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Getting called for an IRS audit or billed for back taxes can be a scary proposition. Unlike other bill collectors, the IRS can take your wages, bank accounts, and other assets without even granting you a hearing beforehand.
But taxpayers aren't helpless. You can negotiate with the IRS, and many people work out a payment plan that lets you pay in instalments. You may also be able to reduce the total amount of your tax debt through something called an "offer in compromise." In some cases, filing for bankruptcy may be the best course; you can cancel your tax debt or pay it off over three to five years.
If you're being audited, it's a good idea to talk to a lawyer before you talk to the IRS. Being selected for an audit doesn't mean the IRS suspects you of tax fraud, and if you've made some mistakes on your tax form, the IRS won't automatically think that you were trying to cheat. (They know better than anyone that the tax laws are complicated.) Still, you could end up on the hook for back taxes and penalties.
Whatever your tax issues, an experienced tax lawyer can explain your options, help you choose the one that's best for you and your family, and negotiate with the IRS on your behalf. An attorney can also represent you in tax court, a special federal court that handles only tax matters.