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How is Hillhurst Tax Group different from the rest of them?

 How are we different?

    With so many tax relief companies and tax law firms out there it must be extremely frustrating for a consumer to pick the right firm. Just to give you an example of how flooded the market is with tax relief firms all you have to do is log on to Google and type in local tax attorney. Immediately you will see at least 30 firms and companies on the first page. Now the question is whom do you hire? There are a couple factors to look at but first let’s start out with what happens when you actually make the initial phone call.  There are three scenarios, which usually happen to potential clients inquiring for service. We know because we’ve encountered them time and time again when clients contact us. They are being put on hold and slow response time, not speaking to a licensee, and an out of state lead generator company pharming your information out to god knows what state. Below we talk about each one in detail.

 

    So you log onto Google and contact the first tax relief firm you see. You make the initial call desperate to have a licensed enrolled agent, CPA, or tax attorney pick up the phone and start listening to your problem and offering advice. But instead what you get is a receptionist picking up the phone putting you on hold. Thank you for calling blank law firm…. Who do I have the pleasure of speaking with? Tom. Hi Tom, how can I help you? I have a problem with my taxes need to speak to someone. Okay let me get your name and number and I will have someone contact you. Now ask yourself this question. A day goes by and you still receive no response or after a couple hours you receive a callback from a sales rep. You begin to ask technical tax questions related to your case. Instead what you get is a very broad explanation on what will be done for you. You are confused because you have more questions. Even worse, the sales rep tells you never have to come in to the office. Sound familiar? It’s very common for large nationwide tax relief firms to have a receptionist and then commissionable sales staff makes the first contact with you. This can be very frustrating because you have questions that need to be answered right then and now. Instead what you get is a delay and you never directly talk to the licensee. The other scenario is you call a nationwide firm that is out of state and wants you to pay them $1000 to start an investigation. There is a division between the sales staff and licensed staff at big nationwide firms.

 

 

    Now I will explain to you how we are different at Hill Hurst Tax Group and what you can expect from our services. When you fill out a form during the day we will contact you within the hour or first thing in the morning. If you call us you will have a supporting staff member or a licensee pick up the phone, listen to you tax problem, and immediately start to pre qualify you. After the initial phone call we invite you down to our office for a free consultation with one of our los Angeles tax attorneys or enrolled agents. You will never be placed on hold and during the consultation we will determine what plan of action to take. If we need to proceed with a further investigation before we take your case, we charge a modest investigation fee after the consultation. Once you retain us, you will know who is working on your case and your file will never be passed around from one person to another. If you email us, we will respond the same day. We are available for all local clients in the Los Angeles county area and southern California including Orange County, Riverside County, San Bernardino County, and Ventura County. We have the ability to serve clients in all 50 states as well. Now if you are nearby to our office in neighboring cities such as Glendale, Burbank, Pasadena, Hollywood, or Los Angeles then please call us for a free consultation. The initial phone call and consultation will be the least pressure case evaluation you have ever been in. We inform and recommend. You will leave retaining us and knowing all your options. Not only that, but we educate our clients on what exactly we do for them during the process. Call us for a free consultation at 323-486-3314. 

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IRS PHONE SCAM -- DON'T BE SCARED OF THE IRS!

On Tax Day, April 15th 2015, Congress held a hearing in which one of the biggest issues to be discussed was a skyrocketing scam of people posing as IRS Agents, and demanding Americans to make payments for their back taxes. This is a result of the largest and most persuasive IRS impersonation scam in it's history.

 Scammers pose as IRS Agents, stating that there is an outstanding balance on a tax payers account and immediate payment is required. If no payment is received, tax payers are threatened that aggressive collective tactics will be taken, including being arrested, and in some cases deportation. Millions of people have been lured in by being contacted by these criminals, and unfortunately thousands have taken the bait. This problem is becoming a major issue. Complaints are on the rise, and we're not talking about a small jump here, it is at a staggering rate. Only 2,185 complaints were filed in 2013, but in 2014 there were nearly 55,000 complaints were received according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Fraudulent IRS calls were the number one complain that the FTC received last year, and is showing no signs of slowing down. It would be safe to assume that the number of people contacted is certainly much higher, for just like most other crimes, only a fraction are reported. Senator Claire McCaskill ( D- Missouri ) agrees, she stated “ This outrageous fraud is now much larger then even the numbers are saying.” Seems as if the issue is raising the eye brows of a few congressman. Mike Thompson (D-California) posted on his website about the scam and offered help to those who may be skeptical when it came to phone calls from IRS agents, and how to tell the difference between the two.

By The Numbers

The U.S. Treasury Department believes the number is somewhere around 400,000 tax payers that have been contacted, and filed complaints in the past two years. As a result, more the 3,000 people were conned, which led to more then $15,000,000 being paid combined. You can imagine that this is a heavy blow to not only the tax payers themselves, but as well as the government, especially given our countries current debt situation. Its predicted that around 10,000 calls are being made per week, which leads me to believe that there is no sign of this slowing down unless we educate the public on how not to fall into these scams. I have myself been contacted by one of these people posing to be an IRS Officer. In my experience the lady introduced herself as an officer, and that I owed a considerable amount, and that if I didn't pay that my local police department would be contacted. I had been previously notified about the scams that were taking place several months previously, and something just felt suspicious about the whole thing. So I simply asked the lady for her name and her ID number, and told her I would call her back. I then looked up a IRS number online and placed a call, to which I was informed that there is nobody under that name or ID number. I relayed the information to their specific department for these sort of issues. Preventive measures seem to be the best way to help one from falling victim.

How is this scam so successful?

Although the scam itself is not very sophisticated, it's easy to see why so many people are falling victim to these criminals. First and foremost, the scare tactics that are being used by the scammers are quite convincing. When one is threatened with criminal prosecution it usually gets their attention pretty quickly. Another tactic that is helping is who these criminals are targeting. Unfortunately senior citizens are the ones who are being most affected by this, because they are typically home, answer the phone, and have money. Immigrants are easy targets as well because they are trying to stay off the radar, and when the threat of deportation is mentioned it may cause one to act unnaturally. But non the less this problem has affected people from all walks of life in some shape or form. It's important to educate oneself so that they don't get stooped. Lastly the location of these individuals that are involved in the criminal activity are operating on foreign soil, which makes it much harder to track, let alone prosecute. Federal Agencies are fighting an uphill battle when it comes to tracking the thieves down.

How Can We Protect Ourselves?

The IRS offers 5 helpful tips to differentiate IRS Tax Agents/Officers from the impostors.

The IRS Would Never:

  1. Call and demand immediate payment, nor call without sending a bill first in the mail.

  2. Demand one to pay without allowing them to question or appeal the tax debt.

  3. Require specific payment methods. Ex- Prepaid Debit Card

  4. Ask for your credit card number over the phone.

  5. Verbally threaten or harass to bring in local police or other law enforcement agencies if no immediate payment is made.

Please educate yourself on these folks, to ensure that you do not become a victim too. If you ever have any questions or concerns you can always call the IRS themselves. Phone numbers are easily made available online on their website.  

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IRS Set To Refund 89,000 Tax Prepares Exam Fees

On February 11th 2014, the U.S. Federal Court determined that the IRS lacked authority to mandate competency testing for paid tax return prepares (Loving v IRS).  This would result in the refunding of around 89,000 test takers, each one to be paid the $116 fee that it cost to take the exam.  However what seems to be a victory in the public eye, only helps the IRS to move forward with implementing a similar program in the future.  

With the court's determination, it meant that the Registered Tax Return Preparer (RTRP) Certificate that was received is no longer valid, and doesn’t serve a purpose when dealing with the IRS. Tax Preparers will now have to participate in a new program in order to gain limited representation with their clients, known as the Annual Filing Season Program.   However having passed the test isn't a complete waste.  Anyone who passed the RTRP test only needs to meet their original 15 hour continuing education requirement each year to obtain an Annual Filing Season Program – Record of Completion.  

Included in the Administration's 2016 budget proposal, the IRS would now gain authority to regulate all paid tax return preparers. This would include the oversight of all paid preparers, and the ability to enforce rules and regulations on those preparers. The goal in mind is to promote high-quality services from all tax professionals, improve voluntary compliance, and provide a sense confidence in the fairness of the U.S. tax system.    

But what does this all mean for tax payers? The statute only really seems to be directed at tax preparers. The goal is to protect the tax payer from corrupt tax preparers. In essence it gives one reassurance that the people handling their tax matters must now be trained according to a national standard, instead of taking a leap of faith and hoping that matters were being taken care of in a professional manner.  In the past, preparers only needed to take a test and they were certified with very few regulations.  This is an effort to enhance the qualifications, as well as being able to regulate the everyday activities of these prepares in order to assure that they are operating in the correct manner.  This statute will give a formal layout of training and guidelines of operation, so that everyone is on the same page, eliminating any grey areas.  Of course this is still being reviewed by government officials, and has not yet been put into place.  As a taxpayer myself it is assuring to know that Tax Preparers are now being formally trained and there is a set standard of how to practice professionally in what has been a shady business for some people in the past. 

Refund recipients can expect a letter to be sent out May 28th, followed by a check of the full amount ($116), to be issued June 2nd.  Letters and checks are being mailed to the return preparer’s address in the Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) system.

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LIFE AFTER DEBT - OIC Follow Up

A little over two years after having his Offer in Compromise accepted by the IRS, Jim, from Oxnard, CA, checked in with us to let us know how life has been going for him after his IRS & State tax debts were resolved.

"My life could not be going better right now"  said Jim.  "As a self-employed single parent, debt is never something you want to have hanging over your head.  Meeting Jonathan has literally changed my life." 

Jim had his Offer in Compromise accepted for $100 in 2013.  He originally owed over $27,000 for the tax years 2008 and 2009.

Jim also faced a smaller tax debt with the State of California Franchise Tax Board.  We were able to negotiate a payment plan for $100/month.  "My state balance wasn't too much, so paying monthly payments doesn't bother me because I know it'll be completely gone soon.  The feds were my big worry."

Hillhurst Tax Group is proud to have clients willing to call or stop by to let us know how happy they are with our services, even two years after their case has been resolved.

Tax Relief is something every struggling taxpayer needs.  Whether you resolve your tax debt with Offer In Compromise or an Installment Agreement will differ on a case by case basis. We encourage anyone curious about the qualifications of the IRS Fresh Start Initiative Program or any Tax Relief services to call Hillhurst Tax Group for a free consultation.

 

 

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