Learn what common tax relief scams are.
You’ve heard the commercials and seen the ads: “We solve your tax problems for pennies on the dollar!” “We are the only tax resolution firm with ex-IRS agents!” “No one else knows about this limited IRS program, so call us today!”
As the saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Here, at Landmark Tax Group, we are former IRS Collectors (check us out) and used to face off with less-than-ethical “tax relief” companies while working at the agency, so we’ve included below some of the most common Tax Relief Scams that we’ve seen while working inside and outside of the IRS. Some of these Tax Relief Scams may sound familiar to you and others may come as a big surprise. This page will continue to be updated, so check back regularly for more information and news on additional “tax relief” companies that have finally been caught.
When it comes to routine tax relief, any and all relief is granted under two official sources.
1) Title 26 of the United States Code. This is the Internal Revenue Code, aka Tax Code.
2) Internal Revenue Manual. This is the policy and procedure handbook of the IRS.
In general, the IRS looks at only these two sources when determining if tax relief, such as a payment plan or penalty abatement, can be granted. Because these are the only two resources tax relief companies can use to help taxpayers, a particular company cannot have any “secret knowledge” or “special tax solutions” over the other, despite any claim to the contrary.
These Tax Relief Scams typically begins with deceptive advertisements claiming to reduce a taxpayer’s tax liability for pennies-on-the-dollar and by settling with the IRS for a fraction of what a taxpayer owes. These adverts are heavily utilized online and through unsolicited mail usually disguised to look like official IRS notices. If you’ve ever had a tax lien filed against you, you are likely very familiar with the subsequent barrage of solicitations that will follow.
One advertising method that has become more prevalent recently is the use of popular radio personalities and other celebrities to endorse these unscrupulous tax relief companies. They often make grandiose claims of settlements and urge listeners to call right away to prevent missing out on a supposed time-sensitive opportunity for tax relief. These false promises continue once a taxpayer visits the company’s website or makes a call to the company. See below.
Related to the above, most of these unscrupulous tax relief companies have numerous salespeople that handle all incoming calls. They are not licensed tax professionals and their only goals are to determine how much you owe and then convince you that they can substantially reduce your debt, all the while securing a non-refundable deposit via your credit card, bank number or personal check. Once you sign a contract, they continue to charge you and take little or no favorable actions on your case. See examples below.
Fraudulent tax relief companies, and the aggregators who serve them, love the internet. Many of them have literally 100’s or 1000’s of websites that give the appearance of being an established, reputable, and full-service tax relief company. They usually tout their Better Business Bureau rating and generously use popular tax relief slogans such as the ones mentioned above to capture the taxpayer’s attention and provide them with a false sense of hope. Most of these sites have contact forms on every page (to quickly capture your valuable personal information) and fail to identify any actual licensed tax professionals. When a taxpayer enters his or her name and contact information, the aggregated information is then transferred or sold to unscrupulous companies that will use their salespeople to solicit you by phone, mail, and/or email. Taxpayers who subsequently sign up with these companies often incur reoccurring charges in exchange for empty and exaggerated promises.
Similarly, and almost humorously, many of these same companies own and manage websites that claim to be independent organizations. They claim to rate and review “tax resolution” companies. When you arrive at these fake review sites, which at first glance appear to be legitimate, the unscrupulous tax relief firm that owns the site is always rated number one. Simply stated, these tax relief companies are rating themselves.
What happens when taxpayer-victims and State Attorneys General start to catch on to these companies? The companies simply change their name and set up a new corporate structure to make more Tax Relief Scams. Once the tax relief firm starts to have issues with its deceptive business practices, it forms a new corporation and goes right back to the same unethical and illegal practices. Sooner or later this happens. Once the engagement is secured by the salesperson and payment is collected, the company is expected to deliver the impossible outcome promised by the sales teams and advertisements. When the outcome isn’t delivered and complaints start to pile up too high. It’s simply time for a new name and the next round of consumer abuse.
Its founder Patrick Cox CPA was found guilty of defrauding taxpayers nationwide and ordered to pay approximately $200M in restitution. A Texas court determined they misled taxpayers in television ads and sales calls and had over 100,000 fair trade practice violations. Read more about their deceptive practices.
Attorneys General from 18 states brought forth charges against JK Harris for misleading advertising and business practices. They were one of the largest tax relief firms in the country.
Prior to being disbarred by the California State Bar, Roni Deutch was a tax attorney who operated other tax relief scams in California. Read how she and her company violated court orders and scammed thousands of taxpayers out of millions of dollars.
A suit by the Federal Trade Commission found American Tax Relief swindled taxpayers out of approximately $100M via false promises and deceptive practices. Read more on how American Tax Relief scammed taxpayers.
Unfortunately, the above examples are just the tip of the iceberg. There are many other bad apples in the tax resolution industry that have yet to be prosecuted by the authorities. To help protect you from being the next unwitting victim, we’ve included a few tips below.
These resources may help reduce your chance of retaining an unscrupulous tax relief firm and tax professional.
This website and the one below provides invaluable feedback to taxpayers and helps to expose those organizations that don’t have their client’s best interest in mind.
While this website and the one above contain valid concerns from legitimate taxpayers, it should also be noted that many unscrupulous tax firms have begun using the sites to post fraudulent reviews as a means of discrediting their competitors. As a result, not all of the reviews are genuine lead to more tax relief scams.
At minimum, taxpayers should always search the Web in the name of the person AND company they’re thinking about hiring. Unfortunately, some “customer reviews” on Google, Yelp, and other popular sites also contain reviews from paid third parties, employees of the company being reviewed, and other non-existing customers. In one recent case, Yelp has sued a law firm that was using its employees to post fraudulent glowing reviews.
Perhaps the most important thing a taxpayer can do when seeking professional tax relief help is to “interview” the tax firm by asking valid questions about their credentials, experience, and case resolution procedures. A reputable tax relief firm will be able to tell you exactly who will be working on your specific case and how to contact that person directly. Remember, only Enrolled Agents, CPAs, and Tax Attorneys are permitted to represent taxpayers in front of the IRS.
* Warning *- Better Business Bureau (BBB):
At this time, Landmark Tax Group is unable to recommend the BBB as a reliable resource for taxpayers. To learn about the BBB’s apparent deceptive practices, please refer to the following articles:
At Landmark Tax Group, the very fabric of our Firm revolves around our clients. We are committed to serving the interests and needs of our clients. As well as to carrying out that commitment with integrity and professionalism.
Your IRS or State tax matter will be expertly handled by our team of Fully Licensed Tax Resolution Specialists, Enrolled Agents, and former IRS Agents with years of experience dealing with back taxes, audits, liens, levies and other tax issues both within the IRS and in private practice. Every taxpayer receives personal attention and ongoing updates as their tax debt case is being resolved.
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For immediate help from ethical, experienced and professional tax resolution experts contact us today for a 100% CONFIDENTIAL consultation. We will gladly answer any questions you may have about our credentials, prior experience at the IRS and our ability to provide you with immediate tax help. We look forward to serving you.
Very good experience and glad I made the decision to use this company. Michael was professional and courteous in all of my dealings with him. My tax dilemma was quickly resolved and Michael even waived much of his normal fee. Where else have you heard of a business doing that? Without question, I would recommend Landmark Tax Group for anyone seeking a fair resolution for a tax problem.
Michael was fantastic! He understood my case very quickly, got right to work and was super prompt with communications. His professionalism and his friendly demeanor immediately put me at ease. I whole heartedly recommend contacting them if you’re in need of advice and assistance.
I received great advice in how to deal with the FTB, i don’t review often, but when someone is honest and legitimate, they do deserve a review. My questions were answered, and if i didn’t quite understand, Micheal was more than willing to give me follow-up answers to better help me. I highly recommend Landmark Tax Group, just for the mere fact that they treat you as a human being, Not a cash cow.
I had some returns from previous years to complete after receiving a hefty bill from the California Franchise Tax Board. Michael was prompt in answering my questions and very helpful and reassuring. We had several back and forth communications and this was all done for free since they do not prepare tax returns. He gave me some contacts and advice and now I’m on my way to getting my situation resolved. I’m very thankful for his advice and guidance.
While Michael’s scope of practice meant that we ultimately could not work directly to resolve the issue I was having, he was very prompt, professional, generous and kind in taking time out of his schedule to consult with me, refer me to his network of colleagues- not just once, but a second time even months after. Some professionals are just after services and compensations but Michael strikes me as someone who genuinely cares about your situation and wants to see to it that it gets resolved. These other reviews speak to that as well. You never want to be in a situation where you need to be looking up tax help, but God forbid you ever are, Michael is the person you want in your corner!
Michael and Landmark Tax Group were simply awesome. I like so many others had a year’s old tax issue arise with California FTB. I no longer live there which compounded the stress of the situation. The state had seized monies and filed a lien. After a call to an online tax relief place and some sketchy phone calls I was so happy to find Michael and immediately felt in good hands… at a time of considerable panic.
Fast forward to today and with his help I am totally debt free. He saved me $23,000
I highly recommend Michael and Landmark Tax Group
Michael Raanan is an angel! Michael went above and beyond for me. He was very knowledgeable, professional and very thorough! He is easy to talk to and amazing at what he does. I have a feeling that everyone at landmark tax group shares this way of professionalism! I highly recommend coming here for any and all of your tax help. They will help you and you will be more than pleased with them. 🙂
After calling the other highly advertised tax assistant agency’s and being disappointed with how they responded to my tax matter, I feel fortunate to have found out about the Landmark Tax Group. Michael was very understanding of my situation, and I felt very comfortable dealing with him. He was very knowledgeable and professional in handling our tax issue in a timely manner. I would highly recommend The Landmark Tax Group to anyone who needs assistance in dealing with the IRS.
Wow, just wow. I called Michael today to ask about some major tax issues I had with a defunct corporation I’d started years ago. Michael talked to me for about half an hour, walking me through options and generally helping me understand my options.
Because of him, I’m going to rest nicely tonight for the first time in weeks. It was great to hear that he used to work in IRS collections for 8 years too… which made me feel a lot more secure in his answer.
In all, I’m completely stunned by the level of service he gave to a random stranger who called in and wasn’t going to turn into any revenue for him. I have to imagine that his level of service for actual customers is unreal.
Fast, dependable, reliable, full transparency. Michael Raanan of Landmark Tax Group allayed my fears spending the rest of my senior years paying my tax debt. As a result of his extensive knowledge of the tax code, the right questions to ask, and his dedication to my case, I had information, resolution and a plan of action within 24 hours, start to finish. Amazing! I highly recommend Landmark Tax Group!
We were very pleased with the expert assistance we received from Michael Raanan at Landmark Tax Group. In a matter of months we had a resolution to our IRS tax issue. He was very knowledgeable, professional, explained things in easy to understand terminology & was very easy to discuss our tax issues with. We called around to other tax groups & just felt the most comfortable speaking & working with Michael. We are happy to recommend him & his firm.
Michael Raanan represents the highest level of professionalism, integrity, decency, and true concern for his clients. His advice every step of the way was right on target. The end result was a savings of $13,000 on my taxes.
I have already referred him to the other members of my financial team and have complete confidence in referring any clients to him. He is a shining star in his field.
Oh, did I mention how reasonable his fees are? Exceptional considering the amount of attention he provides.