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What's the Difference Between a Tax Attorney, a CPA, and an Enrolled Agent?

July 03, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 195

With all of the rules and codes governing income tax filing, it's easy to get overwhelmed. That's why so many Americans hire a professional to guide them through tax preparation and tax resolution situations. But there are several different categories of tax consultants out there, and while they share some service offerings, they differ in key ways. When you need tax help, consider both what you need and what you're able to pay to help you choose between a tax attorney, an accountant, and an enrolled agent.

Tax Attorneys

A tax attorney is a lawyer who specializes in tax law. That means he or she is deeply familiar with federal, state, and local codes and can guide you through the nuances of tax law during an IRS audit, settlement negotiation, or other tax resolution proceedings. A tax attorney can represent you in dealings with the IRS, as well as in a court of law. Additionally, when you're working with a tax attorney you have the benefit of attorney/client privilege; what you discuss with your tax attorney is completely confidential. If you suspect that your tax problems will lead to legal issues or you need legal advice, a tax attorney might be your best bet.

Certified Public Accountants

A CPA has been trained and certified to assist you financially. CPAs who specialize in tax help will not only understand tax codes inside and out, but can also go through your financial records looking for calculation errors and represent you in dealings with the IRS. While most tax attorneys don't help with return preparation and filing, an accountant can assist in this capacity. A CPA can also offer tax resolution services, though he or she cannot represent you in a court of law. Additionally, a CPA may be able to provide money management advice, help you budget for payments and future purchases, and assist you with other financial planning matters.

Enrolled Agents

An enrolled agent has been trained and certified by the Internal Revenue Service to help taxpayers. Many enrolled agents are former IRS employees, though non-employees can also complete the training and examination to become enrolled agents. An enrolled agent can help you file your return, represent you during an IRS audit (but not in court), and negotiate tax resolution strategies. However, you wouldn't go to an enrolled agent for financial planning advice or legal counsel.

Obviously, there's a lot of overlap between these tax consultants, and one other factor that will play a large role in who you choose for tax help is your budget. The more specified the expertise the professional has, the higher his or her fee may rise. Thus, the services of a tax attorney will often cost much more than the services of an enrolled agent. If your dealings with the IRS are straightforward and you don't need money management help or attorney/client privilege, an enrolled agent should be able to provide the assistance you need. In every tax relief scenario, evaluate the actual tax services you need and how much you're prepared to spend before making a final decision.

Oswald Hermit is a senior Internet marketing strategist for Prospect Genius, a leader in local online advertising. He writes about money matters.

Source: EzineArticles
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