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*Not legally binding on the Service.

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Client tips on hiring an attorney for offshore disclosure matters

Get Organized. If you’re paying hourly, then obviously good organization on your part will save you money. If your attorney is charging a fixed fee and does not sense that you are organized, you can expect that your fees might be higher to reflect the additional time commitment on the attorney’s part.

Do your Tax Research. Clients who have done their research understand the nuances and complexity of the work. Be prepared with good questions to gauge whether the attorney has handled cases like yours before. This may also prevent you from being overcharged for services.

Be Upfront During your Initial Consultation. This means truthfully and completely answering all questions, and proffering relevant information. It is important to identify any weaknesses so that they may be addressed early on, as well as to identify the full scope of the work involved.

Voluntary offshore disclosure firms to watch out for

Offshore compliance is a somewhat unusual area in tax law. It’s among the most complicated issues on individual tax returns.

Unfortunately, there are many firms nationwide that might take advantage of clients that need help with these legal services. We provide this section only because our clients have requested us to write this.

While you can find many great attorneys that can assist you with your matter, here are some types of firms to watch out for.

Certified Offshore Disclosure Specialists

Tax is learned through experience with other knowledgeable and experienced professionals, not by taking exams. Everyone has to start somewhere, but hopefully not on your own right out of school.

We’ve had to take over cases from attorneys claiming to be certified offshore compliance specialists (there’s no such certification). They often misleadingly boast that they are in the top 1% of all attorneys nationwide.

Despite claiming they have decades of experience, the attorney provides no detail of what their prior experience was in or if it was even tax related. Did they work at another firm? Were they working at the IRS? They could’ve been selling real estate for all we know.

Discounted, Reduced Fee and Free Consultations

One business model out there is to advertise and post the same content all over the internet on multiple sites with the hopes of reaching a large number of people.

Once the client stumbles upon one of their websites and has been baited for a reduced fee or discounted consultation, they’ll receive a ridiculous flat fee quote which will leave them overpaying by several thousands of dollars for services they don’t even need.

A client will fall for it because they just don’t know better. Then rinse and then repeat. Please be careful.

There’s no such thing as a free lunch. When you get a free consultation, you get a sales pitch. We charge for consultations and for a good reason. A consultation should be professional, unbiased advice and not fear-mongering to scare you into hiring them.

Unlicensed Lawyers

A person does not have to licensed to handle tax matters, as the line between tax (accounting) work and tax (legal) work is blurred. So anyone can state that they practice “tax law” even though they never passed the bar. If you want to verify that your attorney is licensed, you can Google search “State bar of [enter attorney’s state] attorney lookup.” One of the first few search results should take you to the state bar’s attorney lookup page.