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The Best Tax Debt Relief Services of 2021

By Andrew Martins,
business.com Staff
| Updated
Feb 02, 2021

Looking for the best tax debt relief service? We have easy-to-read, unbiased expert reviews and feature comparisons of the best and cheapest services.
Best for the Self-Employed
No minimum debt amount
Tax debt avoidance programs
Experts assigned to each case
Best for Low-Debt Situations
Good fit for tax debt of $25,000 or less
Flexible payment plans
Many possible solutions
Best for High-Debt Situations
Best fit for $25,000 or more in debt
Affordable pricing
Tax letter decoder
Looking for the best tax debt relief service? We have easy-to-read, unbiased expert reviews and feature comparisons of the best and cheapest services.

For a small business, falling behind on taxes and accruing tax debt can be crippling problems that can lead to tax liens, asset seizures, and, in some cases, the complete loss of the business. Many businesses turn to tax debt relief services for help. The best services employ experienced tax professionals, have numerous offerings, and are affordably priced. To find the best tax debt relief services for small businesses, we researched nearly 20 services, looking at the companies' debt-relief options, pricing and staff.

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How We Decided
Our team spends weeks evaluating dozens of business solutions to identify the best options. To stay current, our research is regularly updated.
17
Considered
7
Researched
3
Selected

Compare Our Best Picks

  Tax Defense Partners Community Tax ALG Tax Solutions 
Minimum debt $10,000 No minimum $15,000
Retainer needed? No  No Yes, in some cases
Refund or money-back guarantee? No money-back guarantee Refunds for services not rendered No money-back guarantee
Accreditations IRS, NAEA, ASTPS, Trustpilot

Consumer Affairs, IRS

MICPA, AICPA

Our Reviews

Community Tax: Best for the Self-Employed

There is no need to pay a legal retainer for representation.
Tax professionals take a hands-on approach throughout the entire process.
Related fees may be too high for smaller tax debt cases.
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Tax season can be a stressful time of the year for freelancers and independent contractors. Without the relative safety of W-2s provided by a larger employer, it's easy for a self-employed individual to mishandle their taxes. If this happens and a tax debt crops up, we find that Community Tax is the best company to hire to address the problem. For the past nine years, Community Tax has provided its clients with a range of services and access to its team of tax professionals who specialize in dealing directly with the IRS. By law, only tax attorneys, enrolled agents and certified public accountants (CPAs) can negotiate tax debt relief with the government agency. Community Tax employs all three types of professionals.

Tax Services

Representatives from the best tax debt relief companies listen attentively as you explain your situation before they suggest a plan to help you resolve your debt with the IRS. They understand that it's important to address the problem promptly and work hand in hand with you to come up with an effective strategy.

During our interactions with Community Tax, the representatives were courteous and attentive. Only after double-checking that they fully understood the situation did they offer solutions. In addition, they offered a separate tax preparation service to avoid future problems with the IRS once the debt was handled.

Tax debt relief services help their clients get their assets back while tackling the overarching problem. The IRS is extremely capable of getting its money from debtors, so any unaddressed tax debt can get out of hand quickly. If you spend too much time with a tax debt on your records, the IRS will go as far as it can to get the debt paid, including garnishing your wages and keeping any tax returns.

How a tax debt is handled depends on your unique circumstances. What may work for an individual with unfiled taxes may not work for an S corporation with payroll tax debt. Some of the IRS' more punitive actions can add more hurdles to the overall debt recovery process.

The professionals at Community Tax offer the following options to their clients:

  • Offer in compromise
  • Fresh Start program
  • IRS installment agreements
  • Innocent/injured spouse relief
  • Currently-not-collectible status
  • Tax lien help
  • Levy and seizure prevention
  • Penalty abatement
  • IRS audit defense
  • Income tax preparation

After you and Community Tax select a plan of action, professionals assigned to the case begin the initial fact-finding phase. During this time, they assess your finances to ensure a clear understanding of your situation. This initial stage takes approximately two or three business days, though it may vary depending on the specific case.

Next, the tax professionals at Community Tax begin working with the IRS. These negotiations can take weeks or months, depending on the type of work needed. If there are liens or levies, Community Tax works to lift them off your case.

Pricing

When it comes to the cost of hiring a tax debt relief company like Community Tax, it's important to remember that not all resolutions are the same. As a result, pricing will change on a case-by-case basis. The more involved your case is, the higher Community Tax's flat fee will be.

Once you're in an agreement with Community Tax, you will be charged an initial fee, between $500 and $750, for the first phase. How much you pay for the company's fact-finding efforts depends on the complexity of the case. After that, Community Tax charges a flat fee based on the amount of work a case requires. Because the company has a team of tax lawyers on staff, there is no need to pay for a legal retainer.

We asked for a cost estimate for the second phase based on a tax debt scenario we used on each company in this category, but we were not given one. The representative declined to do so in each case, since pricing depends so much on the complexity of the case.

Each of Community Tax's fees can be paid back in full or through a monthly payment plan. Working with Community Tax requires a contract.

Customer Service

Grappling with tax debt from the state or the IRS can be stressful, especially as a freelancer or contractor. If you're self-employed, you don't have the relative safety net of operating as a limited liability company or partnership; the liability rests on you.

Considering how stressful this entire process could be, it was heartening to hear how personable and understanding Community Tax's customer service representatives were in our interactions with them. As we explained our situation, they offered a handful of solutions, including double-checking our tax issue and working out a payment plan with the IRS. They also offered additional tax preparation services so that we would not run into the same problems next year.

However, we did experience a couple of instances in which the representative we spoke with became pushy. At one point, they asked us why we wanted to shop around for this type of service. On another call, they asked us for specific identifying information during the consultation. Once we said we were just shopping around, however, they backed off and went back to being very forthcoming with information.

Drawbacks

It's important to note that, to qualify for the services Community Tax provides, you must meet very specific criteria from the IRS. If you do not meet those requirements, no tax debt relief company will be able to negotiate for that course of action.

While Community Tax does not require a minimum debt amount to take on your case, it may not be worth your while to hire this service – or any tax debt relief company – if you have only a small tax debt. Individuals with smaller debts may be able to handle their issues with the IRS themselves. When considering which company to hire for your case, you should make sure to conduct a cost-benefit analysis. Remember that these companies do not offer their services for free and will add a cost to your existing tax debt; use this kind of service only if the benefits outweigh the costs.

More specifically to Community Tax, some of its representatives were pushy, which is unhelpful when you're already stressed about your tax debt.

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Tax Defense Partners: Best for Low-Debt Situations

Tax Defense Partners has a full staff of tax professionals.
Tax debt problems are handled through a multistage plan.
Quoted flat fees were on the higher end of the spectrum.

Tax Defense Partners works to help individuals and companies with their outstanding tax debt. Regardless of whether the problem is at the state or federal level, Tax Defense Partners' team of tax professionals and range of services make this company our best pick for businesses facing low-debt situations.

Tax Services

Tax Defense Partners employs all three types of tax professionals. If conditions are right, they can try to lower your debt, establish a payment plan with the government or have a bank levy lifted, among other options.

Over the course of multiple phone conversations, we found that the representatives at Tax Defense Partners carefully listened to our tax debt scenario before offering potential solutions.

While it may seem like the tax debt relief industry is there to help in all circumstances, it's important to note the fine print. Some services require very specific criteria to be met. If you do not meet the IRS' requirements for certain federal and state debt-relief options, no tax debt relief company will be able to negotiate for that course of action.

Tax Defense Partners has a range of potential tax debt relief options to cover most situations. How your tax debt is handled depends on several variables, including the amount you owe, your current monthly income, and whether it's a personal or business debt. In addition, some of the IRS' more aggressive steps in recovering debt can complicate the overall process.

The worst thing you can do in a tax debt situation is ignore the problem. Here are some of the options Tax Defense Partners offers:

  • Offer in compromise
  • Fresh Start program
  • IRS tax payment plans
  • Innocent spouse relief
  • Payroll tax debt relief
  • Foreign bank account reporting
  • Currently-not-collectible status
  • IRS back-tax help
  • Tax lien help
  • Bank levy help
  • Penalty abatement
  • IRS audit representation
  • Transcript analysis
  • Income tax preparation

Once you choose a solution, tax professionals are assigned to the case. They start with an initial fact-finding phase in which they get an idea of the financial situation. We were told that this initial stage takes just a few days, but that can vary depending on the scope of your case.

Representatives told us that the second phase could take much longer – between five and eight months, in most cases, though that also depends on the individual case. As the tax professionals work with the IRS, negotiations can take weeks or months, depending on the type of work needed, before a final resolution is made.

Pricing

It's important to remember that not all tax debt relief resolutions are the same. As a result, pricing is determined on a case-by-case basis. The more involved your case is, the more expensive the flat fee will be. For Tax Defense Partners to take on your case, you must have at least $10,000 in tax debt.

Based on the tax debt scenario we presented as part of our testing, we were quoted flat fees between $3,250 and $4,250, with $1,000 due as a down payment. However, depending on your case, you may be able to negotiate the down payment to $500. We gave the same tax debt scenario to the other companies on our list, and Tax Defense Partners was on the higher end.

Despite the company's above-average pricing, we found that the initial down payment, as well as the rest of the company's fees, could be split into more manageable payments over six months. No work would begin on our case until we remitted the first payment. Because the company has a team of tax attorneys on hand, there is no need to pay a retainer.

Customer Service

When we called Tax Defense Partners, posing as potential clients, we found that the representatives were highly knowledgeable about each scenario we put before them. During each call, we spoke with a tax professional who tried to get as much information about our tax debt situation as possible without requiring us to enter an agreement.

Dealing with tax debt can be extremely stressful. In the cases where we posed a problem that could prove to be dire to our theoretical small business, Tax Defense Partners' representatives worked to assuage our worries. In one instance, a representative said that our company would not need to shut down because of our tax debt and that they would work to make our tax debt repayment fit within our means.

Our interactions with Tax Defense Partners' tax professionals were fact-driven and to the point, and they were transparent about how long each step could generally take. However, they were extremely careful to point out that each case is different and that unforeseen changes could affect any proposed timetable.

Drawbacks

While Tax Defense Partners can provide a range of services, each comes with strict eligibility requirements from the IRS. If you do not meet those criteria, either at the federal or state level, you cannot move forward.

We also warn against hiring a tax debt relief company if the costs exceed your tax debt. Individuals and businesses with smaller amounts of tax debt may be able to represent themselves before the IRS. In those instances, a company like Tax Defense Partners may charge more for their services than you may want to spend. With that in mind, we will reiterate that the price we were quoted in our testing of Tax Defense Partners was on the higher end compared with other companies we reviewed.

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ALG Tax Solutions: Best for High-Debt Situations

ALG Tax Solutions has all three tax professional types (CPAs, attorneys, and enrolled agents) on staff.
The pricing for each case is determined by its complexity.
If your tax debt is already too high, you may not be able to pay for an outside service's help.

We chose ALG Tax Solutions as the best company to hire if your tax debt is $25,000 or more. Since 2011, the Michigan-based company has provided its clients with access to a staff of tax professionals trained to negotiate directly with the IRS. By law, only certain legal specialists can represent your case before the IRS, and ALG Tax Solutions has all three on hand: tax attorneys, enrolled agents, and certified public accountants (CPAs).

Tax Services

After considering multiple companies and learning what they have to offer, we chose ALG Tax Solutions as our best pick for high-debt situations.

Tax debt relief services help their clients with a variety of situations, such as unfiled state and federal taxes, tax liens, and bank levies that leave assets in limbo. The IRS is well versed in collecting debts and can go so far as to garnish your wages or place tax liens on your property.

Tackling a tax debt at the state or federal level can come with challenges that are unique to your case. What may work for an individual with unfiled taxes may not work for an S corp with payroll tax debt. If levies or liens are also part of the case, additional considerations must be made.

If the IRS or your state are calling you and sending letters about your tax debt, it probably feels like the hole you're in is getting deeper. While it may seem easier to just ignore the problem, that's the worst thing you can do.

ALG Tax Solutions offers a variety of services, and each has certain criteria that your case must meet. Here are some of the options ALG Tax Solutions can provide:

  • Offer in compromise
  • Fresh Start initiative
  • IRS installment agreements
  • Innocent/injured spouse relief
  • Currently-not-collectible status
  • Federal tax lien/levy assistance
  • Penalty relief
  • Audit representation
  • Tax preparation

Once you choose a course of action and enter an agreement with ALG Tax Solutions, professionals assigned to the case will begin their initial evaluation. During this time, they will do a deep dive into your finances and ensure that they get a clear understanding of your financial situation. Company representatives told us that this initial stage takes approximately two or three business days, though it may vary given the scope of your case.

The second phase generally takes longer. As ALG Tax Solutions' tax professionals work with the IRS, negotiations can take upward of a year before the final resolution is in order. If there are liens and/or levies, ALG's team will work to lift those conditions off your case while tackling the overarching problem.

Pricing

Like most tax debt relief companies, ALG Tax Solutions charges its clients on a case-by-case basis. The more involved your case is, the higher the price will be. If your tax debt isn't large enough to warrant the company's services, representatives will suggest not hiring them and handling the problem yourself instead. It was noteworthy that they were willing to turn down our business based on a cost-benefit analysis.

If you decide to use ALG Tax Solutions, the company charges an initial consultation fee during the first phase, generally ranging from $250 to $500, again depending on the case. After that, ALG charges a flat fee based on the amount of work a case requires. Based on the tax debt scenarios we presented the company as a part of our testing, we were quoted flat fees ranging from $1,500 to $2,500. We gave the same tax debt scenario to the other companies on our list, and ALG had the lowest price in this category.

ALG Tax Solutions generally does not charge a retainer, but we were told that some circumstances warrant such a fee. All of ALG's fees can be paid back either in full or via a payment plan. If you start working with ALG, you must sign a contract.

Customer Service

Dealing with tax debt can be a tough experience. When calling a tax debt relief company, you are usually looking for any help with the problem and are often worried about the consequences. That's why ALG Tax Solutions' customer service stood out to us.

In our multiple calls with the company, during which we posed as small business owners, each representative and tax professional we spoke with was understanding and wanted more information so they could better address the problem. They listened to our concerns and quickly responded with follow-up questions or potential solutions. They didn't require personal information before providing their consultation, and they carefully laid out the process and tried to make the best suggestions they could with the information we gave them.

The representatives also offered additional services to help ensure that we did not have to call them again in a year. When it didn't make sense financially for us to use ALG Tax Solutions, the representatives told us so and explained how we could handle the problem ourselves rather than pay more money.

Additional Considerations

Something else that makes ALG Tax Solutions stand out is the IRS Letter Decoder on the company's website. When a tax problem first comes to light, the IRS sends a letter describing the situation. While those documents are generally meant to explain the problem, they often make the situation even more confusing.

That's where the IRS Letter Decoder comes in. You enter the number located in the upper-right-hand corner of the letter, and the decoder will explain what the letter means, why you received it and what your options are if you agree with the notice or plan to appeal. From there, you can set up a consultation with an ALG representative to get started on your potential case.

Drawbacks

The services that ALG Tax Solutions can provide come with requirements from the IRS. If those criteria are not met at the federal or state level, ALG Tax Solutions will not be able to negotiate for the solution you choose.

We also suggest weighing the costs against how much you already owe in taxes. Smaller tax debts may be easier and cheaper to manage by yourself than with the help of a tax debt relief company.

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Tax Debt Relief Pricing

The cost of hiring a tax debt relief firm to handle your case will depend on your situation, as no two companies have the same tax debt problems. More complex situations often involve more time and labor, thus resulting in higher costs.

The best tax debt relief companies will begin by investigating your case to determine where the debt is coming from and your eligibility for certain programs. All tax debt relief companies charge for their initial investigation, though some fold this fee into their overall pricing. In addition, some companies charge a retainer for their law team, which generally helps pay for the overall service. Each of our top picks charges a flat fee for its work on a case-by-case basis; the more involved the case, the more you will be charged. You should also expect to sign a contract with the tax debt relief company before services are rendered.

At many tax debt relief companies, agents are usually very reticent to provide potential clients with cost estimates during consultations. Because each tax debt relief case is unique, it's hard for a salesperson to pinpoint the final cost. That said, some companies – such as ALG Tax Solutions – do offer estimates.

While posing as small business owners, we called multiple vendors to get a better idea of their pricing. Though many companies didn't give an estimated cost, some did. According to our research, the cheapest fee we were offered was $1,500, and the most expensive was $4,250. Again, those figures were based solely on our independent research using a certain set of variables. The more complex a case becomes, the more expensive the service will be.

Buying Guide

How Tax Debt Relief Services Work

Businesses can leverage a tax debt relief service's legal prowess to potentially find a solution to their tax debt woes. Tax debt relief companies usually work to address the problem by taking the following steps:

  1. Collect information. By closely researching your tax debt problem, as well as your small business's cash flow and other important factors, the service will grow to understand exactly where you went wrong and how to fix the problem.
  1. Prepare and send relevant paperwork to the IRS. This effort is done in a bid to find a way to compromise with the government agency.
  1. Negotiate. In the third – and, hopefully, final – step, the company's tax professionals sit down with IRS representatives to negotiate a way to ease your company's tax debt problem.

A good tax debt relief company has representatives on hand to carefully assess your situation before coming up with a plan to alleviate your debt with the IRS. It's vital to address the problem quickly, so a good company will work with you to strategize an effective course of action.

Keep in mind that, if you do not meet the IRS' criteria for negotiating certain tax debt relief options, you won't be able to get help from any of the tax debt relief services on our list.

Types of Tax Debt Relief Options

When you're deciding which tax debt relief company to use, consider how you want to deal with the IRS. In addition to offer-in-compromise (OIC) and payment plan options, most companies provide other avenues for tax debt forgiveness. Here are some of those options:

Innocent Spouse Relief

Most married couples in the United States file a joint tax return with the IRS. While that filing status generally comes with some benefits for the couple, it can also bring on some liability for either individual. Certain cases, such as when a spouse fails to properly report income or claims incorrect deductions or credits, can cause financial harm to the other individual. Innocent spouse relief helps to protect an individual from their spouse's mistakes.

Separation of Liability Relief

Most tax debt relief companies can help divorced people deal with the financial missteps of their ex-spouse. In this instance, the IRS allows for the "separate allocation of additional tax owed" between the two individuals. Both parties must either be legally separated from or not living with each other to qualify for this type of relief. Further, you are responsible for the amount of tax allocated to you.

Equitable Relief

When neither innocent spouse relief nor separation of liability relief applies to anything not properly reported to the IRS on a joint return, you can try to seek equitable relief. To be considered for this option, the issue must be attributable to your spouse. According to the IRS, you may also qualify for this option "if the amount of tax reported is correct on your joint return but the tax wasn't paid with the return."

Currently-Not-Collectible Status

If you are financially unable to repay your tax debt, you may qualify for currently-not-collectible (CNC) status. Rather than an absolution of your tax liability, CNC is more of a reprieve from the IRS' collection efforts. Under this agreement, you will stop receiving letters and phone calls while you work to get things under control. To qualify, you must prove your financial hardship to the IRS. You do that by sharing your financial information with the government, including any savings accounts or other potential assets. Without any assets to repay the debt, the IRS will need to document your average monthly income and living expenses to determine if an installment agreement would be better.

You may also be required to file a financial statement and potentially prove your income and expenses. Further, the IRS limits your monthly expenses. Any tax refunds will go directly toward paying back your debt, and you will likely get penalized with a federal tax lien if your debt is over $10,000. If you become able to repay your debt, you will lose CNC status. If, however, your financial situation remains the same for 10 years, the IRS will write off your debt.

Federal Tax Lien/Levy Assistance

If you've failed to pay your taxes and ignored the problem for some time, chances are, you have been threatened with or been the subject of tax liens or levies. Levies and liens are the federal government's way of ensuring it gets the money you owe. If you are hit with a tax levy, the IRS can garnish your wages, withdraw funds from your bank accounts, garnish your Social Security and seize your property, though the last option is usually for the most egregious tax dodgers.

Tax liens, however, originate from overdue property taxes or failure to pay taxes. Liens generally affect real estate and personal property more than your bank account. If you have a tax lien, your credit score will take a hit, and your ability to get a loan or refinance your mortgage will be severely hampered, among other issues. Tax debt relief companies negotiate with the IRS to lift levies or liens while you get everything in order.

Penalty Relief

If you can't pay the penalties, some tax debt relief services will work to have those fees reduced or removed. Penalties can be incurred if you fail to file your taxes, pay late, or don't deposit your taxes before the deadline.

Audit Representation and Tax Preparation

If you or your business are being audited, most tax debt relief companies will provide legal representation. Additionally, some tax debt relief companies offer a tax preparation service aimed at ensuring you do not run afoul with the IRS again.

Should You Settle Your Tax Debt Yourself?

With so many tax laws to navigate when dealing with the IRS, it might make sense to hire a tax debt relief company regardless of how much you owe. That said, while these companies are staffed with experts who know the inner workings of the IRS, individuals acting on their own behalf can still reach agreements with the government for free and without representation.

Started back in 2008 and expanded in 2012, the IRS Fresh Start initiative is a government program that gives individuals and business owners with up to $50,000 in back taxes a chance to resolve their debt directly with the IRS. Through the program, tax debtors can establish a payment plan with the IRS to spread out repayment over time, rather than all at once. How much you would repay each month is based on your current income and the net value of your liquid assets. The program allows individuals with tax debt problems who have been unemployed for more than 30 days to request a six-month filing extension with no penalty.

The Fresh Start initiative also gives individuals the option to enter an OIC agreement to settle the debt for less than the tax originally owed. To be approved for an OIC, you must prove you cannot pay the full amount owed and that the settlement amount you are offering is greater than the funds the agency can collect.

Along with Fresh Start, the IRS offers a free Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS), which is open to anyone living in the U.S. If you have tried to settle matters with the IRS yourself and have come up empty, the TAS (which is run by an independent organization within the IRS) may be able to assist you. To see if you qualify, fill out the TAS acceptance tool.

Whether either of these DIY options is right for you depends on your individual case. If the amount of money you'd owe to a tax debt relief company is more than your initial debt, look into the aforementioned options and contact the IRS.

How to Choose a Tax Debt Relief Company

Remember that no matter which tax debt relief company you choose, the price of the services will rely heavily on the complexity of your case. With that said, here are some steps to take in your search for a tax debt relief service.

Request a consultation. The tax debt relief service should be willing to provide you with a consultation regarding your particular situation. By learning the ins and outs of your predicament, the tax professionals can better serve you and provide you with a more accurate estimate of how long and costly the process will be. Be sure to look for a company that will provide a cheap or free consultation.

Consider the services offered. There are several ways tax debt can be resolved, and each method relies on specific criteria. Look for a service that has expertise in as many of those methods as possible.

Ask how a company's professionals will determine which program will work for you. Because each IRS tax debt relief program has rules and criteria, make sure the company's professionals will do everything they can to find an option that works for your case.

Find out which type(s) of tax professionals the company has on staff. According to U.S. tax law, only three types of professionals can negotiate with the IRS on your behalf: CPAs, enrolled agents, and tax attorneys. The best tax debt relief services have all three types of professionals available in-house.

Look into the customer service. Once the process has started, you won't just be able to take it easy; you will be an active participant in the process by working with the professionals handling your case. You will want a company that has easily accessible and affable customer service agents who will help you through your problems and answer any questions you may have.

How to Find Out if a Tax Debt Relief Service Is a Scam

There are plenty of legitimate services trying to help individuals and small businesses alleviate their tax debt problems. Yet when there's vulnerability and money involved, there's very likely to be some sort of scam around the corner. Being in debt with the IRS can make you nervous and desperate, so scammers will use that fear to push you into bad decisions.

The problem has become so pervasive that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is warning people about the risks. According to the FTC, the following indicators should serve as red flags:

  • Demanding that you pay before even starting the process
  • Promising absolute debt resolution or major reductions
  • Saying they will get penalties forgiven
  • Not properly looking into your company's finances
  • Delaying your tax debt relief case
  • Saying you don't qualify for tax debt relief after you've been paying for their service for a long time
  • Claiming they can slash your debt to "pennies on the dollar"

If you owe back taxes, the FTC suggests that you carefully read your IRS and state tax notices before asking for debt collection options. The FTC also warns against using any business that promises any kind of solution, as only the IRS can make that determination.

Community Expert Insight

Openly admitting that your business had tax debt problems in the past can be a difficult proposition. We normally ask members of the small business community to share the services they have used, but in this case, we decided to instead ask how they would choose a tax debt relief service.

David Baddeley, director at Scottish Trust Deed, said the general consensus among his business friends is that Anthem Tax Services is the one to choose.

Anthem Tax Services is the "most guaranteed company to be able to help you, no matter what your situation is," he said. "Some of the other lenders need you to have a minimum or maximum amount of debt, which can be hard to navigate. For this company, you are guaranteed to get help without a lot of the hassle that some other companies may ask you."

Thomas Fultz, CEO and founder of Coffeeble, said small business owners need to "be able to see a brighter future" for the money they would have lost on tax debt. He pointed to ALG Tax Solutions as a service one of his friends used to great success.

"If you are looking at the total [debt reduction] and it doesn't seem like much of a help, you need to keep looking," he said. "A tax relief service will have some high APRs, and the monthly payments should be small and manageable. They have to take into consideration the type of people who are coming to them and the type of payment plans they would need."

Frequently Asked Questions

How Can You Tell if a Tax Debt Relief Company Is Legit?

In determining whether a tax debt relief company is worth your time and won't lead to more problems in the future, time is your friend. For years, the FTC has worked to root out fraudulent tax debt relief companies. The longer a company has been in operation, the less likely that it's a fraud.

It's also beneficial to look up the company's rating with the Better Business Bureau, where you can see how a company fares in the industry and any complaints leveled against it by consumers.

Do You Want to Settle Your Tax Debt in Full?

The answer to this question depends largely on your individual financial situation. If you can pay in full, the IRS will make sure you do. To make that determination, the agency takes your monthly income, your assets and other factors into account. If you can't pay it in full with one payment, it might be a good idea to reach out to a tax debt relief company to negotiate a payment plan with the IRS.

In certain cases, a tax debt relief service will negotiate with the IRS to settle your debt for a smaller amount. This process, known as the offer in compromise (OIC), is a very specific solution with many requirements. If you do not meet those requirements, you will not be approved for an OIC.

Can You Negotiate Debt With the IRS?

Depending on your situation and the amount you owe, it is possible to negotiate directly with the IRS. Some tax debt relief companies will suggest you handle it yourself instead of using their services, since their costs could exceed what you owe to the government. In those cases, a representative will at least point you in the right direction.

Since the U.S. tax code is so cumbersome, it may be in your best interest to hire a tax debt relief company to negotiate in your stead. Only certified public accountants, enrolled agents and tax attorneys can represent you in front of the IRS.

How Far Back Can the IRS Collect Unfiled Taxes?

The IRS has a long memory when it comes to the money you owe. Generally, the IRS has three years to audit you and determine whether you owe more taxes. If it feels you have committed fraud or other criminal tax activities, it could extend the statute of limitations for audits. If the IRS believes you underreported more than 25% of your gross income, or if the same amount was underreported in an estate or gifts given in a year, the agency can audit you within six years. If you are found to owe taxes to the IRS, the agency has 10 years to collect any unpaid taxes.

When Are the Best Times to Contact a Tax Debt Relief Service?

It's never a great time to contact a tax debt relief service, because that means you're in trouble (or about to be) with the IRS. Still, if you have a massive past-due tax bill and think you need professional help, you should absolutely reach out. An unpaid bill can balloon quickly, thanks to penalties and fees levied by the IRS, so reaching out for help from a tax debt relief service is one way to deal with the situation.

You should also consider a tax debt relief service in the following situations: you want to seek an OIC to have your debt forgiven, there's a lien on your business or personal property or you want to establish an affordable tax debt repayment plan. Tax debt relief services can act as a middleman between you and the government, with the ability to facilitate negotiations.

Who Might Need Tax Debt Relief?

If you're having any issue with unpaid back taxes, liens on your property, wage garnishments or related issues, you need a tax debt relief service. If you're just having trouble filing your taxes or facing some other tax issue not related to debt, you should not seek assistance from a tax debt relief professional.

Does the IRS Forgive Tax Debt After 10 Years?

The IRS may not want the general public to realize this, but the agency has 10 years to collect on any debts it's owed. Known as the Collection Statute Expiration Date (CSED), this mandate requires the IRS to expunge any tax debt after a decade. While that may seem clear cut, the IRS won't sit idly by if you try to wait it out for 10 years. Over time, the agency's debt collection efforts will become increasingly aggressive, with wage garnishments, tax liens, and other tactics firmly on the table. Additionally, your CSED can change, since there are provisions to let the IRS pause and restart the process if necessary.

Does the IRS Forgive Tax Debt?

Though the IRS is widely seen as an antagonistic government agency, it does have programs in place to alleviate the tax debt problem for some. Measures such as the OIC can start the forgiveness process. For example, your tax debt could be forgiven if it's deemed to have low "realistic collection potential," meaning it's very unlikely for the debt to be paid because you have a low income, no assets to seize and sell, and no way to make the payments. The IRS has other tax debt forgiveness measures, but the eligibility requirements are stringent.

What is the Minimum Monthly Payment for an IRS Installment Plan?

When you settle your tax debt through an IRS installment plan, the amount you owe greatly influences how much your minimum monthly payments will be, since the IRS suggests that you pay as much as you can to lessen the sting of additional penalties and interest. However, the IRS also considers the nature of your debt and the agreement behind the repayment plan.

Though the IRS lets its debtors select their own monthly payment amount, that's not necessarily how much they will have to pay. If a debtor doesn't select a monthly payment amount, sets the bar too low, or lets the IRS decide, the payment amount defaults to the owed amount divided by 72 equal monthly payments.

What Can the IRS Do to You When You Have Tax Debt?

If you're in debt to the IRS, you have likely already begun facing the consequences, starting with numerous notices. If you've ignored those notices, you will immediately be placed into collections, at which point your bank accounts and wages can be levied by the federal government.

Additional punitive actions that the IRS can take against you and your business include confiscating your tax refund as payment, charging additional interest on your tax bill, and hitting you with additional penalties, like the "failure to pay" penalty. Ultimately, the IRS can file a notice of federal tax lien against you, meaning future creditors will know about your tax debt, thereby ruining your ability to sell or borrow against your assets.

Furthermore, the government can seize your money and assets, meaning the government can levy those items and sell them to pay off the debt. This rarely happens, though, given the difficult process that such an action requires.

Ultimately, you could be barred from leaving the country, and your debt could be handed over to a collection agency, at which point you will likely be hassled by collectors to settle the debt.

Does settling your tax debt with the IRS affect your credit score?

Like most debt, your tax debt does affect your credit score. Though unpaid taxes haven't directly hurt credit scores since April 2018, tax debt will harm your credit score if the IRS files a notice of federal tax lien against you, since that will be reported to the three credit bureaus. In any case, you will receive plenty of notice from the IRS before your credit score is affected.

Our Methodology

We researched multiple tax debt relief companies, taking note of the services they provide, any additional fees they may charge, and how trustworthy their business really is, among other considerations. We started by compiling a list of vendors. In addition to the options we were already familiar with from past reviews, we considered other companies we found during our research, as well as services that appeared regularly on other reputable online lists and reviews. In some cases, we also looked at companies that reached out to us asking to be considered for review.

After compiling our list, we visited each vendor's official website, taking note of what they had to offer. After eliminating companies that we felt didn't make the cut, we reached out to our finalists while posing as a small business owner with tax debt problems. We asked everyone the same set of questions when applicable while considering the features, potential costs, and quality of the service we received.

Finally, we chose our top picks by considering which tax debt relief companies struck the best balance of price, solutions, and customer service. Here are the main criteria we used to evaluate each option:

  • Pricing: The costs surrounding tax debt can already be a major burden on a small business. If a service costs too much, it's hard to justify that service as a way of getting out of tax debt. As such, this was one of the most important aspects of our research phase. 
  • Services: There are a number of ways to handle tax debt (such as offer in compromise or separation of liability relief), and your particular situation determines which potential route applies to you. Vendors with limited options were immediately cut from consideration. 
  • Tax professionals: By law, the government only allows enrolled agents, tax attorneys, and CPAs to directly negotiate tax debt relief with the IRS. To be considered a best pick, our finalists needed to have all three types of professionals working in-house. That way, there would be no need to hire a third party and thus incur additional costs. 
  • Experience: Although we did not explicitly point this out in our reviews, we paid attention to how long a company had been in business. The U.S. federal tax code is a complicated living document. If a company has been around through multiple changes, it has a deeper knowledge of the ins and outs of tax debt relief.

What to Expect in 2021

One aspect that will have a major impact on taxes as a whole in 2021 is the new administration taking office this year. President-Elect Joe Biden ran as a Democrat and is likely to push for a tax system that looks more like it did under the Obama administration.

Sweeping tax law changes are generally few and far between, but during President Donald Trump's time in office, he ushered in a swath of changes to the American tax system dubbed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. The legislation included a series of tax cuts totaling more than $1.5 trillion and changed a number of deductions that may have impacted your taxes on a personal or professional level.

The difference in how taxes will work under Biden's administration will be on full display in the coming year. [Read related article: What Each Presidential Campaign Is Proposing for Small Business]

With COVID-19 vaccines rolling out over first few months of 2021 and small businesses slowly gaining the ability to fully reopen, it's important to consider how the Paycheck Protection Program will affect taxes. Congress instructed the IRS to let businesses deduct forgiven loans from their tax bills, but PPP loans were only to be forgiven if the funds were used "for eligible payroll costs, payments on business mortgage interest payments, rent, or utilities during either the 8- or 24-week period after disbursement," according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Previously, the IRS maintained that forgiveness precluded businesses from taking the loan amount as a tax deduction, complicating accounting and increasing the tax burden on businesses that received a PPP loan. If you received one and failed to use those funds in accordance with the SBA's guidelines, you could be liable for paying back the PPP loan, which will not be a tax deduction.

Last November, the IRS announced some changes to the Taxpayer Relief Initiative in an effort to help individuals struggling with the ongoing effects of COVID-19. According to the announcement, the IRS considered how it could provide relief to taxpayers in its collection activities, noting that people are still facing hard times.

Though repayment methods already existed for taxpayers who owe money to the IRS, the agency said it has expanded those solutions to make repayment easier. These are some of the changes:

  • Those with short-term payment plans can have up to 180 days instead of 120 to settle tax liabilities.
  • There will be leniency for taxpayers who can't make the payment terms for an accepted offer in compromise (OIC).
  • The IRS will add certain new tax balances to existing installment agreements for individuals and out-of-business corporate taxpayers.
  • Certain qualified individuals who owe less than $250,000 can set up installation payments without providing a financial statement or proof of their monthly pay.
  • Since some individuals only owe for the 2019 tax year and may owe more than $250,000, they could qualify to set up an installment agreement.
  • Qualified taxpayers with existing direct debit installment agreements (DDIAs) can propose lower monthly installments through the IRS Online Payment Agreement system.
Andrew Martins
Andrew Martins
business.com Staff
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I am a former newspaper editor who has transitioned to strictly cover the business world for business.com and Business News Daily. I am a four-time New Jersey Press Award winner and prior to joining my current team, I was the editor of six weekly newspapers that covered multiple counties in the state.

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Ray Badger
Ray Badger
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I think the first thing you need to determine is if you are an independent contractor in which case he will give you a 1099 or if he considers you to be working under the table (paid in cash basically). If he is considering you to be working under the table, basically filing taxes on that income will trigger some problems but working under the table is also illegal. Now if he is considering you to be an independent contractor then he will give you a 1099 and you will file a schedule C plus...
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Brandon Hart
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Hi Shania. There are a few different taxes to consider. Federal and State taxes, and how you pay for those will depend on your business form, ie Sole Proprietor, Partnership, Corporation, S-Corp..etc. I will speak on Sole Proprietor as it is by far the easiest and cheapest form you can choose and I am assuming you are in business for yourself which is also a whole lot cheaper than having partners. Typically the first tax you will pay will be the fee for registering your Doing Business AS...
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Do I owe money if I leave my start up? I own 20% of the company but only contributed 5% of capital.
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Dan Greenberg
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#1 Get legal advice from someone in your jurisdiction. The answer is going to depend a great deal on: Corporate structure: corporation, LLC, partnership, etc. (and how those are treated under your laws) Any/all agreements in place, including compensation for your time. Whether the debt has been signed off personally or only in company name. The main lesson you should take from this: corporate structure is important, and it's important that it be in writing, including termination...
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Other Services Considered

Based in Jacksonville, Florida, the folks at Tax Defense Network tout their more than two decades of service as a tax debt relief company as the primary reason why they've become a powerhouse in the industry. With an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau and their more than $16 billion in consulted tax debt since 2007, we have placed Tax Defense Network on a short list for consideration with small businesses and individuals struggling with back taxes. Read Review.

W Tax Group has a team of licensed tax attorneys, CPAs, and tax professionals who have vast expertise in tax law and will strategically work with the IRS or state taxing authority to resolve tax issues, reduce penalties, and provide quick resolutions. The W Tax Group team brings decades of experience to the table. Having seen virtually every tax issue before, their team knows how to address each issue they encounter. Among the specific areas W Tax Group can assist clients with are offers in compromise, installment agreements, lien and levy agreements, filing back taxes, and communicating with the IRS. W Tax Group offers 100% free tax consultations.

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