Many of my tax clients come to me after being scammed by a “tax relief” firm. The “Opti-cons” of the tax relief world take people’s money, promising they can get deals from the IRS such as Offers-in-Compromise, that they know the taxpayer will never be given. Or, these bottom-feeding scammers simply take the money and then do nothing: don’t return phone calls or emails, don’t do any work. The tens of thousands of dollars they take from people seems only to be invested back into the marketing and sales machinery of these scam firms: buying more radio, television and google ads, and hiring more salespeople to sign up unsuspecting consumers.
Consumers Regularly Scammed by Tax Relief Firms
This week I’ve already spoken with a half-dozen clients who unwittingly signed up with one of the scummy, scammy “tax relief” firms out there . Every single one of them paid over $10,000 and got nothing in return – no reduction in taxes owed, no stopping of IRS or FTB threats of liens or levies, no Installment Agreements to make at least a peace treaty with the tax agencies coming after them. One such client had been trying to get his Opti-con to come up with a viable plan for his IRS tax debt for EIGHT YEARS! He finally hired me. And I recommended he fight to get some of his money back from his Opti-con. He wrote his “service” agent the letter below. I’ve asked if I can reprint it because I think it’s a model of what consumers who are ripped off by one of these “tax relief” scams should be asking for.
Model Letter Asking for Money Back From Tax Relief Firm
(Written by one of my current clients to his former “tax relief” firm):
I wanted to let you know that after careful consideration and on the advice of several other tax professionals and attorneys, I have decided to retain new legal representation to address any outstanding potential liabilities with the IRS.
What I require from you are:
- The name or contact information for the Revenue Office who has been assigned to my case, or any other documentation the IRS may have provided you on my behalf
- A detailed client statement from [you], including all call logs and an itemized accounting of time or billing charges against the $18,000.00 retainer I paid you in 2017
- A refund of any unused portion of my $18,000 retainer – less any legitimate & documented charges incurred on my behalf during the course of our relationship.
Failure to address these requests will require me to escalate this issue with your management.
After my client hears back from his former “tax relief” firm (or not – which is what I expect), he’s going to escalate. First, I recommend he write a Google, Yelp or Avvo (the website exclusively for attorney reviews) review detailing his experience (firms will sometimes respond to get a bad review taken away) and sending it to his Opti-con before he posts the review publicly. My client should ask them to respond and then publish their response in his review. Occasionally, a firm will make things right to avoid the bad review from being published in the first place.
Second, my client should next report his Opti-con experience to the California State Bar Association, and other regulatory agencies such as the Better Business Bureau and on-line sites like Reddit: the more light is shined on bottom-feeders like this, the fewer people they can rip off.
Finally, to get back the $18,000 he wasted, I think my client should sue his Opti-con firm in Small Claims Court (for Los Angeles county residents) or here for Ventura County residents, to get at least some of the money he gave them back. Both LA and Ventura counties limit recovery to $10,000 but that’s better than nothing, and most everyone can navigate the process on their own. Don’t let these scam artists rip you off: fight ‘em!
And then come to me if you want serious advice on how to handle your tax debt, and someone who answers your phone calls and shows up!
November 9, 2023