IRS Audits and Appeals
If you are being audited or want to appeal the results of a recent audit, let us make sure you get the best possible result. As tax attorneys and trial lawyers, we can represent clients from “Audit to Tax Court.” This means that the same lawyer that represents you during an audit can be the same that represents you before the Tax Court. Consistent representation by the same person can be more efficient, cost-effective, and reduces the chance that inadvertent inconsistencies will weaken your case, or your credibility.
The tax audit is often the most important part of the tax controversy process. During this time, you need both a good offense and defense against the IRS, and you need to make sure you preserve the strength of your case in the event that you can’t reach an agreement with the IRS.
As your attorneys, we can communicate with the IRS on your behalf, present facts and legal authority to dispute the amount of tax the IRS says you owe, and negotiate settlements or payment agreements. We might event identify situations where the IRS owes you money!
Tax Collection Defense
If you have unresolved tax debt, your property is at risk of being seized by the IRS. If you can’t afford to lose your home, wages, or other property to the IRS, call us. We can present a defense to the IRS and fight for the release of liens, levies, frozen refunds, or trust fund penalty liabilities. We can also help you obtain alternative solutions to IRS collection efforts, including helping you reach an Installment Agreement, Offer in Compromise, or a “Currently not Collectible Status,” if applicable. We can also help determine whether you qualify for “innocent spouse relief” from taxes incurred during your marriage.
Some taxes are dischargeable in bankruptcy. Thus, bankruptcy cannot be ignored as a possible solution for clients who are overwhelmed by unpaid taxes. As a former Special Assistant United States Attorney, our principal attorney, Karen Lapekas, represented the United States in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court. With this background, we can determine whether your tax liabilities could be discharged through bankruptcy and whether it may be right for you.
Whether you are disputing an IRS Notice of Determination or Notice of Deficiency in Tax Court or suing the IRS for a refund in the U.S. District Court (S.D., Florida), Lapekas Law can represent you. Only those admitted to practice before the United States Tax and District Court can represent you in cases before these Courts. If your accountant or representative is not admitted, he or she cannot file or respond to pleadings or present your case when it is called for trial. Are you ready to interview witnesses, testify, face a cross-examination of an IRS attorney, cross-examine an IRS witness and respond to evidentiary objections?
As an attorney for the IRS, our principal, Karen Lapekas, watched countless individuals mismanage their cases, destroy their credibility, miss opportunities to prevail on issues, and miss deadlines – mistakes that experienced tax attorneys could have prevented or mitigated. In tax litigation, your money, your assets, your reputation, and your privacy are at stake. Let us help you protect them.
Offer in Compromise
Some taxpayers may qualify for an Offer in Compromise (“OIC”). An OIC is an option to settle your IRS tax debt, sometimes at a large discount. We can determine whether you may qualify and whether it is right for you. If it is, and we believe you may qualify, we will help you compile the necessary factual support for your Offer. We will then submit an Offer on your behalf and prepare legal arguments in support thereof.
If you are unable to pay your outstanding taxes and you do not qualify for an Offer in Compromise (or it is not in your best interest), you may be able to resolve your liabilities through monthly payments. In an installment agreement, the IRS agrees to forgo aggressive tax collection actions (such as foreclosure or levies of your social security income or bank account) in exchange for monthly payments, often determined based on your ability to pay. Lapekas Law can represent you through the process to ensure that the IRS complies with its own policies and procedures and that you reach a fair and reasonable payment agreement.
Every year the IRS assesses countless millions of dollars in penalties against taxpayers. These penalties can significantly increase your tax burden and often make it seem as if resolving your tax debt is impossible. However, many taxpayers are entitled by law to relief from certain penalties. Lapekas Law can help you determine whether you may be entitled to such relief.
Payroll Taxes and the Trust Fund Recovery Penalty
A person who is responsible for withholding, depositing, paying, or accounting for payroll taxes, and who willfully fails to do so, may become personally liable for the tax. Owners, officers, bookkeepers, employees, and even spouses who merely “volunteer” and help in the business, can be held liable for a business’s unpaid payroll taxes! This “Trust Fund Recovery Penalty” can be collected from the individual’s personal income and assets. If the IRS has already assessed the penalty against you or if it is considering whether to hold you personally liable for the taxes of a business, Lapekas Law can let you know your rights and defend you accordingly.
Foreign Account Reporting Resolution
To rein in global tax avoidance and criminal activity, countries throughout the world have implemented complex financial reporting requirements and have entered into intergovernmental information exchange agreements. The United States leads the effort and, for many years, has had laws that require certain United States persons to report, among other things, foreign bank and financial accounts. The most well-known of these reports is the “Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts” or, the “FBAR.” The monetary penalties for failure to file these reports are severe and the U.S. criminally prosecutes individuals who have willfully failed to become compliant.
Fortunately, the IRS has an Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP) under which individuals may voluntarily comply with their reporting obligations, reduce penalty exposure, and avoid criminal prosecution.
Though reporting requirements have existed for many years, some individuals have not willfully failed to meet their reporting obligations. This may be due to receiving incorrect legal advice, not being familiar with the U.S. tax laws or the English language, or living outside the U.S. since they were a child. For individuals who can affirm that their non-compliance was not willful, the IRS has “Streamlined” procedures. Under the Streamlined procedures, though there is no protection from criminal prosecution, the penalties to which the individual would be subject when he or she becomes compliant under the program are substantially less, and the submission is more simple, than under the regular OVDP.
We can help you determine whether you may be eligible for an IRS voluntary disclosure program, and if so, which program is right for you. We can thus help you become compliant, mitigate or remove your exposure to criminal and civil penalties for prior years, and help you gain the peace of mind that only comes when you can “make things right” and finally ascertain the limits of your exposure to monetary and criminal penalties.
Tax Relief from Joint Tax Liabilities
Married taxpayers often file joint tax returns to take advantage of certain tax benefits. However, when you file a joint return with your spouse, both you and your spouse are jointly and severally liable for the tax due on that return. Thus, even if you had no income and would not have owed any tax if you had filed a separate return, you become liable for 100% of the tax with respect to any joint return that you sign and file.
Fortunately, the law provides relief from joint tax liabilities in some cases. We can review your case and determine whether you may qualify for such “Innocent Spouse Relief.” If you might qualify, we will prepare the request for such relief, help you compile the documents and legal arguments to support your request for relief, and explain what you can expect during the process.