly or a guaranteed flat-fee?
Some tax firms charge hourly, while others offer a fixed price. How they set their rate varies from one firm to another. You should hire the best attorney you can realistically afford. The stakes, both financial and personal, are high when dealing with the IRS and tax evasion. This is not the time to make a cut in expenses or hunt for bargains.
4. Hire an attorney who is confident enough to challenge the IRS.
Your attorney will be your voice and advocate, so you definitely need to hire an attorney who will actually stand up to the IRS and discuss the precise reason, with plenty of documentation, why the proposed solution is the best choice for all (especially you) involved. Ask them if they’ve challenged the IRS before, how often, and to what success.
There are many, many brilliant minds in tax law that can’t stick up for themselves, let alone a client. Think of the people in your life who are brilliant but still let people walk all over them. Those people exist as tax attorneys as well, and many of those may be great at research, advice, or filing on your behalf, but perhaps negotiations with IRS on your behalf is not their natural area of comfort.
5. Should you hire a tax attorney that will use an outside CPA?
One of the last things you want is your tax attorney to be acting as a mere liaison between an IRS examiner and a client’s CPA. Here’s why:
The attorney who will be negotiating the numbers on an amended tax return needs to know where they came from. You want a tax attorney who knows not just the tax code but your tax evasion case and facts well enough to persuade the IRS to find the most favorable resolution for you.
The bottom line is this: If you are worried about getting in trouble under US law for tax evasion, you need a lawyer who has been through this before with other clients, and is experienced to handle all the possible outcomes.
This article is brought to you by Verni Tax Law. If you are a U.S. expat and need an attorney with International experience to solve even the most sophisticated tax problems, contact Anthony Verni for an initial consultation. With over 20 years of experience, Anthony delivers successful results to clients living in and outside of the U.S.