Lies and the Lying Liars in the Tax Business (with apologies to Al Franken)

I have the good fortune of having professional friends and colleagues around the country who have law practices or accounting practices which specialize in defending taxpayers whom the IRS claims owe back taxes.

And so, when some thorny issue comes up I might talk to a brother or sister tax pro in Florida or Texas or New Hampshire or Washington State or a smattering of other places around the country, in both red and blue states.

Recently, I was working on a tricky issue relating the Trust Fund Recovery Penalty (to the uninitiated, this weird string of four words refers to one aspect of tax law that properly strikes fear into the hearts of business owners with employees everywhere or, if it doesn’t, either it should or the business owner has already dealt with the issue and taken steps to avoid or solve this problem; see, for example, http://lifelawandtaxes.com/not-just-for-bernie-madoff-or-king-tut-business-owners-build-devastating-pyramids-of-withholding-tax-debt-deducted-from-paychecks-but-not-sent-to-irs/).

After brainstorming a bit on strategy for my Trust Fund Issue, my colleague and I started talking about life, the world, and business, generally.

She complained bitterly (and hilariously) about our still-new president Obama (I couldn’t disagree with her more on this, yet we still are able to find common ground elsewhere and get along just fine – like the Jets and the Sharks go bowling together).

Then, to my surprise, she told me that she is doing less and less tax work.

Honest Analysis Loses Out to Empty Promises

Her explanation: We can’t compete with these tax resolution companies who promise the sun, moon and stars in their advertising and then have telephone sales people who don’t know anything about the tax rules and say whatever the taxpayers want to hear.

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Can the IRS file a lien without going to court?

A taxpayer searching around the internet asked this question. It is a very good question because it asks about the reach — and the limits — of the IRS’s power to reach into our lives whether we like it or not.

Liens 101: What is a Lien, Anyway?

For those unfamiliar with the term, a “lien” is essentially a claim — someone claims you owe them money.

In certain situations, the person (or business, or government agency) making the claim can file a document announcing this claim with the County Clerk or other public records authority.

By filing a lien with the County Clerk, the claimant announces to the world (and especially to credit reporting agencies) that the claimant says you owe it money.

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