The thing about tax attorneys is when you need one, it’s always too late. Tax attorneys should be on the top of your list to start vetting if you have any investments of substance. This is because tax attorneys are different from other attorneys like injury lawyer who can help you right away when you need them. Tax attorneys have different characteristics.
Ideally, your tax attorneys should know you and your business before the IRS or any litigator comes at you. Be prepared ahead of time.
Here’s how to find good tax attorneys.
Start vetting tax attorneys now, not after you buy 3 investment properties.
With the IRS taking steps as early as 2002 to challenge the attorney-client privilege when it comes to tax shelters (see last link under Resources section), it’s more important than ever to find tax attorneys that you absolutely trust.
The first step to finding good tax attorneys is to start now, while you have no problems and no pressure. Step 2 will start the vetting procedure.
Start your search for tax attorneys with your friends.
As with any lawyer, tax attorneys come best by referrals. Ask your **successful** business friends and associates who their tax attorneys are.
This may seem obvious, but the importance of the right tax attorneys on your team is not a secondary issue; thus every step merits repetition.
Tax attorneys must have the right credentials. Tax attorneys have to know numbers.
Vet your tax attorneys by credentials.
Of course your (wo)men should have their law credentials in order, but the best tax attorneys also have accounting credentials. Ideally, you want a CPA, but LLM (Master of Laws in Taxation) is good, too.
If he/she has worked for the IRS, jackpot.
Also, tax attorneys should study the tax law discipline **exclusively.** Rule out anyone who tries to sell you as anything other than.
Give your tax attorneys one zinger each. See how they react.
Once you find at least 3 tax attorneys to interview, meet with each personally.
Have a detailed discussion (and this should be free, up to a couple of hours — good tax attorneys will invest the upfront time) about your business, and note if your attorney has had any similar experience that he/she can tell you about.
You get one tax law question at this session. Don’t try to get a bunch of free advice, but ask your tax attorneys one zinger each. They should be able to answer it without looking through a bunch of files.
Give your top attorney a small tax problem to solve.
The last step to find good tax attorneys is to give your top choice a small problem. Why start off with a crisis situation? See if that attorney can improve your situation. If he/she can, you can be safe that you’ve found your guy/gal. Note these things:
- Does (s)he handle the problem promptly?
- Does (s)he keep you informed?
- Can (s)he explain to you how the problem was solved in plain English?
Tips amp; Warnings Top vetting credential — tax attorneys that can make you laugh are winners. Tax law is such a dry, boring field, that anyone with personality will be a hit at the negotiating table, and that’s definitely what you want in your tax attorneys, my friend. Good luck. Resources Surviving an IRS Tax Audit Federal Tax Procedures for Tax Attorneys Lower Your Taxes How IRS is Challenging Attorney Client Privilege in Tax Law