In today’s world consumers are accustomed to “self service” and “do-it-yourself” options that touch just about every industry and every aspect of our lives, marketed to save us time and money. Need a new bathroom for your home? Just visit your local hardware store on a Saturday morning and attend the free class on bathroom remodeling. You’ll find yourself knee deep in a new home improvement project in a matter of hours. In a hurry and need a few quick grocery items on the weekend? No problem. When you’re ready to checkout at your local grocery store use the self-service register. No annoying clerk making small talk. No whiney kid being scolded by his mom and holding up the line. In and out, badabing badaboom, back home in no time.
No where over the last decade has “do-it-yourself” created more change and made more progress than in the financial services industry. Today nearly everyone banks online (or at least uses an ATM). Many manage their own retirement funds with an online investment account. Pull up any major brokerage firm on the web and you can attend webinars, read articles, and do research. It’s all at your finger tips, designed to save you countless hours, allow you to keep more of your hard-earned dollars, and let you be in control of your life. In our world of modern convenience why then is it so difficult for a taxpayer to resolve their “minor” tax problem on their own? After all, the IRS has one of the most efficiently run websites on the internet. It consistently receives top honors for its content and user friendliness.
The IRS even runs a marketing campaign informing taxpayers how “easy” it is to do business with the IRS. The IRS website prominently advertises, “can’t pay your taxes, set up a payment plan.” If the IRS is so user friendly now, why is it the average taxpayer gets so frustrated trying to solve a tax problem without professional help? Why is it that when the average taxpayer calls the phone number on their IRS notice that they spend an ungodly amount of time on hold? Why is it that when the average taxpayer calls the IRS on half a dozen different occasions about the same tax issue, they speak to six different people? Why is it that they actually get six completely different answers with each call? Why is it that on the seventh call the taxpayer’s “case” has been transferred to another department? The answer in it’s simplest form is, TAX PROBLEMS ARE NOT DO-IT-YOURSELF FRIENDLY!
One of the reasons why tax problems are not do-it-yourself friendly is that in the overwhelming majority of circumstances the first contact the taxpayer has with the IRS regarding a tax problem is through a computer generated notice or letter. The IRS has a ridiculously vast computer system and a series of call centers called the Automated Collections System (ACS). In the great majority of instances the tax problem is discovered by the computer system and a notice is automatically generated. No human being at the IRS actually knows exactly what the tax problem is at that moment in time. Another reason complicating matters and making tax problems difficult to solve without professional help, is that the lower level IRS employees answering the phone inquiries about these computer generated notices are not well trained in tax matters (or customer service for that matter). What they are well trained in is IRS “procedure.” That means they are well trained in the IRS system designed to do one thing and that is “collect the money.”
Compounding a taxpayer’s frustration is that as time passes, interest and penalties are accumulating. A simple tax problem can become a complex tax problem at blinding speed. However, TAXPAYER’S DO HAVE RIGHTS. Unfortunately the procedural steps to exercising these rights are often confusing and further must be implemented in a short period of time (usually 30 days or less). It’s almost impossible for the average taxpayer to gain a correct understanding on how to exercise their rights and then do so in this short amount of time. Frankly, most taxpayers that try to do it themselves screw it up. Further worsening their plight. The plain fact of the matter is that doing business with the IRS is not and won’t be (for the foreseeable future) “do-it-yourself” friendly for the taxpayer.
A competent professional can save you time, stress and money. Why? Simply, “it’s not their first rodeo.” A tax professional deals with the IRS and taxpayer problems all day, every day. Most taxpayers only have limited contact with the IRS regarding their own personal circumstances. A competent tax professional on the other hand has seen a wide variety of tax problems regularly. Does it suck that you have to pay a professional a fee to help you get out of your tax mess? Does it suck that you have to pay a professional a fee even though you’re “innocent” and don’t owe what the IRS is claiming you owe? Yes, honestly sometimes the circumstances in life “suck.” But seriously, in the long run you’ll spend less time and SAVE money by hiring a competent professional to handle your tax problem, even the “minor” ones. Plus you’ll have peace of mind and sleep a lot better each night.