Tax Return Preparation

There are many self-help income tax return preparation products on the market today for preparing your 1040, 540 and other tax returns.  Some of these products are actually quite good - particularly if you have some basic understanding of income tax law.  Two of the better-known products use the interview technique to guide its user through the process of preparing their own income tax returns for the IRS and their State. 

While the interview concept is generally effective, the potential for error still exists because of the technical complexity of the subject matter of some interview questions.  A wrong response could result in an erroneous reporting of one or more transactions - and that could lead to an audit which, in turn, will likely result in additional tax, penalties, and interest - as well as representation fees for resolution of the income tax controversy.    

To illustrate a complexity of the law, here is a simple - but not uncommon - situation.  If you receive a piece of property from a relative - by gift or bequest - do you know what your basis (cost value) will be when you sell it?  Your cost basis will be different depending upon whether you received it as a GIFT or by way of an INHERITANCE.  If by mistake you use the wrong basis, you will either pay too much income tax (which the IRS or FTB likely will keep unless you find out about the error and file an amended return within the statute of limitations period), or pay too little tax and end up owing the IRS/FTB a bundle (including interest and penalties) when they catch up with you for an audit.

The tax resolution specialist fees associated with defending you in the resolution of a tax controversy before the IRS or FTB because of errors in your income tax return most likely will end up costing you many times the savings you believe you will achieve by preparing your own tax return. 

You also need to aware that selecting a low-cost service that cranks out income tax returns like a puppy mill may result in adverse financial consequences for you if your tax return is inaccurate. Some of these types of firms get targeted by the IRS (if the firm makes an unacceptably high number of errors on clients' returns that is discovered during return processing or audits), and then ALL of their clients get audited!  My advice to you is to stay clear of firms owned or managed by an individual who is NOT an E. A., CPA or Tax Attorney.

It is also important to inquire about the qualifications of the person actually doing your return.  Please consider the potential for error if they have a very limited, shallow exposure in tax law.   Several large chains hire seasonal people and give them a "crash course" in tax law just before the filing season.   While the manager or owner of the company may review and even sign the return, that person was not present when your interview took place, and would be unable to know if a response you made really needed to be analyzed more closely to identify items that should be on your return or should receive special treatment!  

Below are some warning signs that if they appear during your conversation or meeting with a tax preparer, you need to grab your documents and run!  Be very cautious if the preparer:

There is no such thing as "standard amounts" the IRS or FTB allows you for deductions (other than the Standard Deduction if you do not itemize). 

Please understand that intentionally overstating your deductions (or not reporting all of your income) for the purpose of reducing your income tax liability (to either generate a larger refund or reduce the amount you owe) can have serious consequences.

I always recommend minimizing the probability of an IRS audit (or FTB or other state agency audit), with the possible assessment of additional tax, penalties and interest by having your income tax returns prepared by a tax professional who is an Enrolled Agent, or by a CPA or Tax Attorney who specializes in tax law.   Each of these three classes of professionals, particularly if the specific individual you chose to prepare your income tax return is also a Tax Resolution Specialist with extensive experience in representing clients, can best prepare your return.  Further, if your tax return is selected for a tax audit, any one of these three categories of individuals is legally qualified to represent you for an audit in the resolution of your tax controversy and, if necessary, through the administrative appeals process.  Whether or not you actually will use the preparer is something to consider as I discussed previously.  Not all preparers, even if they have the proper credentials, actively represent taxpayers in audits or other controversies. 

As both an Enrolled Agent and a Tax Resolution Specialist, I am available to prepare your Federal, California and other State personal income tax returns based upon the information you provide.   For those of you who have limited (or no) Internet access and also have mobility problems, I am available to travel to your office or home if you are within a reasonable commuting distance of Burbank, CA.  

With the growing number of individuals using the Internet, the vast majority of my clients are pleased to have me prepare their returns using E-mail (with attachments) and the Web.  My furthest tax return preparation clients are United Kingdom citizens (who own rental property in Florida).   I have been able to assist them for many years in meeting their 1040NR filing requirements via the Internet even though we are thousands of miles apart!

To illustrate how I use the Internet, after receiving the Engagement Letter and deposit, I E-mail my client a password-protected Tax Organizer.  My client completes the Organizer and E-mails it back to me.  The required documents (W-2's, 1099's, 1098's, prior year federal/state returns, etc.) are either scanned and E-mailed, or faxed/mailed to me.  I review their organizer, any questions they have given me, their information documents, and then follow-up with any questions I have following my review that require clarification. 

Once this process is completed, I draft the returns and E-mail password-protected PDF (Adobe Acrobat) drafts to my client for review.  Once my client approves the draft and sends me the balance due (by check, credit/debit card or by PayPal), I finalize the returns, get their signature on the e-file authorization forms and the Statement of Accuracy (attesting to their careful review of their returns),  and e-file them.  If my clients prefer, and execute the required forms, I will mail them their original returns for manual filing.  

My clients have told me how great it is to be able to use the Internet for this entire process.  It saved them from having to take time off from work, travel time to and from my office, and travel costs (the latter can be very significant depending upon current gas prices)! 

Many of my clients utilize Pay Pal (many people already use Pay Pal for eBay and other online activities) for payment of retainers, preparation, consultation and tax controversy representation fees.  I also accept four major credit cards for retainers and all services, giving clients the ability to spread out their cost for representation or preparation over a number of months, if necessary.

Tax Controversy Resolution (representation before the IRS or State Agencies)

If you need IRS tax audit help or IRS collection help - or tax audit or collection help with any state tax agency, this is the primary focus of my tax practice.  Trying to resolve an IRS audit or collection matter without professional assistance will be a challenge.

This is important!  If you receive any kind of a tax notice from the IRS, FTB, EDD or BOE, you MUST acknowledge it and respond promptly.  Most notices contain deadlines for responding or taking certain actions.  You do NOT want to miss those deadlines as it could adversely impact your appeal rights and result in a more costly resolution of your IRS tax controversy or state tax problem.

Having said that, I strongly recommend that you consult a tax resolution specialist or other tax professional before responding, and certainly before sending information or additional money to the IRS.  It is not uncommon for errors to occur in the amount that IRS, FTB, EDD or other tax agency claims you owe.  Please keep in mind that as an Enrolled Agent, I can represent you at an IRS, FTB, EDD or other state audit, collection or appeals without you having to take time off work to attend meetings or conferences

Just as important as it is to have your income tax returns prepared by someone who understands the tax law, it is just as important to be represented in the resolution or settlement of an IRS or state tax controversy, whether it is an IRS tax audit, or audit by the FTB or State tax agency,  by a tax resolution specialist who, as your advocate, is skilled in understanding and presenting the facts and law as they apply to your case.   As mentioned before, I am authorized to represent you and negotiate a resolution of your tax controversy case before the Collection, Examination (Audit) and Appeals organizations of the IRS, as well as all of the State of California and another State tax agencies.  

My goal will be to obtain resolution of your tax controversy on the most favorable basis possible.  The primary focus of my practice as an Enrolled Agent and Tax Resolution Specialist is working and negotiating with the IRS Audit, IRS Collection and IRS Appeals organizations.  I fully understand their processes, the Internal Revenue Manual, as well as the evaluative performance criteria for IRS personnel.   All of this information is very important to effective resolution of your tax controversy by negotiating on your behalf during an audit, the appeal of an audit, an Offer in Compromise or any other IRS action.   

I always recommend that taxpayers get IRS tax audit help rather than try to represent themselves.  The money you think you are saving by not hiring a professional to represent you may well be far less than the amount of tax, penalties and interest you will owe if mistakes are made in the audit process. 

The FTB, EDD and other State tax agencies operate similarly to the IRS, although there are differences in a number of areas (such as with the Franchise Tax Board in pursuing an administrative appeal of a field decision).   Given my extensive IRS background, I am easily able to transfer that knowledge and experience in helping a client with a State tax issue.

More About My Background in Appeals

Almost all of my clients are unfamiliar with the internal operation of the IRS, and do not understand just what my duties and responsibilities were in my IRS Appeals Associate Chief position - and how this knowledge and experience can assist me with the resolution of their tax controversy.   Allow me to give you some background information.  During my tenure as an Associate Chief of the Los Angeles and Glendale Appeals Offices of the IRS, I was the deciding official responsible for accepting or rejecting proposed settlements of Collection enforcement actions, Examination Division tax return audits and Service Center generated issues (correspondence tax audits and assessed penalties) that were negotiated by our staff of Appeals Officers and Settlement Officers. 

The IRS Collection cases involved common issues such as collection appeals of liens and  levies (CAP) cases, offers in compromise (OIC), collection due process (CDP) cases, trust fund recovery penalties (TFRP), assessed penalties and payment agreements.   Examination cases covered just about every aspect of the Internal Revenue Code, ranging from issues typically found in individual audits (such as unreported income, itemized deductions, activities not engaged in for profit, employee business expenses, etc.) to the heavy corporate issues (excessive compensation, accumulated earnings, reorganizations, abandonment losses, etc.).  

As the Associate Chief, I had to evaluate the evidence as developed by the IRS Revenue Officer, Revenue Agent or Office Auditor (now called a Tax Compliance Officer) in support of their position, as well as additional evidence submitted during the Appeals consideration by the taxpayer and/or his representative to rebut the IRS's proposed adjustments.  Upon conclusion of the negotiations in Appeals by my employee, I reviewed the settlement proposal (or recommendation for litigation) prepared by the Appeals Officer or Settlement Officer.  

As part of this review process, I may have had to consider the credibility of all parties who were likely to testify at trial if the case proceeded to litigation.   Following my review, I made the final decision regarding the disposition of the case by the Appeals Division.  This typically resulted in my:

Please consider the potential financial impact of trying to handle your own tax controversy case, or selecting an advocate who lacks the experience and qualifications to adequately represent you in a collection action or tax audit.  Tax laws are very complex, and understanding both the tax laws as well as the tax agency's administrative procedures are of crucial importance in negotiating a resolution of your tax controversy.     

Tax controversy resolution is my specialty area of practice, so please do not hesitate to contact me for further information and assistance.  


Has the IRS or one of the State taxing agencies sent you a Notice of Adjustment, Notice of Examination,  Notice of Deficiency, Notice of Intent to Levy or any other type of communication?  Do you owe back taxes?  Have you not filed returns for many years?   Do you want to know what options you have, and get a recommendation about how to proceed from a tax resolution specialist who is very knowledgeable about and experienced in working with IRS and State processes and procedures?  Are you unable to afford full-representation costs, but are in a position where you must negotiate with the IRS, but you really need a professional to guide you (by "holding your hand" through the process?

I am available for either telephone or in-person consultation.  Your initial E-mail (not office) consultation for providing general information regarding an IRS or State Notice or Examination Report, or for your potential qualification for an Offer in Compromise, is free.  For example, you just received a notice from the IRS (let's say a CP504 notice).  What does that notice mean?  What notice or action will likely follow?  The free consultation is to give you general information that is not specific to your tax returns or financial condition.  For example, you just received a Letter 1058 and want to know what that letter means and what appeal options are available.  That is a perfect example of what would be a free consultation type question. 

For specific advice on your personal tax controversy, I do charge for my services.  A specific tax question might be along this line:  I have a business that the IRS says is an activity not engaged in for profit.  How do I persuade them otherwise?  To answer that question, you will need to provide me with specific information about your business, such as its history of profits or losses, your past experience with the product or services you provide, your success in other ventures, the formality of your record keeping system, and so forth.

For telephone, E-mail or in-person specific consultation, you may purchase one hour of consultation time - typically sufficient time for providing you with specific advice on how best to proceed in resolving your tax issue and respond to questions along the way.  In advance of our consultation, I will ask you to E-mail or fax me specific documents I will review so as to have an opportunity to review and consider your tax controversy or concern before our consultation time. 

Your telephone or E-mail consultation fee is payable in advance either by check, money order, credit/debit card or through PayPal.  If you subsequently retain me to represent you for the resolution of the issue, then any unused consultation time (up to one hour) will be applied toward your retainer.  Further, if you retain me to represent you and our engagement is fully in place within 7 calendar days of your consultation date, then at your request, your one hour consultation fee can be applied to your representation retainer - thereby making your one hour consultation free!

Office consultation also is available (for example, you have a lot of documents that I need to review).  For all office consultations, I charge my normal fee, and payment for the minimum one hour's time is required before the consultation date.  If after our consultation you decide to retain me for representing you, then I will apply any unused portion of your consultation fee (up to one hour) toward your representation retainer.

Please check out my Consultation page for more details.   

Expert Witness/Litigation Support

I have given testimony in the California Superior Court as an expert witness and provided declarations in litigation cases.  If you find yourself in need of an expert witness who has in-depth inside-the-IRS knowledge, please contact me so that we may discuss your needs and how I may be of assistance in providing you with litigation support.