Do Tax Relief Companies Really Work? A Guide to Avoid Rip-Offs
Few problems are quite as anxiety-inducing as tax concerns. Everyone knows that the IRS will go to great lengths to get what they’re owed, and taxes aren’t exactly easy for the average everyday person to understand. It’s easy to miss a small source of income, misunderstand deductions and claim one you aren’t entitled to, or fall behind on your finances and end up in tax debt.
The fact is that while the IRS may seem scary or intimidating, you do have options—but you have to be careful about which option you choose. There’s no shortage of tax relief companies out there that don’t actually have your best interests in mind. If you go for the first company you see or the one with the best reviews on a glitzy website, you could end up disappointed and still saddled with tax debt. Learn more about tax relief companies, how to find one that can help you, and how to safeguard your hard-earned money.
Protect Yourself While Looking for Tax Relief Options
You are already facing financial issues due to your tax concerns—don’t let a scam tax relief company or unethical service provider take even more money from you. This is a massive field, and the quality of companies you’ll encounter varies widely.
They range from fly-by-night companies that literally do no more than take your money and disappear to legitimate, established tax firms staffed by tax attorneys and CPAs. Most will fall somewhere in the middle, and it’s up to you to take your time, do your research, and choose a company that will meet your needs.
The Importance of Online Reviews—and Which Reviews Mean the Most
Reliable companies will give you plenty of information during your search. You can use this to learn more about who they hire, what types of services they provide, and how much experience they have with cases like yours. However, your search can’t stop there—even the most unreliable company will try to make themselves sound like the best in the field on their own website. That’s where reviews come in.
Navigating the world of online reviews can be complicated. If you search for something like “best tax relief companies,” you’ll find list after list of top-ranked companies—but how reliable are these recommendations?
Unfortunately, they’re often useless to consumers like you. The majority of review sites have pay-to-play rankings. That means that rather than looking for the very best companies in whatever industry they’re reviewing, their rankings are reserved for the companies that pay them the most. That’s why you’ll often see the same few firms pop up over and over again in your search—they are the massive national companies that have bottomless pockets and are willing to buy spots in the highest-ranked lists.
This gives the illusion that the same few companies are the best choice for everyone looking for tax relief, completely ignoring the fact that there are many highly-ranked and well-reviewed smaller firms that bring stronger legal and tax expertise to the table.
How to Evaluate Tax Relief Company Reviews
How do you know if you’re looking at a legitimate list or not? Look for a disclaimer on the page. You may have to look for a while; these lists tend to use the smallest font they legally can to inform consumers of how they rank companies. One common disclaimer used on pages is “Many or all companies we feature compensate us. Compensation and editorial research influence how products appear on a page.”
A lot of consumers think they can get around this by relying on well-known magazines, websites, and other forms of media. But even major media outlets like Forbes benefit financially from their listings. A disclaimer at the top of a tax relief page on Forbes states, “We earn a commission from partner links on Forbes Advisor. Commissions do not affect our editors’ opinions or evaluations.” That sounds promising, but before you find any of their actual recommendations, you get an ad for a tax filing service.
How to Find Legitimate Tax Relief Reviews
To find the most legitimate reviews for each tax relief company you are considering, you have to get creative. First, many pages have reviews from consumers on a testimonials or reviews page. This may give you a good overview of why people have chosen that specific company and what type of services they excel in.
From there, you want to look at websites where companies cannot remove legitimate reviews. This includes platforms like Google, Better Business Bureau, Facebook, and Yelp. Spread your search across multiple platforms so you get a good overall view of how people view the company in question. Unreliable or scam companies can present a good front on their website with minimal effort, but they can’t control what people say about their services on third-party platforms.
There’s nothing wrong with going with a firm that is nationally recognized—many legitimate, highly acclaimed tax relief companies started out serving just their local community. However, you can often find the expertise you need with a company local to your community. Consider all of your options during your search.
Warning Signs to Watch Out For
You may want to consult with multiple tax relief companies before making your final choice. This is often a good way to find out what you like and what feels scammy to you. To help with your search, watch out for these red flags as you start reaching out to companies:
- Your first consultation is with a salesperson or someone who doesn’t work hands-on with tax issues: Your consultation isn’t a sales pitch and it shouldn’t be treated as such. Your first time talking to a company should be a chance to learn more about their services, ask questions, and find out if they’re a good fit for you. If you’re thrown on a call with someone who’s very good at selling their company but can’t answer any sort of tax question, you’re likely talking to a churn-and-burn company that pushes through as many cases as they can. The person you talk to during a consultation should be able to answer your questions and provide insight into the inner workings of the IRS.
- High-pressure sales tactics: It’s rare for tax issues to happen overnight. You’ve likely been sitting on these issues for months or even years, so why should you have to make a major decision in a matter of minutes? A company that engages in aggressive sales tactics is unlikely to give your case the care it requires. If they claim that their offer is only available if you take it right away or they pressure you to make an immediate decision, they do not have your best interests in mind. Companies run by CPAs and tax attorneys know how serious tax problems are and how carefully you have to spend your money. They will understand if you need to take a few days to look over your options.
- Lack of transparency: Remember, you are looking for a company to handle some of your most personal and private issues—taxes are no laughing matter and you absolutely have to be able to trust whichever company you choose.
- No information on credentials or experience: This ties into a lack of transparency. You are entrusting this company with your financial future and your relationship with the IRS. You deserve to know that you are working with a credentialed and experienced tax professional. If you ask questions about who will be handling your case and their credentials, you should get clear and precise answers. If you get vague answers, that is something to think about.
- Big and unrealistic promises: We’ve all seen advertisements boasting that a company can settle your IRS tax debts for pennies on the dollar. In some cases, this is possible—but it certainly is not the norm. The IRS wants to collect the money it’s owed, and it doesn’t do that by settling for pennies on the dollar with the vast majority of taxpayers. There are many ways to handle overdue taxes or other concerns, but they are entirely dependent on the details of your situation. If a company immediately promises grand results before they have even heard the details of your situation, be wary of whatever they tell you.
To find a quality tax relief service, you should focus on the opposite of all of these red flags. Look for a company with transparent practices and pricing. Make sure that a tax pro is working on your case and that you can reach them for questions or concerns. Find someone who is willing to help you but doesn’t make big promises until they really understand your situation.
Finding Legitimate Tax Relief Companies
The good news is that there are accessible solutions to your IRS tax problems. Still, you should be prepared to put some work into finding the right tax relief company for your needs. Give this decision the time and consideration it merits. While there are deadlines for certain IRS tax solutions, rushing into a decision like this can cost you a lot in the long run.
Look into local and national companies, search reviews across a number of platforms, and talk to others who have been in situations similar to yours. During consultations, feel free to ask the tough questions that make it easier for you to decide on a company. Our list of sample questions below can help you navigate your consultations.
Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Company
Use these questions as a starting point for your research—you can ask more questions if you want more specific advice regarding your tax situation.
- What is your fee structure? Note that this question doesn’t mean you need to find the lowest-priced tax service. In situations like these, you often get what you pay for. But what you do want is a clear and transparent fee structure. A company that hides its fee structure in piles of paperwork or refuses to commit to a specific fee structure could be trying to get as much as it can out of you.
- Who will be handling my case and what are their credentials? Legitimate tax relief companies know who they have working for them, who has space on their caseload, and who will be assigned to your case. If they can’t give you a straight answer or just reference a team of experienced tax professionals, that’s not a great sign. Massive tax relief companies often have high employee turnover, which means that you never know who you’ll be working with. You should also get information regarding their education, credentials, and experience in the tax industry.
- What can I expect if we run into complications? While many IRS issues can be solved with minimal concerns, there’s always the potential for unexpected delays or problems. The tax professional you choose should have a plan for how to handle these roadblocks.
- How much experience does your firm (and my tax professional in particular) have with my type of tax concern? There are tons of types of tax problems and solutions, and knowing how to navigate one does not mean knowing how to navigate all of them. You’ll want to work with a tax professional who has directly handled cases similar to yours.
- How much and what type of communication can I expect? Will you be able to talk to your tax professional if you get unexpected IRS mail or have questions? How often will you get updates? Your tax issues are likely causing you significant anxiety, and you deserve to have regular contact with your tax professional.
- Do you have clients who can provide references? Satisfied clients are often more than happy to provide reviews or references for their attorneys or CPAs.
With the right tax relief company working with you on your issues, you can finally close the chapter on your IRS struggles and move on with your life. Use this guide to help you uncover reliable companies and avoid scams. If you’re interested in finding out how the team at W Tax Group can support you through this difficult time, let’s talk.
Our experienced tax professionals are more than happy to answer your questions and give you some hope regarding your current situation. Call us at 877-500-4930 or send us a message online to set up a free consultation.