IRS: Friend Or Foe?

ABSTRACT: IRS investigations, federal grand jury investigations and complex tax audits often take years from start to finish. At a time when the government needs money and is using both criminal and civil efforts to get it, the stakes have never been higher. Don't take chances with your freedom or your hard-earned financial assets; there is no substitute for having an experienced tax attorney on your side from the very beginning. For more than 46 years, attorney Michael S. Adelman has helped companies and individuals in IRS and federal grand jury matters.

The question raised above is trickier than you might think, especially if you just received a dreaded notice, phone call or even more dreaded knock on the door (or visit to your place of business) sometimes with a Search Warrant, Summons or Subpoena, from agents or other representatives of the IRS.

Of course, not every case, inquiry or IRS agent is the same. However, certain general observations should be kept in mind should you be contacted.

  • First, IRS agents are indeed human beings who, like us, have a job to do. If they are criminal investigators (known as special agents), they are trying to determine whether there have been criminal violations of sections of the United States Code (most typically of Title 26, U.S.C., the statutes governing taxes, including offenses).
    • They may also be acting as agents of a federal grand jury, investigating potential tax and/or nontax violations of the U.S. Code. If they are Revenue Agents, Tax Examiners or Office Auditors, their job entails the determination of an individual's (or business entity's) correct tax liability for the tax year(s)/tax returns that have been assigned to them.
    • Finally, if they are revenue officers, their job is to collect already determined taxes, either cooperatively or by using the enforcement tools (liens, seizures, levies, wage garnishments, summonses) at their disposal.
  • Next, in their experience, they encounter reactions that run the gamut: from full, informed cooperation to hostile and intense resistance and everything in between. Again, not every situation can be treated in the same manner. But as in most interactions, an IRS agent would prefer cooperation.
    • We do not mean blind, unquestioning cooperation while ignoring basic constitutional, procedural, judicial, administrative and/or appeal rights that every citizen of this country has, but cooperation factoring in those rights.

Each case, investigation or audit is a blend of cooperative — recognizing the agent's assignment, but insisting that this assignment be scrupulously carried out by following the rules and respecting the rights of taxpayers — and adversarial. Though many agents are amicable and pleasant, they are NOT your friend. Usually, the eventual fruits of their investigations and audits will result in a potential loss of significant income, other property or even a person's freedom. An experienced, highly specialized Tax Defense Attorney - certainly not you C.P.A. acting alone while trying to be Accountant and Attorney - is vitally needed as part of your defense team.

Was It Obvious? Maybe Not So Much.

So that answers the question raised in the title. "That was obvious," you are probably thinking. However, the underlying and crucial point of this article is, since both the investigator and the investigated are human, since (obviously) no two tax investigations or responses and strategies are the same, since the stakes and consequences are extremely high, and since there are rules but no rule book per se, an experienced tax attorney, often working in conjunction with a CPA or other knowledgeable accountant, is crucial to:

  • In a comprehensive series of initial and subsequent interviews with you, your accountant and other knowledgeable parties, gather a detailed financial, tax and other circumstantial background of the situation which, in all likelihood, has given rise to the criminal or civil tax contact by the IRS.
  • Once the background information has been gathered, reach out to the representative (be it an IRS agent or an Assistant U.S. Attorney conducting a federal grand jury investigation) of the government to determine what the concerns, suspicions or other issues are from the perspective of the United States/IRS (or other federal agency).
  • Serve as a crucial intermediary and buffer at all future times between the client/taxpayer and the investigator(s), auditor or IRS revenue (collection) officer. Stated another way, to try to ensure that all appropriate "rules" are being followed by the government and to make certain that no direct contact by the IRS with the client/taxpayer can be had thereafter unless such direct contact is consented to or otherwise authorized by federal law or regulations.
  • Determine and implement a short-term tactical and long-term strategic way to deal with the government investigation (or tax audit), including whether to cooperate and attempt to gain a more favorable (or less severe) outcome based on such cooperation, or to take a fully adversarial and noncooperative posture, in essence making them prove or otherwise establish all the elements of the offense or tax positions as to which the government bears the burden of proof.
  • React to developments during the investigation/audit as they occur in a flexible manner, in which attorney, client and (if appropriate for the investigation) accountant are working together as a team, to counter - using all available means - the team of attorneys, investigators (special agents) and accountants (IRS revenue agents) the government typically uses in criminal tax, grand jury, joint (civil and criminal) investigations.

SUMMARY: An IRS or federal grand jury investigation or a complex tax audit often takes years from start to finish. Only an experienced tax attorney, familiar with tax controversies and flexible as to strategies, should be consulted and/or retained. The stakes are huge.

You Need Our Attorney's Help

Mr. Adelman has been handling tax controversies since 1970. For the first 16 of those years, he was an IRS attorney, rising to the status of senior trial attorney (with an acknowledged expertise in the evaluation of criminal tax issues) in a major (Philadelphia) regional and district office. Since 1986, he has been in private practice, with a practice almost 100 percent devoted to IRS and federal grand jury matters.

Friend or foe? Cooperate or not? What should the game plan be? Not every case is the same. Don't take chances with your freedom or your hard-earned financial resources. Call 856-330-4035 or email Mr. Adelman to get help with your burden at reasonable rates and fees, usually structured on a step-by-step basis. No matter how overwhelming you feel your tax problem is, take the first step and get an experienced federal tax defense lawyer on your side.